A Persian-Influenced Easter
Wishing everyone a Happy Easter in advance with a Persian-influenced lamb dish. This is based on Khoresht-e-Portaghal; a Persian meat-based stew made with oranges.
Here I have braised lamb shanks in a saffron- and orange-infused broth. The tart acidity of the oranges cuts rather nicely into the unctuousness of the lamb shank. The candied orange peels wrap around your tongue in every bite, pairing beautifully with the crunch of fragrant jade-green pistachios. All served on a bed of perfectly fluffy Basmati rice.
And don’t forget to drizzle the saffron wine glaze on top, spoonful by spoonful.
Note: I have made two changes to a traditional Khorest-e-Portaghal: I have omitted carrots and added wine for braising.
(I researched braising tips for lamb shanks from The New Best Recipe by Cook’s Illustrated.)
You will need three oranges, 1 orange will be peeled for the orange rind, use this, and another one, for juicing. Use the flesh of the third orange for garnishing this dish.
Ingredients for lamb shanks:
* 4 lamb shanks
* 3 tbsp corn (or other neutral) oil
* 1 cup red wine (optional) you can substitute water
* 1 cup chicken stock
* 1 stick cinnamon
* 2 tsp saffron threads; crushed and powdered with a pestle and mortar and divided into 2 batches
* juice of 2 oranges
* juice of 1 lime
* handful pistachios, unsalted
* 1 tsp cornflour, made into a slurry
Ingredients for candied orange peel:
* 1 orange
* 2 tbsp butter (unsalted)
* 1-2 tbsp sugar (add as much or as little as you like)
*Pre-heat your oven to 350F/180C
Step 1: Candied Orange Peel:
* Peel the rind of one orange, taking care not to get any of the bitter white flesh beneath. Julienne the orange peel, (see photo above, about 1.5-2 in length.) Add to boiling water for 3-5 minutes.
* Drain water from the orange peels, place back on a medium flame and add butter and sugar. Stir for a few minutes till the sugar and butter start to caramelise and the orange peels begin to droop and curl a bit. Please be careful not to do this on a high flame otherwise the peel and sugar will burn and turn bitter.
* Remove from the flame and pour onto a tray lined with parchment paper. Set aside and allow to cool.
Step 2: Lamb Shanks:
* Heat your oven to 350F/180C and turn your stove top burner to medium-high.
* Place a large dutch oven (I use this, it has a 7-qt capacity, by All Clad) on stove top and warm the corn oil.
* Season your lamb shanks with salt and place in a single layer (do not overlap shanks; you may have to do this in batches) in the dutch oven.
* Once the shanks have caramelised nicely on both sides, (about 5-7 minutes), remove and set aside. You’ll notice that a lot of fat would have rendered. Drain all the fat from the dutch oven.
* Place lamb shanks back into dutch oven and add wine, chicken stock, cinnamon stick, half of the saffron powder, the juice of 2 oranges and lime.
* Cover with lid and place in the oven.
* Oven times vary, so you will have to keep an eye on the shanks. In my kitchen, it takes 2.5 hours for the lamb shanks to be falling-off-the-bone-tender.
* Braise in the oven for 2 hours uncovered. At the 1.5 hour mark, check for tenderness gently with a fork. This will be a good indication of how much more time is required for doneness. Turn the shanks over once, very gently. If you feel too much liquid has evaporated, add some boiling water.
*After the 2 hour mark, braise for 30 minutes without the lid. By this time the meat should be almost falling off the bone. There should still be some shallow liquid in the dutch oven.
*Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 20 minutes.
Step 3: Glaze:
Because lamb shanks render so much fat, you will have to remove the fat carefully.
You have two options here:
Option 1: Place remaining stock in fridge minimum 5 hours or preferably, overnight.
This will ensure that the fats rendered solidify.
Take out lamb shanks from fridge the next morning (or after at least 5 hours in the fridge) and carefully remove the solidified fat, without removing the gelatin-like lamb and chicken stock beneath.
Option 2: Transfer remaining stock into a narrow vessel. Allow to rest for half an hour, then skim the fat from the top.
Once the fat has been removed under Options 1 or 2, place stock in a saucepan, add the other half of the saffron powder and season with salt. Add some more orange or lime juice to your liking, season with salt if necessary. Add cornflour slurry till thick. Remove from flame.
Carve some slivers of fresh orange. Place lamb shank in individual plates on top of Basmati rice (see recipe here), drizzle with the glaze/gravy, arrange strands of candied oranges on top and slivers of oranges on the side and sprinkle with pistachios.