I was at a Moroccan restaurant recently during Ramadan and was served a delicious harira soup at Iftar – the evening meal that breaks the day’s fast.
I started to play with recipes and decided to improvise by using lamb shanks as I’m a big fan of cooking meat on the bone. The prolonged cooking time allows the bone nutrients to be leached into the soup, resulting in a hearty meal that nourishes the digestive track and boosts the immune system.
This dish does take some time to cook but the flavour is sensational and it’s easy enough to prepare. The ingredients are reasonably inexpensive and it goes a long way so great if you’re feeding a family.
- Approx 1.2 kg or around 2.5lb lamb shanks (two to three depending on the size) – the weight doesn’t have to be exact, it can be over or under depending on what you have available
- 1 litre/ 2 pints bone broth or good quality stock
- 1 cup dried brown/green lentils* OR 2 x 400g tins/14oz cans
- 1 cup dried chickpeas* OR 2 x 400g tins/ 14 oz cans
- If using dried lentils and chickpeas – juice of half a lemon or 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 x 800g tin/24 oz can chopped/crushed tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 3 cloves of finely chopped garlic or 3 teaspoons of minced garlic
- 2 onions, finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander/cilantro
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoons olive oil
Preparation of dried lentils and chickpeas
If using dried lentils, soak them overnight in plenty of water (preferably filtered) and either a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar or the juice of a quarter lemon. Aim to soak for at least 8 hours and not longer than 18 hours. There’s no need to cook them before adding to this dish.
If using dried chickpeas, aim to soak them for at least 12 hours or up to 24 hours, again preferably using filtered water and a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar or the juice of a quarter lemon. You’ll then need to cook them for about 1.5 hours. Obviously this is a time consuming process so I like to cook big batches and freeze them in 1 cup measurements.
If you simply don’t have time for this process, opt for tinned lentils and chickpeas.
Bring a frying pan to a medium to high heat and cook the lamb shanks for a couple of minutes on each side or until golden brown. Lamb is generally fatty enough that you don’t need to add oil to the pan to cook, however if you’re using lean lamb shanks you may wish to add a tablespoon of olive oil to the pan first. Once the shanks are cooked, set them aside.
Heat a large, heavy based saucepan to a medium heat and once hot add the olive oil. Fry the onion and garlic until golden brown then add the tomato paste and cook for another minute.
Add the bone broth, chopped/crushed tomatoes, cumin, coriander, paprika, bay leaves and lamb and bring to the boil them simmer for an hour and a half. Next, add the chickpeas and lentils and cook for a further hour and a half. The lamb should be falling off the bone by this stage. If not, cook for a further 30 minutes.
Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow to cool for at least 15 minutes, then remove the lamb shanks. Discard the bones and any excess fat, then break up the meat, return it to the saucepan and stir through. Serve with some thick natural yoghurt and some fresh coriander/cilantro if available.
This dish freezes well.