Blood Orange and Fig Braised Lamb Shanks

My love for lamb is no secret. Aside from being delicious on its own, it also pairs quite nicely with fruit, and if I tend to do anything, it’s to fall back on fruit (what’s your signature? We all have one). In this case, I saw a lamb shank that used blood oranges, and since I’ve been hoarding those, this seemed like a must try. So today, a lamb shank braised in blood orange, dried figs, and a variety of spices.

Blood Orange and Fig Braised Lamb Shanks

I had a hard time quite pinning down what corner of the world this dish would represent, but given the strong blend of spices (star anise, cardamom, cloves) mixed with figs, it seemed somewhat middle eastern (you be the judge). Whatever is a suitable origin for this, it was delicious. I love lamb shank because there pretty much isn’t a slow cooked piece of meat that doesn’t feel homey and comforting. On the downside, I always think braised lamb shank kind of loses some of that distinctly lamby flavor, so its also a good place if you’re trying to delicately get someone started on lamb. A gateway drug, er, dish if you will. The sauce starts out kind of simple, but after all that cooking, it takes on a deep color and a complex, hearty flavor. You have fruity notes from the tangy blood orange and figs while the spices just keep things sultry and interesting. Its a great pairing for fall-apart, fork-tender meat.

Blood Oranges

  • olive oil
  • 2 lamb leg shanks (mine were ~3 lbs each)
  • Rub
    • carraway
    • coriander
    • celery seed
    • fennel seed
    • salt
    • pepper
  • 3 star anise
  • 5 cardamom pods (I used 3 green, 2 black)
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 celery
  • 2 shallot
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • 8 dried figs
  • 4 blood oranges (zested and juiced, ~1.5 cups juice)
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • rosemary sprigs

Blood Oranges

Begin by zesting all of the blood oranges. Then cut them in half and juice them, reserving both the zest and juice for later.

Chopped dried figs and spices

As usual, finely chop the carrot, celery, shallot, pepper, and garlic. Also stem and chop up the dried figs and gather all the sauce-bound spices since its just easier to have it all out and in front of you.

Brown the shanks

With everything else ready, onto the lamb itself. Mix together the rub (in whatever proportions suit you–I’m not one to really measure out my rubs with any precision) and then pat it all over the shanks. In a large pot, warm up some olive oil and brown the shanks (work in batches if necessary to avoid overcrowding the pan) for roughly 2 minutes per side. Set these aside for now.

Deglaze with blood orange juice and stock. Raise to a boil

In the same oil as before, fry the whole spices you set aside earlier for about 2 minutes. Then, add in and sauté the carrot, celery, shallot, and pepper until soft, somewhere around 8 minutes. Then add the garlic for a minute further. Deglaze the pan with the blood orange juice and stock, scraping up all the browned bits on the bottom. Raise this to a boil and add the figs and rosemary to the mix.

After hours of braising, oh so tender

Once boiling, return the lamb to the pot and do your best to submerge it in the liquid. Mine were huge so this wasn’t happening, so that makes rotating the shanks periodically during cooking all the more important (something I did roughly every 45 minutes-1 hour). Cover the pot and put it in a 350°F oven for anywhere between 2.5 and 4 hours (the goal is fork tender meat). I opted for 4 since I had a lot of meat in there.

Blood Orange and Fig Braised Lamb Shanks

When time is up, get the lamb out of the pot. Now, there could be a lot of fat sitting on top of all the liquid in the pot. Do your best to spoon it all out (likewise for the rosemary stem and whole spices). If you’d rather not bother with this step (and you have spare time!), you could just put the liquid in the fridge for several hours as the fat will solidify on top and make for easy removal. With the liquid cleaned of excess fat, puree it in a blender (or using one of my favorite toys: an immersion blender) so it looks more saucy rather than stewy. Reduce this liquid over high heat until you’re happy with the thickness (expect around 5-10 minutes or so). Then, portion the shanks how you’d like to serve them and return them to the pan to warm them back up.

I served this over a bed of cous cous with a good ladle of sauce on top (cous cous, rice, or other absorbent sides are good since you’ll want to sop that sauce right up). Enjoy!

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13 Responses to “Blood Orange and Fig Braised Lamb Shanks”

  1. the caked crusader Says:

    I have a tagine just crying out for it’s “maiden voyage” and this could be the one! I love all slow cooked meat – it’s the tenderness and rich flavour that is impossible to achieve any other way

  2. Helen Says:

    I’m really glad you liked this Mike! I’m not sure which area of the world this would come from either – I do know that those blood oranges in there are delicious with the figs and spices. I am so happy you tried it out and enjoyed it.

  3. Fearless Kitchen Says:

    Oh my goodness, I can almost smell this and it’s making me so hungry! I love lamb shanks, they’re one of my favorite cuts of meat, and what you’ve done to them is lovely.

  4. Jeff Says:

    Nice use of the blood orange! It plays so well with meat.

  5. pam Says:

    Oh my gosh! I have half a lamb coming in April. I am bookmarking this!

  6. Hélène Says:

    I never cook lamb. Looking at this no wonder why you cook with it. Looks great.

  7. Sam Says:

    That looks stunning! I love the lamb and orange combination.

  8. Kevin Says:

    That lamb looks tasty!

  9. Peter Says:

    Having such an affinity for lamb is a good thing…lamb haters suck!

    This dish oozes comfort, satisfaction and I want to dive into it!

  10. Sophie Says:

    MMMMM….I rerally want to eat that lamb right now,…!!!MMMMMM….The dish looks so delicious!!

  11. ilija Rojdev Says:

    How do I print this recipe

  12. Tom Says:

    Great recipe, but when do you add the zest?

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