My husband adores lamb and Greek food, so I wanted to make a very comforting homemade stew for him on his birthday. I saw a beautiful photo of Arni Youvetsi in Tessa Kiros' gorgeous book entitled "Falling Cloudberries" and got the idea to make that dish- with my own recipe. You can braise the lamb shanks any which way you like- this is my way. They should be tender, but not too tender, remember that the cooked lamb shank meat will be baked later in the casserole with orzo, so you don't want it to turn to mush. We had this with a Domaine de Cristia, Chateauneuf-du-Pape Renaissance, 2004. —shayma
red wine (I had an almost finished Chianti in my kitchen)
(or half a large 28 oz can) chopped tomatoes (I used organic)
Pre-heat oven to 350F. Braise lamb shanks first. Place a large Dutch oven over medium heat on the stove. Add both lamb shanks and turn every few minutes, till they have caramelised. This will take between 7-10 minutes. Remove shanks from the pot. Set aside.
To the pot, add garlic cloves, wine and stock and stir well, you want to incorporate into the sauce all those tasty brown bits at the bottom of the pan. Once you've scraped the bottom of the pan, add lamb shanks back in.
Cover with lid. Place in the oven. Allow it to cook for approximately 2.5 hours. I checked on the state of tenderness after the first 1.5 hour had elapsed. When it is ready, you will know, it will *almost* come off the bone.
Allow lamb shanks to come to room temperature, smoosh garlic cloves with fork into the stock. Then place in the fridge with the stock, over night. This will ensure that the fats rendered solidify (it's something I learnt from Cook's Illustrated).
Pre-heat oven to 350F. 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.
Take the lamb shanks and separate the meat from the bone as you would for a sandwich. (Discard bones or like me, keep them to make stock). Shred the meat with your hands into bite-size pieces. In a small saucepan, gently heat the chicken-lamb gelatin-like stock till it turns to liquid.
In a large casserole dish (I use a 6 qt) place the shredded lamb shank meat, the lamb-chicken stock, tomatoes, cinnamon stick, orzo and boiling water. Sprinkle 1 tsp salt on top (careful, not too much, feta cheese will be crumbled on top later, and that in itself is very salty), and give it a whirl with your spoon.
Cover with foil and bake in the oven for approximately 45 minutes. You can test to see if the pasta is ready after 20 minutes- oven times will invariably be different.
Shayma Saadat is a cookery teacher, food writer, stylist and photographer who focuses on the food of her heritage - Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran, which she refers to as Silk Route cuisine. Shayma lives in Toronto with her husband and son. You can follow her culinary journey on Instagram @SpiceSpoon.