This is a great, warming dish for the winter or spring, full of bright flavors. Harissa, which is a spicy North African condiment, gives rich braised lamb a little kick. I think that marinating meat with spices before braising amplifies the flavors. I'm also convinced that there is a big difference between a two hour braise and a three hour braise. I have also added a cup of chopped aromatic vegetables (fennel, celery, carrots) after the onion if I have them around. I don't mind putting time in the early preparations, since this dish pretty much cooks itself. For a braise like this I used an enameled cast iron braiser with a lid, for easy stove top to oven to table transitions. —maryvelasquez
Place the cumin and coriander seeds in a small pan and toast over medium heat until fragrant. Remove and let cool, then grind them using a mortar and pestle. Combine the spices with the paprika, the chopped garlic, and a tablespoon of olive oil.
Rub the lamb shanks with spice mixture. Cover and place in the refrigerator six hours or overnight.
Remove the shanks from the refrigerator and let them come to room temperature. Brush off the spice mixture and reserve. Generously salt the shanks.
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
In a heavy pot that can go into the oven, brown the shanks in olive oil. You'll want to get the surface of each shank nice and brown, which does take a while. I brown two at a time. Remove them to a plate.
Add more olive oil to the pan, if needed, and saute the onions over medium heat until translucent, about 6 minutes. Add the reserved spice mixture and the tomato paste, scraping it around the pan to wake up the flavors.
Add the white wine and simmer until reduced by half, then stir in the harissa. Taste and correct for salt and pepper.
Add the stock, the bay leaf, the cinnamon stick and allspice. Add the shanks to the pot so they fit snugly in one layer. There should be an inch or two of liquid, but the shanks should not be submerged. Cover the pot and place in the over. Braise for 3 hours.
If you are serving the dish right away, squeeze the juice from half of a lemon into the pot and let the sauce and shanks simmer for a few minutes on the stove top. If serving at another time, let cool to room temperature and refrigerate. Add lemon juice upon reheating, just before serving. Sprinkle the shanks with chopped cilantro.