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Spiced Lamb Shanks
March 2023
Reading time 1 Minute

British turnips are bang in season from October through to March. The humble turnip is often overlooked in favour of its racier root veg cousins - parsnips and carrots

However, the slow cooking yields a delicious sweetness and, paired with lamb, spice and heat - a bewitching combination. The slow-cooked meat on the bone adds a full-bodied depth of flavour, and teasing out the meltingly soft bone marrow is utterly irresistible! The Kashmiri basar masala really sets this dish apart.
  • 4 lamb shanks
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 black cardamom pods
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 5 whole peppercorns
  • 5cm cassia bark
  • vegetable oil, for cooking
  • 2 brown onions, finely sliced into half-moons
  • 30g ginger, grated
  • 30g garlic, grated
  • 1–2 bird’s-eye chillies, split in half lengthways
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1½ teaspoons basar masala
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt, or to taste
  • 2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes, blitzed to a purée
  • 2 heaped tablespoons
  • Greek yoghurt
  • 2 small turnips, peeled and cut into chunky dice
  • a pinch of Kasuri methi (dried fenugreek)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh coriander
  • For the Basar Masala
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 8 green cardamoms
  • 1 black cardamom
  • 5cm cassia bark or cinnamon, broken into pieces
  • 1 level teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 mace blade (or 1/4 teaspoon ground mace)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons mild
  • Kashmiri chilli powder
  • a generous pinch of nutmeg
  1. Put the shanks into a large saucepan and cover them with water. Add the whole spices: bay leaves, black cardamom, cloves, peppercorns and cassia. Bring to the boil, then simmer the meat for 30–45 minutes. Remove the lamb shanks and set aside. Don’t discard the cooking liquid, as you may need it later.
  2. Meanwhile, make the masala. In a separate pan, heat a few tablespoons of oil on a medium to high heat. Tip in the sliced onions, then reduce the heat to medium and cook for about 10 minutes until softened. Add the ginger, garlic and chillies.
  3. After 10 minutes, add the turmeric, basar masala and salt. Toast these for 30 seconds, adding a splash of water if the pan becomes too dry, so the spices don’t stick and burn, then pour in the tomatoes. Increase the heat and bring to a simmer. Allow to cook out for five to 10 minutes. When you can see the oil separate on the surface and it has taken on the tomato colour, that means it’s cooked and ready to taste. Check your seasoning here. If it needs more chillies add them now, along with the yoghurt, mixing well. Remove from the heat until the lamb is ready.
  4. Gently place the partly cooked lamb shanks in the masala and stir together, coating all the pieces. You may want to add a splash of water – you can use the cooking stock from the shanks – but beware of adding too much as the meat will shrink and will also release liquid during cooking. (If you do add too much water you can correct it at the end by simmering, uncovered, to reduce the sauce.)
  5. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer, cover with a cartouche, and put a lid on the  pan. Cook low and slow for one and a half hours. After this point, mix in the diced turnips and a pinch of methi (you may need to add more water – use the lamb cooking stock). Then return the pan to the hob and simmer for an additional 30 minutes, or until the meat is meltingly soft and unctuous and the turnips are cooked through.
  6. Finally, scatter over a flurry of chopped coriander leaves and any other garnish you like. Serve with freshly cooked chapattis, or rice if you prefer.

Basar Masala  
You can buy this masala from an Indian grocer, but nothing beats making your own.

  1. Toast all the spices – apart from the chilli powder and nutmeg – in a dry frying pan on a medium heat. Stir continuously and don’t let any spices burn. The aromas will soon waft up. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
  2. Using a coffee or spice grinder, grind the spices to a powder, and mix with the chilli powder and nutmeg.
  3. Store in a sterilised airtight container. If kept out of direct sunlight in a cool, dry place, it will keep for up to a year. (You can tell a masala should be discarded when it has lost its fragrant aroma).
Desi Kitchen by Sarah Woods

Desi Kitchen by Sarah Woods, published by Penguin Michael Joseph (£30) Photography by Liz & Max Haarala Hamilton

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