Deborah got us going for this week's recipe with Goat Tagine with Fennel. http://figmentspot.blogspot.com/2009/05/on-menu-goat-tagine.html I love Moroccan cooking, and was looking forward to trying this recipe. I even located a source for goat shanks, the friendly butcher at my favorite Indian market in Waltham. However, I ended up inviting guests for dinner Saturday, and as they're fairly unadventurous eaters, I figured I'd have to go with lamb shanks.
The recipe is based on a lamb tagine from Paula Wolfert's "Couscous and Other Good Food From Morocco." It's in a chapter called "Fragrant Tagines" and this was apt, as my kitchen smelled wonderful while it was simmering. I went between the two recipes a bit, and also lightened it somewhat by not using oil, reducing the honey, and making it a day in advance so I could skim off the fat. I also had to use some carrots in place of one of my fennel bulbs, which turned out to be bad inside. The lamb turned out buttery-soft, and the sauce was heavenly with gentle spices, sweetness from the fennel and carrots, slightly salty from the lemon and olives. A definite keeper, and I'm looking forward to making it with chicken thighs next time, which I think would be delicious.
Although this is heavier than my usual healthy cooking, my research shows that a 1/2 pound trimmed lamb shank has about 400-500 calories. The tagine has lots of vegetables, I didn't add oil and skimmed the fat, so it wasn't a caloric overload. The preserved lemons and olives add a lot of sodium, but spread over at least 8 servings, it's not bad. I served myself the meat from half a shank, so portion control helped. The dish is so rich and delicious that a smaller portion was very satisfying.
Here's my adaptation.
Lamb Tagine with Fennel and Carrots
8 small lamb shanks, trimmed of fat
Freshly ground pepper
2 medium onions, sliced in half lengthwise, then into 1/4-inch slices lengthwise
1 or 2 medium bulbs of fennel, cut in half lengthwise, then into 1/4-inch slices lengthwise
5 carrots, cut into large chunks
1 large pinch of saffron threads, lightly finger-crushed
6 medium garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons freshly toasted, ground coriander seed
1 teaspoons freshly toasted, ground cumin
1 teaspoons freshly toasted, ground fennel seed
1 tablespoon honey
3/4 cup fresh tomato peeled and chopped, or good boxed/canned chopped tomatoes
1 box low sodium chicken stock
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 bunch fresh coriander (cilantro), stem and all, tied with butcher string
1/2 cup oil-cured olives
1 large preserved lemon, rinsed and quartered
Preheat oven to 350. Salt and pepper the goat shanks. Brown them over medium-high heat in a oil-sprayed large, deep casserole that will fit all the meat and go in the oven. Remove shanks from the pan and add onions, fennel and carrots, cook for about 5 minutes. Add the saffron, garlic, ginger and all spices and cook another 5 minutes. Add the honey and tomatoes and cook a few minutes. Add stock and tuck shanks back into pot along with the cinnamon stick and tied cilantro. Bring to a simmer. Cover and braise in the oven until tender, about 2-3 hours.
Check every so often; turn shanks and add more liquid if necessary. Add olives and lemon to the stew the last 15 minutes of cooking. It is finished when the fennel is tender and the meat is buttery and falling off the bone. Taste and season as necessary. Refrierate until fat rises, then skim off the fat and discard. Gently reheat, serve over cous cous. I also serves steamed green beans and roasted carrots with it.