Friday, 10 April 2015

Marka hloua - Tunisian lamb shanks

Yes. Lamb. Again. But I promise, for the last time in a while. Lately our culinary feasts have taken us to Andalusia in the form of these lamb shanks and this stifado brought Greece into our kitchen. This recipe sought inspiration from Tunisia - those people love their lamb at least as much as we do! This is the last slowly cooked stew in a very long time and with this we'll tuck our trusty Le Creuset away for some much needed rest and focus our attention to summer... and a lighter life.

The inspiration for this dish is marka hloua, a traditional Tunisian dish. The Arabic name means "sweet stew" and its gentle, aromatic flavour is rather unique. Ground rose buds lend a special perfume-like touch, but if you can't get your hands on any, don't worry. You're still in for a treat.

Originally the dish is of Tunisian Jewish descent and was traditionally made for Shabbat. Since then, however, especially around the region of Bizerte, it's been adopted into the local culinary heritage at large and is still made to celebrate weddings and Muslim New Year.

Usually the meat used for this is boneless shoulder, but having developed a taste for them shanks that's what I used. 

Serves 3

Tunisian lamb shanks:

3 small lamb shanks
1,5 tsp cinnamon
1,5 tsp turmeric
1,5 tsp ground cloves
3/4 tsp ground rose buds
salt, pepper

7,5 dl stock
150 g dried apricots
150 prunes
150 g raisins
150 g chickpeas

Pat the shanks dry. Combine the spices and rub all over the meat. Heat a couple of tbsp oil in a large pot and sear the meat (add into the pan any spice mixture that might have fallen off). Season thoroughly.

Pour stock into the pot and bring to boil. Transfer, covered, into a pre-heated oven (150° , 130° in a fan-assisted one) and leave to cook for an hour. Then fold in the dried fruits (This way they won't overcook and disintegrate) and continue cooking for 1,5 hours. Finally add drained (and peeled) chickpeas and continue cooking for another half an hour.

Serve with rice, bulghur or couscous.

"Wow" sighed The Boy Next Door. "Like sitting around the camp fire on the hills of Gilead" (?) Any geographical discrepancies aside I can only assume the taste was pretty damn authentic. His favourite lamb dish, so far, apparently!

PS. How about cooking a full Tunisian fiesta and starting the meal with these fish keftas?




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