This is the quintessential comfort dish, which can be served with rice or bulgur (coarse bulgur) or roasted green wheat (freekeh).
Lamb shanks and chickpeas are slowly simmered in a lightly spiced broth; rice is then cooked in that broth with pearl onions.
I added some craisins and nuts to make it more festive.
It is served with a bowl of yogurt on the side.
It can be prepared ahead, which makes it ideal for a party. It can also be made simply with lamb pieces, minus the bones; bones however add flavor to the broth and by extension to the rice.
INGREDIENTS: 8 servings
- 1 1/2 pound of lamb shanks, either with the bone or boneless (adding bones to the dish gives more flavor to the broth)
- 1 pound of pearl or cibollini onions
- 1 Large yellow onion, chopped
- 1 1/2 cups of basmati or long-grain rice
- Spices: 1 tablespoon of cumin, 1 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of white pepper (can substitute 1 1/2 teaspoon of seven-spice, 1 teaspoon of allspice, 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon)
- 1 can of chickpeas (or 1/2 cup of dry chickpeas, soaked in water overnight with 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda)
- 1/2 cup of craisins (optional)
- 1/4 cup of pine nuts (optional)
- 1/4 cup of slivered almonds (optional)
- Clarified butter or olive oil, as needed
- 6 cups of water
METHOD: Equipment needed: 1 large pot to cook shanks and rice. 1 skillet to brown the pearl onions and nuts. 1 bowl to soak the chickpeas in overnight. 1 serving platter.
- Sprinkle the lamb shanks with the spices; heat a few tablespoons of oil (or clarified butter)and brown the shanks from all sides. Remove the shanks to a plate. Fry the chopped onions until golden in the same pot.
- Add to the pot 4 cups of boiling water and place the shanks back in the pot and simmer gently until tender. If you are using dry chickpeas that have soaked overnight, rinse them and drain them and add them to the shanks now. The chickpeas will cook with the meat.
- In a skillet, heat some oil and brown the pearl or cipollini onions. Remove the onions and set aside. Add the almonds and pine nuts and toast them in the same skillet. Set aside.
To cook the rice: measure the broth, if you have too much, let it boil down, if too little, add some water. (just empty the broth into a measuring cup). You need no more than 3 cups of broth for rice and about 2 cups for bulgur and freekeh,
- Add the rice to the lamb shanks in the pot and simmer for another 30 minutes until rice and lamb are thoroughly cooked and tender. If using canned chickpeas, add them along with the rice.
- Ten minutes before the end of cooking, add the craisins (if using) and the pearl onions to the pot. Serve the dish with a garnish of toasted nuts and a bowl of yogurt.