Lamb shanks in citrus sauce

This is a medieval Iraqi recipe dug up by  Mrs. Nasrallah in her book Delights from the Garden of Eden. Very simple to put together: The lamb shanks are browned then braised over gentle heat in a sauce of citrus juice and a medley of vegetables and spices.

This recipe would work really well in a crockpot.

Serve with rice, any grains or just some bread. I added potatoes fried in duck fat with a touch of garlic.

I adapted the recipe (added some sugar to the sauce) to make it more palatable to my tasters (Mary, my neighbor and Alice, my daughter); there is a lebanese tradition of cooking meat in citrus sauce (called arnabiyeh) but it is a bit of an acquired taste.

This dish tastes better the next day.

INGREDIENTS: 4 to 6 servings

  • 2 pounds of lamb shanks
  • 1 large onion
  • 4 to 6 carrots, shredded or sliced
  • 3 zucchinis, shredded or sliced
  • 1/4 cup of cut-up apricots (dried)
  • 1 cup of fresh orange juice
  • juice of one lemon
  • 1/4 cup of brown sugar or honey or maple syrup (optional)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped and mashed in a mortar with a dash of salt
  • Spices: 1 tsp ground anise, 1 tsp. coriander, 1 tsp. of turmeric, 1/2 tsp. of cumin, 1/2 tsp. of cardamom, 1 1/2 tsp. of salt, 1/2 tsp. of pepper, dash of chili pepper or smoked paprika
  • 3 tbsp. of flour
  • oil, as needed


  1. Sprinkle the anise on the shanks and coat in flour; heat oil in a pan and brown the shanks evenly. Chop the onions and fry in the oil, adding more if needed. Add the garlic and all the spices. Stir-fry for a couple of minutes then add the carrots, zucchini, apricots and stir-fry for a few minutes.
  2. Juice the oranges and lemon and add the juice to the pot along with the shanks and three cups of water. Cover and simmer the shanks for about 1 1/2 hours or until the meat is so tender it falls off the bone. Remove the bone, cartilage and visible fat and cut the meat into small chunks. Serve the stew with rice, or any other starch.

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  1. Posted October 26, 2011 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

    The potatoes fried in duck fat…That got my attention. Delicious. Definite comfort food.


  2. Posted October 26, 2011 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

    Oh I am with Velva – the potatoes in duck fat made me smile – it’s just what i’d expect of you:) This is comfort delicious food at its best and youu know how much I LOVE lamb so I’ll fix this soon and keep you posted.

    chow! Devaki @ weavethousandflavors

  3. Posted October 26, 2011 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

    I’ve always been intimidated to cook lamb before but early this year, I was asked to develop lamb recipes using Filipino home style cooking. That’s when I discovered that lamb is flavorful. This is another lamb recipe inspiration. Thank you…

  4. Posted October 27, 2011 at 1:48 am | Permalink

    délicieuses saveurs et jolie découverte!! merci Joumana! très bonne journée!

  5. Posted October 27, 2011 at 2:39 am | Permalink

    This sounds delicious – funnily enough a bit like medieval English food (for the aristocrats anyway!) But I’m guessing that this was the middle eastern influence on Norman English food. Lovely, thankyou. I think I know what I’m cooking this Sunday!

  6. Posted October 27, 2011 at 2:53 am | Permalink

    That dish looks so mouthwatering! I love lamb shanks.



  7. Posted October 27, 2011 at 3:22 am | Permalink

    I’ve always cooked chicken with citrus, I’m intrigued by the idea of using lamb. I think I’ll probably like it, since I like acidic flavours, and there is plenty of spices here to round the flavours up.

  8. Posted October 27, 2011 at 3:59 am | Permalink

    And I was just saying how I need a slow cooker! I bet the flavours in this are wonderful. I’m going to try and find that book – sounds wonderful.

  9. Posted October 27, 2011 at 6:06 am | Permalink

    It always amazes me, the number of people who don’t like lamb. We love it. And my other was cooking lamb shanks when I was a kid. I still do. Sometimes slow baked in a wonderful red wine and sometimes just roasted with salt and pepper.
    Nice to have another take on them…with a bit of sweet and some wonderful spices.

  10. Posted October 27, 2011 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    I am always excited to find new ways to make lamb, given it is one of my favorite meats.

  11. Posted October 27, 2011 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    The citrus must add a wonderful and flavorful dimension to the meal, excellent!

  12. Posted October 27, 2011 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    Wat a flavourful dish,makes me hungry.

  13. Posted October 27, 2011 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    Cooking meat with citrus is a very popular technique in Latin America and I love what it does to the flavor of the dish. Though I’ve never tried it with lamb, I’m thinking it adds a level of freshness that will counteract the gaminess some people (not me) dislike about lamb.

  14. Posted November 3, 2011 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    Délicieuses saveurs envoûtantes avec ces agrumes et épices….

  15. Posted March 21, 2012 at 7:10 am | Permalink

    very different and beautiful and ideal for summer parties.i will try this recipe for my next summer party .

  16. Karen Mickleson
    Posted June 10, 2013 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    Doesn’t the zucchini disintegrate in this dish?

  17. Joumana
    Posted June 11, 2013 at 1:19 am | Permalink

    @Karen: to be honest, I forgot, but that did not bother me one bit! :)

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