Well, Warmth Is Nice…

Particularly now, when anything that lifts us beyond winter’s grasp, even  just for one meal, is celebrated.  Few things are better at doing this than is a hearty pot of stew, steaming away happily on the kitchen stove.  The contentment even has spread to the title, as today’s entry is called Warmly-Spiced Saucy Lamb Stew.

This is one of the soup recipes Bon Appetit described in the October 2018 number.  Attentive long-time readers may recall the pork stew featured last (yes, “last”…all the back in 2019) October; today’s recipe is among them, and it probably won’t be the final offering, either.

To date, both suggestions have been excellent, providing satisfying immunity to the chill.  So far, so good.  There may be one more of these to savor before winter finishes with us.  Fair enough, as we’ve been tired of it for a month already.

Anyway, “Warmly-Spiced” is proper billing for this attempt, as the cinnamon, garlic and coriander all wrap the lamb – and the diner – in a snuggly, comforting blanket.  Cinnamon is particularly adept at this.  As the stew simmers, the cinnamon stick unfurls, releasing its soft glow.  When the broth was filtered, the ingredients left behind included a baffling rectangle.  Baffling, that is, until the aroma betrays its identity.

Though the recipe is presented as a non-specific lamb stew, it clearly is Near Eastern in inspiration.  There’s the lamb, of course, but clues much more direct than that are found among the garnishes that enhance the soup.  Harissa and chopped preserved lemons provide heat and a salty tang, respectively.  Mint leaves add freshness that contrasts so well with he lamb’s richness.  Certainly, this stew would be at home warding off the chill of a Levantine winter night.

Actually, the stew is non-specific in that its cold-defying properties aren’t limited to one geography.  No matter whether it’s enjoyed in Beirut or in Boston, today’s entry will envelop you in warmth.


Warmly-Spiced Saucy Lamb Stew

  • 6 lamb shanks (about five pounds, total)
  • salt and freshly-ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 large onions, cut into 1-inch wedges (*1)
  • 2 heads garlic, halved crosswise
  • 1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons coriander seeds, crushed
  • 3 tablespoons harissa
  • additional harissa, chopped preserved lemons and mint leaves, for garnish (*2)

Season lamb shanks with salt and pepper.  In a stockpot set over medium-high flame, heat the oil.  Working in batches, so as not to crowd the lamb, brown the shanks in the pot, turning as needed, until they’re seared all over, about 8 minutes per batch.  Transfer lamb to a separate plate after it’s browned.

Reduce the flame to medium and place the onions and garlic in the pot, cut side down.  Cook for about five minutes, flipping the onion pieces halfway through to sear the other cut side.

Add the cinnamon and crushed coriander and cook, stirring constantly, until the spices are fragrant, about a minute.  Add the harissa and cook, stirring frequently and scraping the pot bottom, until the harissa darkens slightly, about two minutes.

Pour in seven cups of water, and scrape the pot bottom again to release the flavors.  Season generously with salt and pepper, and bring o a simmer.  Return lamb to the pot and return to a simmer.  Cover, but with the lid slightly askew to allow steam to escape, and cook at a low simmer for about two hours.

Using tongs, transfer the lamb shanks to a cutting board, keeping the stew at a simmer.  Once the lamb has cooled enough to handle, cut the meat from the bone in bite-sized pieces.  Put the meat in a medium bowl and return the bones to the stockpot.  Simmer, uncovered, for another 30 minutes.

Turn off the flame and return the meat to the pot.  Let cool until the stew no longer steams.  Cover the pot and refrigerate for at least a few hours, ideally overnight.

Discard the fat that has risen to the surface.  Strain the now-cold broth through a cheesecloth, pressing firmly on the solids to release their essence.  Discard the bones, the cinnamon (the “baffling” rectangle!) and any residual fat, while returning the meat, onion and garlic to the stock.

Gently reheat the stock to a low simmer and ladle into individual portions.  Serve alongside harissa, chopped preserved lemons and mint leaves, for garnish.


1 – It’s possible, or you could go with four large shallots.

2 – Harissa is a common Near Eastern condiment, and may be found in larger stores’ “International” section, or online, of course.  If you don’t have it, a similar quantity of medium-hot salsa will do, though not quite as well.

Preserved lemons also are a staple, both in the Levant and elsewhere, though they may be harder to find if they’re not acquired online.  In a pinch, you can quarter a couple lemons, cut away the pith and the rind, and chop them.  Mix in a teaspoon of sugar and a tablespoon of salt.




34 thoughts on “Well, Warmth Is Nice…

  1. Lovely winter meal! I’ve added it to my Pinterest dinner board. I am always looking for new and delicious ways to use preserved lemons. I have a big jar that I’m thinking may last me until the end of my days. Haha Were you able to find lamb shanks in a regular supermarket? I may have to make a trip to Whole Foods for this one.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, would you look at that? Beautiful compliment, Summer. Thank you!

      Nope, I special-ordered the shanks from a ranch in Idaho. They (the shanks, that is; there were four) arrived frozen, meaning a couple still are in the freezer, awaiting a Persian application in the future. Suppose I could acquire shanks locally if I schlepped into the city to find a wholesaler, but out here in the burbs, nothing doing.

      As for the lemons, might I recommend a tagine? A year or so ago (I think) brought something with hens, and which used up quite a few lemons. Of course, of all the calamities that could befall our species, having too many preserved lemons isn’t one of them.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. If you don’t already have a tagine, Summer, there’s no need to purchase one (unless, of course, you’re fully as pretentious as I…and that’s impossible).

        If you have a Dutch oven or a stockpot with a tight-fitting lid, you’re set. The whole idea is to make the cooking vehicle self-contained. Let the steam rise, condense on the inside lid, then drip back down to baste/enrich the stew – and to start the process anew.

        It’s culinary magic, Moroccan style!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Your caution is understandable, Tamara.

      Lamb conflicts me too, as I hated it as a child, but rather appreciate it now.

      Seeking a more approachable substitute? Try a similar quantity of beef stew meat. The other ingredients still will compliment it and, like the lamb, it should be warmly satisfying.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Appreciate your generosity, Kate.

        Usually, I try to find common ground. In this case pointing to the irreplaceable contributions shallots, harissa and preserved lemons make, but no point in trying to mitigate this week’s “carnivore-forward” entry.

        As mentioned, the next offering will allow you to “sample” with a much clearer conscience, I hope. Your influence at work.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Why, thank you, Mia!

      If there’s one silver lining to all the cold, bluster and ice, it’s coziness. We take comfort wherever we may find it. Snuggle within its warmth until spring returns from winter vacation.

      Geez, spring, it took you long enough!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Vivian! I’m honored and thrilled!

      If you please, a moment to gather my bearings…

      Your nomination, and another I received yesterday, are the first time this has happened to me. Gotta give this honor the respect it deserves.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. A good hearty soup or stew is hard to beat in the winter… the warmth and spices help keep you warm and get you through the harsh season. Once in a while I still miss snow, not too often though. 🙂❄️⛄️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Much obliged for the appreciation, JoAnn!

      That’s a good stew’s winning entry, isn’t it, an antidote to the chill? While central Florida may not sink to frigid iciness, some days still are a little less balmy than are others, particularly in January. It is precisely at such moments, when night whisks away the tropics, a warming blanket is most welcome, even with palm trees in sight.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. oh a spicy lamb soup! I don’t think I have ever had lamb soup and I ADORE lamb!

    I’ve always been very conservative when it comes to eat it and cook it… roasted with olive oil and rosemary 🙂

    BUT I really need to try this recipe!

    It does sound hearty and perfect for winter! And I can’t wait to see how it tastes with cinnamon!

    Will I dare cheat on my beloved rosemary???? 🙂

    I think so, BUT, I need to spiritually prepare to do so because…. We, Spaniards…. Worship lamb! 🙂

    We, have a saying… “Del mar el mero y de la tierra el cordero” 🙂

    That pretty much summarize how we feel about it 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Much appreciated, Daniela! Actually, your preparation entices. With the olive oil too, beautifully Spanish.

      Your trying this recipe would be flattering to the highest degree. I think you’ll like it with the hint of cinnamon;. It compliments the soup, as cinnamon does boast a nice warming nature.

      Nice couplet! Can’t believe I remembered enough high school Spanish to understand it! Of course, I had to empty my brain to do so, and now its rattle is hollower than ever. In fact, I think I’ve forgotten how to blink….

      El mero…y el camarón también.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. oooooooh laaaamb! Lamb stew of all things! GARNISHED WITH MINT of course because mint was created to be a lamb’s diadem 🙂 I need like 1,890,456 gallons of this stew! Is so gloomy here in New England!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You said it, sister! Lamb and mint is one of the classic pairings, right up there with apples and cinnamon, chocolate and peanut butter….

      Plus, it puts one in mind of spring.

      Definitely needed right now, as New England isn’t the only place suffering through the blahs. The sun came out for an hour or so around lunchtime today, and honestly, that’s the first time it’s made an appearance in over a week! If we keep thinking of spring, maybe we’ll summon it early/


    1. Well, Daniela, I happen to really enjoy your comments. Why on earth would I complain?

      Just figured, “Today’s my lucky day!” I’ve got too much of a buzz going right now; please don’t ruin it by saying it was a mistake. Let me go on believing that, today, at least, everything’s coming up Milhouse!


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