Lamb Shank Tagine

This simple recipe delivers the best slow cooked lamb shanks, barely attached to the bone, and balanced with sweetness and heat from spices, tomatoes, onions, peppers, and dates. The Moroccan lamb flavours pair well with couscous but can also traditionally be served with pita or other flatbreads. You can replicate the moisture preserving of a tagine pot using a cartouche made with baking paper.  



Prep time 30 minutes (plus soaking and marinating)
Cook 3½ hours


  • 4 lamb hindquarter shanks
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon ras el hanout
  • 135g (⅔ cup) dried chickpeas, soaked overnight in cold water (see note)
  • 40g (2 tablespoons) butter, chopped
  • 1 large red onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 1 red capsicum, deseeded and thinly sliced
  • 6 Medjool dates, pitted and halved
  • 1 long red chilli, thinly sliced
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 pinch saffron threads soaked in 1 litre (4 cups) warm water
  • Coriander sprigs and lemon wedges, to serve

Serving suggestion: serve with steamed couscous with toasted almonds, finely chopped preserved lemon and flat-leaf (Italian) parsley

NOTES: You can use tinned chickpeas in place of the dried chickpeas if you prefer. Drain a 400g tin of chickpeas, rinse and add to the tagine when the lamb is cooked, simmering for a minute or two to warm through. The flavours of this dish get even better over a couple of days: it’s a great one to make in larger batches and freeze for later

1. Combine the garlic, ginger and ras el hanout in a small bowl, then rub all over the lamb shanks and season to taste. Cover and set aside at room temperature for 1 hour (alternatively, refrigerate overnight for even deeper flavour and bring to room temperature before cooking). Preheat the oven to 160°C.

2. Drain the chickpeas and bring to the boil in a saucepan of unsalted water. Cook for 30–35 minutes until almost tender, then drain.

3. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large enameled cast-iron casserole over medium–high heat, add the lamb shanks and sear, turning occasionally, for 4–5 minutes until browned well all over. Transfer to a plate.

4. Add the onion to the casserole and fry, stirring occasionally for 6-8 minutes until softened and starting to colour. Add the tomato and cook for a further 3–4 minutes until it is beginning to break down. Scatter the capsicum, dates and chilli over the top, add the chickpeas, lamb shanks, cinnamon sticks and saffron water, and season generously with salt and pepper. 

5. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to very low. Make a cartouche by cutting out a round of baking paper to fit the diameter of the casserole, crumple it up, then wet it under cold running water. Lay it directly on the surface of the mixture, pressing to get rid of any air bubbles. Cover with a lid and transfer to the oven to braise for 2–2½ hours until the lamb is very tender and almost falling from the bone. Scatter with coriander sprigs and serve with lemon wedges.