Recipe of the week
The spirit of Greece in one savory dish
“Eating like a Greek is a life philosophy,” said Theo Michaels in Orexi! Feasting at the Modern Greek Table (Ryland Peters & Small). “Alone we may eat frugally, but we entertain big”—even when the guest list is small and the kitchen smaller. When I was growing up, I associated lamb with our extended family’s Sunday feasts, held at the North London home of my yiayia, or grandmother, who believed, as any Cypriot should, that there should always be more than enough food for everyone.
The dish below isn’t designed to feed a crowd, but it was one of the first recipes I cooked to bring a little Greek culture to the first London flat I shared with my future wife. Note the use of pomegranate molasses, which adds tanginess and is really nothing more than reduced pomegranate juice. The recipe calls for four lamb shanks, but make more if you’ll have four for dinner. Eating like a Greek is about abundance. “We feed everyone—it’s how we show our love.”
Cypriot lamb shanks in sticky sauce
4 lamb shanks
2 onions, sliced
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tbsp smoked paprika
½ tbsp ground cumin
½ tbsp ground coriander
½ tbsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 cinnamon stick
½ tsp ground cloves or 5 whole cloves
1 cup red wine
3 tbsp pomegranate molasses
1 tbsp Greek honey
3 dried bay leaves
¾ cup pitted and ready-to-eat prunes (or apricots)
2 cups passata (strained tomatoes, such as Pomi)
2 tbsp toasted pistachio nuts, chopped, to garnish
Dried rose petals, to garnish
Fresh chopped cilantro, to garnish (optional)
Preheat oven to 350. Season lamb shanks generously with salt and pepper. In a lidded ovenproof pan, heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and brown shanks on all sides. Remove from pan; set aside.
In the same pan, fry onions slowly until a deep golden hue, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook a few more minutes. Add spices and stir through to coat onions, then add wine. Cook over high heat to reduce wine by half.
Add pomegranate molasses, honey, bay leaves, prunes, and strained tomatoes and return lamb shanks to pan, bottom side down, so bones are sticking up. Slowly add about 2 cups water, just enough to cover the meat (the bones can stick out). Bring to a simmer, then cover and place in the preheated oven for 2 hours. Remove pan from oven and let rest for 10 minutes before removing lid.
Place shanks upright on a plate, with a few ladles of the juice poured over. Garnish with pistachios and culinary-quality rose petals (or any that haven’t been exposed to chemicals or pesticides). If desired, add freshly chopped cilantro as well. ■