Fig and Honey Lamb Shanks with Jewelled Rice and Cucumber Salad

I cut this recipe out of a magazine months ago and was excited to finally give it a whirl. I liked the fact they were ‘overnight’ and looked so sticky and plush in the photo, I imagined the sweet, rich, warming flavour with a soft, aromatic rice and zingy, fresh salad. The recipe belongs to Nigella, I have just adjusted the cooking time and served with my own side creations.

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The recipe calls for 10 shanks, but I cooked 4 and we had 2 each. I didn’t alter the recipe apart from decreasing the shankage, so feel free to cook 10 and use same amount of liquid ingredients as I had lots left over. I wish I’d cooked 8, then we’d of had this 2 nights in a row!

It was everything I had imagined, sweet (but not too sweet), lamb falling off the bone and I was quite pleased with the rice and salad too. I will do this again, perfect for a late Sunday lunch.

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You start the night before in order to cook the lamb gently and marinate it overnight in the fridge. The recipe called for 1.5 hours, which I did but the next day I cooked it for another 3 hours as the lamb needed this extra time to completely soften to shredding point. I often find shank recipes call for less time than I actually need – often requiring 4 hours.

Shank Ingredients – serves 2-10, but I find you may need 2 each

  • 80ml olive oil
  • 10 lamb shanks, French-trimmed (or however many you like)
  • 1kg onions, chopped finely
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped finely
  • 1 tbsp thyme or rosemary leaves
  • 425g canned pumpkin puree *I made my own – see below
  • 400g roughly chopped dried figs
  • 1tsp ground allspice
  • 1.5 cinnamon sticks – broken up
  • 2.5 tbsp runny honey
  • 750ml red wine
  • ½ pomegranate, seeds scooped out

*Pumpkin puree – to make, just use half a butternut pumpkin and roast face down in an oven heated to 200°C for about 40 minutes, scoop out flesh when cool enough to handle and whizz in a food processor until smooth. Mashing is fine if you don’t have a processor.

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Method for shanks

Begin night before. Heat oil in a heavy based large frying pan and brown the shanks in batches before setting aside to cool.

Add onions, garlic and thyme/rosemary to the shank pan and fry on a gentle heat until soft, but not coloured.

Add pumpkin puree, figs, allspice and 500ml of water and stir well, bringing to a boil.

Transfer your bubbling liquid to a large saucepan with lid and add the browned shanks. Turn down the heat to a gentle simmer and partially cover. Cook like this for 2 hours or if you have time – do 4 hours so you don’t have to finish the cooking tomorrow. Just check the shanks after 2 hours and if you are happy with the lamb (ie wobbling or falling from bone) leave to cool, but I definitely needed 4 hours in total.

Cool to room temperature then cover with cling film and place in the fridge overnight.

The next morning, remove the layer of fat from the surface of the stew using a spoon.

Reheat and check seasoning, adding more salt and pepper if necessary. I had cooked mine for 2 hours the previous night, so ended up cooking very gently for another 2-3 hours, by which time they were perfect and the meat falling off the bone.

Start rice 20 minutes before eating (if making recipe below).

Serve with the rice and a fresh salad and scattered with pomegranate seeds.

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Jewelled Rice Ingredients – Serves 2 good portions

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 6 cardamom pods
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 200g basmati rice, rinsed
  • Pinch of saffron threads (about ¾ of a teaspoon)
  • 1.5 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 large onions, finely chopped

Method for jewelled rice

Melt butter and 1 tbsp oil to a saucepan then add cardamom, bay leaves and cinnamon stick and fry for 2 minutes.

Add the chopped onion and cook for about 4 minutes, until it softens.

Add rice and stir in to toast for 1 minute before adding 400ml of water, covering and simmering gently for 10 minutes.

Mix saffron with a dash of boiling water (about 2 tsp). Check your rice and when almost all water has been absorbed, give it a stir and add the saffron and water to the top.

Put lid back on rice, turn off the heat and let it stand for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile heat the remaining 2tbsp oil in a frying pan and fry the cumin seeds, onions and a pinch of salt until golden and starting to crisp up – this should take around 15 minutes. Spread onto kitchen paper to soak up excess oil.

To serve, remove bay leaves and cinnamon stick and scatter with the fried onion mix.

Cucumber, garlic, chilli and Thai basil salad

Ingredients – Serves 2

  • ½ large cucumber or 3 Lebanese cucumbers
  • 1 red chilli
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Handful Thai basil, chopped
  • ½ lime or lemon
  • 2 tbsp hemp oil or olive oil


Peel cucumber, halve and scoop out the watery middles before chopping into tiny squares, about half cm cubes.

Deseed and chop the chilli finely and add to cucumber with the basil.

Squeeze over the lime/lemon juice, then pummel the garlic cloves in a pestle and mortar, stir in oil and  add to salad, seasoning to taste.

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7 Comments Add yours

  1. BexkyF says:

    Going to try this one!!!

  2. shelbyplude says:

    This looks divine!!! It makes me want to host a dinner party just to show off this lamb.

  3. spoon me like porridge says:

    your blog and this look so great!!

  4. Beautiful blog and amazing pictures. Your recipes are mouthwatering. I really want to try this one!

    1. katiebonken says:

      Thanks for the kind words everyone, hope you do try this – I would recommend cooking the whole 10 shanks mind you, just to make use of all the beautiful sauce. I think I’ll reserve this recipe for either dinner parties or you can always eat 2 nights in a row……they are even better the next day!

      1. A great excuse to have a dinner party!

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