I had to share this amazing recipe before New Year’s Eve as it would be a great meal to serve that evening. This recipe for Merguez Lamb Shanks and Chickpeas is one of our favorite ways to cook shanks. It is inspired by the flavors of North Africa, where we are dying to visit and experience the food. In the meantime, we live out that fantasy with this recipe.
Merguez is a wonderfully warm seasoning that is made using cumin, fennel and coriander seeds, along with cayenne and smokey paprika. The recipe below makes a rather large amount, but I like to keep it on hand to use in other recipes such as short ribs, egg dishes as well it is great on chicken and fish. It is slightly spicy and intense in flavor. A great combination with lamb and chickpeas.
Use a high-quality grass-fed lamb shank from a trusted ranch, such as our favorite Lava Lake. I have tried it with other lamb products when in a pinch, and the flavor is just as good as when I use Lava Lake. This is only my opinion but grass-fed lamb is the way to go as it is rich in flavor and moist, not to mention it is always better to support small ranches and farms.
To make the meal a bit more elegant, I like to wrap all of the ingredients in parchment paper, creating individual “gifts” for each dinner guest. I have also made it by braising everything other in my dutch oven, which creates more of a country style meal. Either way, you cannot go wrong.
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Merguez Lamb Shanks and Chickpeas
3 tablespoons cumin seeds
3 tablespoons fennel seeds
3 tablespoons coriander seeds
6 tablespoons smoked paprika
1 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper
2 teaspoons allspice
1 tablespoon ground cayenne pepper
2 lamb shanks
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, finely minced
1 14 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 15 ounce can chickpeas, drained
In a small frying pan toast the cumin, fennel and coriander seeds over low heat, until lightly toasted. Constantly shake the pan or us a wooden spoon to stir, until the seeds are toasted and fragrant. This will only take 1 – 2 minutes.
Remove from the heat, and place into a bowl to cool.
Using an old coffee grinder (I have a separate one just for spices), place the toasted seeds, paprika, black pepper, allspice, and cayenne pepper. Pulse to mix, then pour into a small glass jar that has a lid.
Preheat the oven to 325.
Cut the lamb off the top of the bone, pushing it downs towards the meaty area, to create a sort of lollipop.
Season the lamb with salt.
Place the olive oil in a large frying pan, and then lightly brown the shanks to seal in the juices.
Remove the shanks to a plate.
Add onion to the frying pan, stir and cook for 3 minutes over low heat.
Add the diced tomatoes, the paste and 1 tablespoon of the merguez seasoning. Stir, and cook for a minute. Remove from the heat.
Cut large pieces of parchment paper, and place into four deep ovenproof bowls.
Evenly divide the tomato mixture between the four bowls that have the parchment paper places into them.
After rubbing each shank with 1 1/2 teaspoons of merguez seasoning, place a shank into each cut piece of parchment paper.
Scatter the chickpea between each bowl. Sprinkle another 1 1/2 teaspoons of merguez over each shank and chickpeas.
Using cooking twine, tie each package up.
Place the bowls on a baking sheet, and place into the oven.
Braise the lamb for 1 1/2 hours – 2 hours, until the meat is tender and pulling away from the bones.
Remove from the oven, and let sit for 5 minutes.