Tunisian-spiced lamb shanks

These lamb shanks are so rewarding: you spend 15 minutes making a simple spice paste, preparing the veggies and browning the shanks, and then you can sit back for a couple of hours with your feet up while your oven does the rest of the work. Magic!

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 2 hours




4 medium lamb shanks, approximately 1.5 kg in total  
2 Tbsp olive oil

3 tsps each coriander, cumin and caraway seeds
6 large cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 tsp fine sea salt
1 Tbsp harissa paste, or to taste

4 small red onions, peeled and quartered
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 x 400 g can chopped tomatoes
1 litre vegetable or chicken stock
2 bay leaves  
1 Tbsp pomegranate molasses

450 g potatoes (about 3 medium), peeled and cut into wedges
300 g (about 2 small) sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunky pieces 
200 g (about 4 small) carrots, peeled and cut into chunky pieces

Handful of parsley or fresh coriander and lemon zest, to serve


  1. Heat your oven to 150° C fan-forced. Start by making the spice paste: pound the coriander, cumin and caraway seeds in a mortar and pestle until roughly ground. Add the garlic and salt and pound again until the garlic has broken down and formed a rough paste. Stir through the harissa paste.

  2. Season the lamb shanks with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat olive oil in a large ovenproof casserole dish over medium–high heat. Add the shanks and brown for a few minutes on each side. Remove shanks to a plate.

  3. Add onions to the casserole and sauté over medium heat for a few minutes, until beginning to caramelise. Stir in the spice paste and cook for another minute or two until fragrant. Stir in the tomato paste, canned tomatoes and their juices, stock, bay leaves and pomegranate molasses. Bring to the boil and return lamb shanks to the pot. Cover the casserole and bake for 1 hour.

  4. Add potatoes, sweet potato and carrots to the casserole and return to the oven for 45 minutes or until shanks are tender and the meat is falling off the bone.

  5. Return casserole dish to the stovetop (use oven mitts; it will be very hot!). Simmer for 10 minutes to slightly reduce the juices. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding another 1 Tbsp of pomegranate molasses to your taste and extra harissa if you'd like more spice.

  6. Scatter over parsley or fresh coriander and lemon zest and serve with your choice of couscous, mashed potato, soft polenta or toasted Turkish bread.


Harissa paste is at the heart of all Tunisian cooking. The spicy paste is a combination of chilli, cumin and caraway seeds that adds a great depth of flavour to many dishes. You'll find harissa in specialty food stores and some supermarkets. If you can't find it, substitute dried chilli flakes to taste.

Pomegranate molasses is another ingredient that will add a dash of Mediterranean mystique to all types of dishes you cook. It's unique sweet–sour flavour really lifts these shanks to another level.

Recipe developed by award-winning cook and food writer Andrea Ball