These slow cooker lamb shanks are cooked with lemon, cilantro and spices to make them incredibly tender and flavorful. Easy to make and delicious.
I admit, when my mother-in-law gave us a slow cooker as we moved in to our current house, my immediate thought was there was little chance of me ever using it. I wasn’t brought up with a slow-cooker – I think it is much more of an American thing than British – and to be honest I was a bit snobbish about it. Maybe that’s partly because apart from the chili and the wedding soup my husband made in it, any other food I had tried from a slow cooker had been a bit bland or overcooked. That was before I came across a couple of great recipes for Ethiopian chicken and pulled pork. It got me thinking it might have a use after all. This tangia-style slow cooker lamb shanks recipe is one of my first tries at making a recipe specifically for the slow cooker and we loved it.
Tips for using slow cookers
Having reflected on my initial snobbery about slow cookers, I think for me there are a few things to keep in mind on using them:
- Don’t put things in there just for the sake of it. Instead use it for what it is intended ie to slowly cook and infuse a flavor through the food and/or tenderize.
- If you are cooking meat, instead of simply cooking it, use the cooking method to make fall-apart tender meat. This often means adding in something as a tenderizer eg vinegar, wine or citrus.
- If the flavors you are adding in there would be a bit dull or overpowering cooking it another way, why is it going to be better here? Believe me, it won’t.
- Don’t allow things to dry out. You often need more liquid than you might use for other cooking methods, plus fattier or tougher cuts are generally better here.
I am still experimenting, so I am sure there may be other things that are worth considering but these seem a good place to start. These slow cooker lamb shanks certainly follow these principles.
What is a tangia?
This recipe is based on a few Moroccan tangia recipes, a stew cooked in an urn-shaped pot by the same name. Tangias are traditionally cooked in the embers of the fire, so basically the original slow cooker. Rather than using actual preserved lemons that can be hard to come by, but that are common in tangias, I have used a quick method of getting a similar effect here. I also added some almond meal/ground almonds both for the flavor and to give a slightly thicker sauce, but they are in line with the flavors of the region. The apricot jam/conserve is probably a bit less so, and if you want to miss it out feel free. I just felt it was a little too bitter to have any chance of my son eating it and that took the edge of while still retaining a delicious citrus flavor.
This tangia-style slow cooker lamb shanks is a really tasty dish. The meat really falls apart and is lovely and moist. The almonds in particular help the sauce have a great consistency. It’s not too runny but still able to mingle in nicely with the couscous so it absorbs all the lovely flavors. There is a definite citrus flavor here but it is not bitter or sharp, in part thanks to the apricot jam. The spices and other flavors are fairly mild in the background but work well. It’s great served with couscous and winter fattoush would also go alongside nicely.
As with most slow cooker recipes, the cooking time for these slow cooker lamb shanks is no indication of effort. This is so easy to make. True, there’s a little more preparation at the start than some slow cooker recipes. However it’s not long and you could make the paste in advance and then throw it together in the morning. It has helped build my confidence the slow cooker can be my friend, after all. I hope you will similarly enjoy, it has such delicious flavors.
Tangia-style slow cooker lamb shanks with lemon
- 1 lemon small-med
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 lb lamb shanks approx, 2-3 on the bone - 1 1/2lb/775g (a bit over is fine)
- 1 onion small, roughly chopped
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 4 cloves garlic peeled and halved
- 5 tbsp almond meal ground almonds, divided
- 4 tbsp cilantro coriander, roughly chopped
- 3/4 cup water 180ml
- 2 tbsp butter 20g
- 2 tbsp apricot jam preserves
- Cut the ends off the lemon and cut in to slices. Place the lemon slices in a small pan with enough water to cover and the salt. Bring to the boil and boil for a minute or two.
- Drain the lemon slices and put them, the onion, coriander, cumin, garlic, 3tbsp of the almonds and the fresh cilantro/coriander leaves in a food processor and puree.
- Put the lamb shanks in the slow cooker and put the lemon-onion-spice paste over them. Pour in the water and cut the butter into chunks and spread over.
- Put the slow cooker on high for 30mins to get it going then reduce to low for around 8hours.
- By this time the meat should be falling off the bone. You can serve it whole if you like, but I prefer to take the meat off the bone and discard the bones.
- Either way, add the remaining 2 tbsp almonds and 2 tbsp apricot jam to the sauce.
- Suggest serving over couscous.
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