The house is quiet, apart from the gentle hum of the oven warming the last piece of silverbeet and ricotta tart which I am to have for lunch, yum! The heater has been on since the early hours of the morning as the weather outside is wild to say the least. Every now and then I fear that the tiles may just fly off one by one.
The wind and rain are beating against our little weatherboard home and I am quite happy to be tucked up tight and cosy for the day with our little man. A mug of hot cacao sits beside me and if we were to be staying in tonight I would definitely be filling our home with the warming aromas of this slow-cooked Moroccan lamb shank soup. You can literally feel it warming your whole being, from the tips of your toes to the top of your head as each mouthful hits your belly. It is full of the most wholesome and hearty flavours, so much so that you can almost see the goodness radiating out as the steam rises from the bowl.
Middle Eastern flavours are a particular favourite of mine. I love the use of all the spices with their warming undertones; slow cooked meats with the sweetness of dried fruits and of course the creaminess and nuttiness of chickpeas and the like. Its such a joy to cook and create with these flavours and ingredients in mind.
Inspiration just seems to flow out of me like steam escaping from a tagine and when I am in need of an extra boost I know I can turn to any page in Yotam Ottolenghi's numerous cookbooks and be met with mouth-watering temptations.
As the weather looks as though its finally succumbed to the chillier parts of the year and the smoke from surrounding chimneys fills the air, I can pretty much guarantee that this big pot of tummy warming goodness will be on high rotation for the next few months. I actually made it again last night to make sure that it was worthy of being shared with you and it didn't disappoint!
Its actually better in the days following as the flavours all meld into one another and all that is needed is a quick re-heat on the stove top and you have yourself one very tasty lunch or dinner. It freezes really well although adding a little more water to the pot when re-heating is a must. And some homemade yoghurt flatbreads on the side for mopping up every last skerrick are a quick and delicious addition.
This makes quite a large pot, probably enough for 6 people, although I generally get a bit more by adding extra water to it if you are going to be having it for leftovers over the next few days.
Start this recipe the day before. As you need to soak the chickpeas overnight.
165g dried chickpeas (you could use tinned, however I really do strongly suggest using the dried, they really do make a difference)
1 tablespoon olive oil
about 1-1.5kg grass-fed (organic if you can) lamb shanks, I generally use about 4 for this.
1 brown onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, finely diced
3cm piece of ginger, finely diced
1 bunch of coriander root, washed really well and finely chopped, reserve the leaves for later
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
800g tinned diced tomatoes
1 litre homemade chicken stock, or good -quality store-bought stock
160g yellow split peas
about 4 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves
Soak the chickpeas overnight in cold water. I normally just leave the bowl out on the bench. The following day drain and rinse them really well just before you begin to make the soup.
In a large pot, over a medium-high heat add the olive oil and brown the shanks until they start looking all golden. Be careful as you do this, as the oil can get very hot and they tend to spit out at you too!! Once they are all done remove from the pot and set aside.
Now add in your onion and garlic, you may want to turn the heat down just a fraction as you don't want to burn the garlic. Cook the onion and garlic until just starting to soften then add in the ginger and coriander roots and stir for another couple of minutes. Now its time to add in those spices, give them a quick stir and relish in that aroma that is released as they cook away. Add the shanks back in to the pot and stir them as best as you can to coat them in all of the mixture.
Pour in the tomatoes, and then add a little water into each tin and give it a swirl to get all of those leftover "bits" out. also add the stock and 2 cups of water, bring it all up to the boil over a high heat.
Add the split peas and the chickpeas and simmer, partially covered for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. Uncover completely and continue to simmer away for another 30 minutes. By this stage the lamb should be just about falling off the bone and the soup should have thickened up. Remove the bones and shred any remaining meat off, then come back to the meat in the pot and using a pair of tongs and a fork, roughly shred it all up. Taste and see if it needs salt or pepper, stir through 3/4 of the coriander and ladle it into big bowls. scatter over the reserved coriander leaves. Then, make yourself cosy, ideally in front of an open fire and enjoy every nourishing mouthful.
For the spelt flatbreads (I really, really recommend that you serve these alongside as they are just so yummy and so easy to make!)
200g spelt flour (or plain flour if that is all you have)
200g greek yoghurt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
In a medium sized bowl, add in the flour, salt and baking powder and give it a quick stir with a fork. Then dollop in the yoghurt and mix everything together. If you use the back of the fork to kind of stir and squish everything together it will start to combine. Now its over to your hands for the final part, on a lightly floured bench knead the dough until its smooth, about 3 minutes should do it. Place it back into the bowl and cover with a clean tea-towel or cling wrap and let it rest for 30 minutes.
Pop it back onto your floured bench and divide it up into 6 equal portions. Pat each one out and then roll until its quite thin, but not thin enough that you can see through. You will know by the feel when its just right. Keep adding flour if its sticking to the bench or the rolling pin.
As you are doing this, heat a large-ish non-stick fry pan over a medium heat, and then add in the bread one at a time, cooking on the first side for roughly 1-2 minutes or until starting to bubble on the top. Then flip over and watch how it magically puffs up! I love this part. Remove from the pan and continue cooking all the others. You can make these a day ahead and then simply re-heat them in the oven. Just tear off a piece of baking paper, scrunch it all up while you run it under cold water, then squeeze it all up, lay it out flat and place the breads on top, then package it all up like a parcel. Sit it on a baking tray and heat in the oven for about 10 minutes. Be careful when you open it back up again as the steam escapes.
They make such a delicious addition for mopping up every last skerrick of soup.