← Back to Search Results
braising Middle Eastern
Lamb Shanks with Figs and Honey Recipe-31

Photo by: Joseph DeLeo
Comments: 1


There is something pleasingly biblical-sounding about the “with figs and honey.” And it certainly makes the sweet, aromatic stew appropriate here. Though in either case, there is room for dispute (naturally). Since there is no mention of bee-keeping in the Bible, it is thought that the honey – as in land of milk and honey – was in fact a syrup made by boiling down dates. This is still used by Sephardi Jews, and indeed if you can get some from a Middle-Eastern store, there is no reason why you couldn’t use it here for the honey, replacing, likewise, the dried figs with dried dates.

You do need a huge pot to braise the shanks (but at least it’s getting easier and easier to buy the shanks in the first place). I always love clattering about with army-catering style pans, so this gives me pleasure rather than pause. And, although there is a certain fiddliness involved in the browning of the lamb shanks, this is easy for feeding large amounts of people because you do need to cook it the day before. Thus you’re left with nothing more than a spot of reheating.

Yield: Serves 10


  • 10 lamb shanks
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil (not extra virgin)
  • 2 lb onions
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Leaves from 2 sprigs fresh rosemary to yield about 2 tablespoons needles, or 3-4 stalks thyme
  • 1¾ cups/15oz can plain pumpkin purée
  • 2 2/3 cups dried figs
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 2 cinnamon sticks, crumbled
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 750ml bottle red wine
  • 2 cups water


Heat the oil in a very large pan that will eventually accommodate the entire stew, and brown the lamb shanks in batches. Transfer the browned shanks to a bowl.

Using a food processor (or by hand), chop the peeled onions and garlic, rosemary needles (or thyme leaves) finely. Fry them in the oily pan until the onion is soft but not colored.

Add the pumpkin purée, dried figs, ground allspice, crumbled cinnamon sticks, honey, wine and water. Stir well and bring to the boil. Put the shanks back into the saucepan, turn down the heat and simmer for 1½ hours, partially covered.

It is best to cook up until this point before leaving the stew overnight, preferably near an open window or at least somewhere cold, as once it has cooled, a layer of fat will have formed on the surface of the stew, and you can remove this before reheating. I find the best way to do this is by putting on clean rubber gloves – or better still, those disposable latex ones that make you feel you’re in “CSI” – and then use your hands, but you can also employ paper towels and a skimmer or fish slice.

Reheat the lamb shanks gently, and check seasoning before serving.

You could, if you wanted – and this is easiest if you own a rice cooker – make some golden rice, which is to say, plain rice tinted gold with turmeric. You could also make up a huge vat of polenta, just as suitably sunny and golden, though considerably harder work, unless you go for the instant kind, in which case use chicken stock, even out of a can, in place of the water that the package instructions say.


I don’t like floury sauces, so I use canned pumpkin to help thicken the sauce, but you could just as easily throw in a couple of cupped handfuls of split red lentils.

It is entirely inauthentic, but I love this with the haroset from the Venetian Ghetto.

If you are not making this as part of the Rosh Hashanah feast, and therefore are not making either the pomegranate jewel cake or the quinces with pomegranates, then scatter some pomegranate seeds on the stew once it is in its serving dish.

© 2004 Nigella Lawson

Nutritional Information

Nutrients per serving (% daily value)

This recipe serves 10. Nutritional information is based on using 10, 3/4 lb lamb shanks.

722kcal (36%)
221mg (9%)
20g (31%)
6g (30%)
218mg (73%)
334mcg RAE (11%)
9mg (16%)
127mg (13%)
8mg (46%)

Would you like to leave a comment about this recipe?

Notify me of new comments on this recipe. Add comment

We'd love to hear what you think!

Please or to add a comment to this recipe.
  • 11.03.11 Flag comment

    As I read through the recipe now I am getting more and more hungry! The amount of flavor in this dish when finished must be absolutely spectacular, especially with the pumpkin substituted in. I can't wait to try it out myself!


Sign up for
The Cookstr Weekly

Free handpicked cookbook recipes delivered straight to your inbox

Explore Cookbooks on Cookstr

125-best-vegan-recipes 125 Best Vegan Recipes
by Maxine Effenson Chuck, Beth Gurney
allergy-free-desserts Allergy-Free Desserts
by Elizabeth Gordon
once-upon-a-tart-soups-salads-muffins-and-more-from-new-york-citys-favorite-bakeshop-and-cafe Once Upon a Tart: Soups, Sa...
by Frank Mentesana, Jerome Audureau
cooking-with-too-hot-tamales Cooking with Too Hot Tamales
by Mary Sue Milliken, Susan Feniger
young-and-hungry-more-than-100-recipes-for-cooking-fresh-and-affordable-food-for-everyone Young and Hungry: More Than...
by Dave Lieberman
martin-yans-china Martin Yan's China
by Martin Yan
fresh-from-the-farmers-market-year-round-recipes-for-the-pick-of-the-crop Fresh from the Farmers' Mar...
by Janet Fletcher
desserts-4-today Desserts 4 Today
by Abby Dodge
chez-panisse-fruit Chez Panisse Fruit
by Alice Waters
living-raw-food Living Raw Food
by Sarma Melngailis
mexican-everyday Mexican Everyday
by Rick Bayless
mom-a-licious Mom-a-Licious
by Domenica Catelli
rice Rice
by Bonnie Tandy Leblang, Joanne Lamb Hayes

Thanks for signing up!

You'll receive an activation email in your inbox shortly. Don't forget to click that link and activate your new Cookstr.com account!

Already a member? Sign in here

Sign up for Cookstr!

  • Receive a free, handpicked selection of recipes in your inbox weekly
  • Save, share and comment on your favorite recipes in My Cookstr
  • Get updates on new cookbooks, Cookstr features, and other exclusives we know you'll love
By signing up you accept the
Terms of Use and Privacy Policy
New to Cookstr? Sign up here
Thanks for commenting!
Would you like to share your comment on Facebook or Twitter?