Persian-style chickpea and lamb shank stew

Danielle Alvarez's recipe is inspired by a dish from Cafe Darya.
Danielle Alvarez's recipe is inspired by a dish from Cafe Darya. Photo: William Meppem
Dietary
Gluten-free

This is my recreation of a stunning Persian braise I encountered, completely unexpectedly, on a recent getaway to the Snowy Mountains (thank you, Cafe Darya). Spices such as saffron and cardamom abound, of course, but it's the frying of lots of herbs and greens and adding them to the pot towards the end that makes this dish unique. It may not be 100 per cent Persian, but it is comforting and delicious. Serve with yoghurt and steamed rice for a truly elegant meal.

Ingredients

125g dried chickpeas, soaked overnight (or a 400g can of cooked chickpeas)

4 lamb shanks

¼ tsp ground cinnamon

⅛ tsp ground cloves

1 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp black pepper

½ tsp cumin seeds

½ tsp fenugreek seeds

4 cardamom pods, seeds only

100ml olive oil

1 large onion, diced

8 garlic cloves, minced

pinch of salt

2g saffron

50ml lime juice (2 limes)

zest of 2 limes

1 bunch English spinach

1 bunch fresh coriander

2 bunches flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked

1 bunch spring onions

fresh coriander, to serve

limes, quartered, to serve

For the garlic yoghurt

1-2 garlic cloves

100g labne or thick Greek yoghurt

pinch of salt

pinch of sugar

Method

1. The day before you want to cook this dish, soak the chickpeas in water in the fridge overnight (alternatively, you can use a tin of drained and rinsed cooked chickpeas on the day). Also, season your lamb shanks with salt and refrigerate. If you don't have time to season overnight, do it as soon as you can before you start to cook.

2. On the day of cooking, combine the cinnamon, cloves, turmeric and pepper in a small bowl. Using a mortar and pestle, crush the cumin and fenugreek seeds and the seeds from the cardamom pods until they're almost a powder. Combine with the spices and set aside.

3. Preheat your oven to 175C fan-forced (195C conventional). Heat a large Dutch oven, or similar heavy pan with a tight-fitting lid, over a medium-high heat. Add half the olive oil to the pan and when hot, brown the lamb shanks on all sides. When the lamb has browned, remove and place on a dish. Reduce the heat to medium and add the onions and garlic to the pan with a good pinch of salt. Sauté them for 6-8 minutes until browned and soft. Add the saffron and spice mix and stir to combine. Cook for another minute. Add the drained chickpeas and reintroduce the lamb with the lime juice, lime zest and 900ml water. Season and bring to a simmer. When simmering, place a lid on the pot and transfer it to the oven for 90 minutes.

4. While the lamb is cooking, set a skillet over a medium heat on the stove. Rinse and dry your spinach and herbs really well as they can often be sandy. Finely chop the spinach leaves, coriander, parsley and spring onions and combine. Pour the remaining olive oil into your skillet and add the herbs. Fry them over a medium heat for about 15 minutes until they become dry and fragrant. Set aside.

5. After 90 minutes, check the lamb; it should be pulling away from the bone by this time. If it isn't, cook for a further 30 minutes. If it is, add the herb mix, stir and replace the lid and continue baking for another hour. When ready, the lamb should be meltingly tender and the chickpeas soft.

6. To make the seasoned yoghurt, crush and finely mince the garlic cloves (use 1 or 2 to your liking) using a mortar and pestle or a microplane. Combine with the yoghurt and a good pinch of salt and sugar.

7. Serve the lamb with the yoghurt and steamed Persian rice. Garnish with fresh coriander and quartered limes.