Wine & Masala Braised Lamb Shanks with Sweet Pea Risotto

Wine & Masala Braised Lamb Shanks with Sweet Pea Risotto

One of my favorite meals as a child was my father’s goat curry with rice. He used to make it for us mostly on special occasions and the amazing smell of spices would fill our home. My younger brother and I would rush down the stairs and begin to argue about who would get the pieces with the marrow – “suckers” we used to call them. Now, some 20 years later, it’s still one of my favorite meals. And although we no longer argue over which pieces of meat we get, the memories are still there.

I created this recipe as a way to indulge in a bit of nostalgia with a twist. I love this recipe for the holidays because it’s easy to make for a large group of people and it offers a different spin on traditional Indian food. I prefer to use lamb when I make this, simply because it’s more readily available, but this method would work equally well with goat. Picking a full-bodied red wine to cook with helps balance out the spices and adds a heartiness that makes this a great go-to meal when paired with a creamy risotto.

Enjoy! I hope you love it as much as I do!


For the lamb:

1/4 cup olive oil
4 medium lamb shanks
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1 teaspoon anardana (pomegranate) powder
1/2 teaspoon red chili powder
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
5 cinnamon sticks
4 bay leaves
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1.5 inch piece of ginger, grated
1 medium yellow onion, roughly chopped
3 medium carrots, cut into rounds
1 – 28 ounce can crushed San Marzano tomatoes
1/2 bottle (375 mL) dry red wine (I used a Zinfandel)
1 cup low-sodium chicken stock or broth
Cilantro sprigs, for serving

For the risotto:

1.5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup Arborio rice
1/4 cup Basmati rice
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 shallots, chopped
1/4 cup frozen sweet peas
3 cups chicken stock or broth


For the lamb:

Heat half of the oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Once hot, add the lamb shanks and saute until brown on each side, approximately 5 minutes. Transfer lamb shanks to a plate and set aside.

In the same pan, heat the remaining oil, keeping the heat at medium. Add the cumin, coriander, cloves, anardana, chili powder, fennel, cardamom, turmeric, cinnamon and bay leaves and saute for 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add the crushed garlic and grated ginger and cook for another 30 seconds, constantly stirring. Add the onions and stir continuously until all pieces are covered in spices and begin to turn translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the carrots and cook for another 3 minutes until they begin to soften.

Transfer spice, onion and carrot mixture to large stockpot over medium-high heat (will need to be large enough to fit all 4 lamb shanks). Add tomatoes, wine and chicken stock. Bring to a boil, constantly stirring. Once boiling, add lamb shanks and turn to medium-low. Cover the stockpot and cook until lamb is tender, approximately 2 hours.

Once lamb is tender, remove shanks from the stockpot and transfer to oven to keep warm. Cook the liquid uncovered on high for about 10 minutes, or until it begins to reduce.

To serve, plate one lamb shank with the risotto (recipe below) and pour sauce over it. Garnish with fresh cilantro and serve immediately.

For the risotto:

Heat butter in a large pan (I like using a 2.5 quart cast iron dutch oven) over medium heat. Once melted, add cumin seeds and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add shallots and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add rice and cook, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes, or until rice also begins to turn translucent.

Add the chicken stock, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly. The rice will slowly begin to absorb the liquid. It’s important that you don’t let all of the liquid become absorbed, or you risk charring the rice. Continue to add the broth until the rice is tender, about 30 minutes.

Once rice is cooked, add the peas and stir for another 3-4 minutes. Serve immediately with the lamb and enjoy!

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