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Eat-Me-with-a-Spoon Masala

by Arun Kapil from Fresh Spice: Vibrant recipes for bringing flavour, depth and colour to home cooking (Pavilion)

This dish is an absolute peach of a comfort recipe, even if I do say so myself! It’s called ‘Eat me with a spoon’ because when cooked this way, the meat on a lamb shank becomes so soft, so tender and delicious, it not only falls off the bone, but can be eaten with a spoon. The asafoetida is the secret ingredient and makes all the difference. My friend Jim, from cookery school, was always trying to add secret ingredients to everything he made. This one’s for you, sir. Sláinte!

Serves 4


4 good-sized (approximately 400-450g/14 oz-1 lb), meaty lamb shanks, boned and cleaned

500g (1lb 2 oz) onion, thinly sliced

40g (1½ oz) unsalted butter, diced

50g 1¾ oz) garlic, finely chopped

60g (2¼ oz) fresh ginger, finely chopped

2 tsp whole fennel seeds whole

Scant ¼ tsp asafoetida resin

3 tsp Garam Masala Blend (see recipe below)

500g (1lb 2 oz) Greek yoghurt

400g tinned tomatoes, chopped

100ml (3½ fl oz) chicken stock

2 tbsp dry vermouth

2 tbsp runny honey

1 tbsp red wine vinegar


  1. Preheat the oven to 140°C / fan 130°C / gas mark 1.

  2. Wrap a small strip of foil around the end of the shank bones, about 5cm (2 inches) wide and tie the foil cap securely with butcher’s string.

  3. In a tall, straight-sided casserole dish, gently fry the onions in the butter until they’re soft. Add the garlic, ginger, fennel, asafoetida and 2 tsp of the Garam Masala Blend and stir well to combine.

  4. Add the yoghurt, tomatoes and stock and stir well.

  5. Put the shanks upright in the sauce, cover with foil and the lid and place into the oven for around 4 hours, or less if the shanks are a little skinny. Basically, when finished, the meat should be ‘meltingly tender’.

  6. Carefully take the shanks out, trying to make sure they hold their shape, and set aside on a handy warmed plate.

  7. Place the casserole on a medium heat, add the vermouth, honey, vinegar and 1 remaining tsp of the Garam Masala Blend to the sauce and cook for 5 minutes, stirring well to combine, or until the sauce is glossy and smooth.

  8. Place a lamb shank on each of four warm dinner plates and remove the foil caps. Coat each one generously with the sauce and serve with a creamy mash, green vegetables such as kale or sautéed spinach, and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Garam Masala


2 tsp black peppercorns

1 ½ tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp coriander seeds

1 tsp fennel seeds

1 tsp freshly ground cassia

1 star anise

1 tsp green cardamom pods

½ tsp cloves

¼ tsp freshly ground mace

12 gratings nutmeg

1 black cardamom pod

1 tsp dried rose petals

Grind all the ingredients using a mortar and pestle, or blitz them in a spice or coffee grinder.

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