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What more can we say but Oh-My-Yum.
• ½ teaspoon saffron threads
• 4 teaspoons fennel seeds
• 3 whole star anise
• 15 cardamom pods
• 1 ½ teaspoons cumin seeds
• 1 ½ cinnamon quills
• 1 ½ teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns
• 3 large red chillies, deseeded and roughly chopped
• 12 garlic cloves, crushed
• 1 large knobs ginger, peeled and sliced
• 1 bunches finely chopped coriander leaf, stems and roots
• 35g (1 oz) fresh turmeric, finely sliced
• 100g (21/2 oz) galangal, roughly chopped
• 3 teaspoons sea salt
• 1 ½ teaspoons white peppercorns
• ½ cup finely sliced shallots
• ½ teaspoon sweet paprika
• 1 ½ cups extra virgin olive oil
• ½ cup firmly packed palm sugar
• 1/3 cup fish sauce
• 5kg lamb shanks
• sea salt and cracked white pepper
• 5 medium-sized vine-ripened tomatoes, roughly chopped
• 3 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
• 3 onions, finely chopped
• 1/3 cup dried dates, chopped
• 1/3 cup dried apricots, chopped
• 4 bay leaves
• 1500ml chicken stock
• juice of 3 limes
• 1 ½ tablespoons fish sauce
First, make the paste. Combine saffron with 200ml of boiling water and set aside. Put fennel seeds, star anise, cardamom pods, cumin seeds, cinnamon and Sichuan peppercorns in a small frying pan and dry-roast over high heat for about 2 minutes, or until fragrant. Pound roasted spices with a pestle and mortar until cardamom is bruised. Discard cardamom husks and keep pounding until all the spices are finely ground. Set aside.
Pound chillies, garlic, ginger, coriander, turmeric and galangal with the pestle and mortar until you have a coarse paste. Add salt and white peppercorns, and pound until peppercorns are lightly crushed. Add shallots, saffron water, paprika, reserved ground spices and oil, and mix well to combine.
Put paste in a medium-sized frying pan and cook over high heat for about 5 minutes, or until fragrant. Reduce heat and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Add palm sugar and fish sauce. Increase heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for a further 2 minutes, or until mixture is slightly caramelised. Remove from stove and set aside.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 180°C (350°F). Season lamb shanks with salt and pepper and seal in a hot, oiled roasting tin on the stove top until lightly browned on all sides. Drain off any excess oil and drizzle prepared paste over lamb, combining over high heat to coat well and seal in flavours. Add tomatoes, carrots, onions, dates, apricots and bay leaves, and stir to combine. Remove tin from stove, pour over stock and cover with foil. Bake for 45 minutes, then remove foil and bake for a further 1 hour, or until lamb is very tender and well browned. Season with fish sauce and lime juice before serving alongside cous cous and a bowl of natural yoghurt.
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