What happens when an Afghan woman meets an Iranian woman? They exchange recipes?
No. They talk about writing.
By now you've probably guessed that the Afghan was me and the Iranian, well, she is the very talented Anita Amirrezvani. Despite having two bestselling books, "Equal of The Sun" and "The Blood of Flowers" she was gracious, attentive and a delight to get to know.
I'm really thrilled to share an authentic Iranian recipe from her first book, "Equal of The Sun".
Anita writes, teaches writing, and encourages young Iranians to connect with their heritage. In fact, she has an upcoming writing workshop on "Exploring Iranian Identity", check it out.
Lamb with Pomegranate and Saffron
2-pound lamb shank (see note below)
5 cloves garlic
Salt, pepper, and turmeric
Pure pomegranate juice (unsweetened and fairly tart is best)
Note: This recipe works with a lamb shank as small as two pounds or with a whole leg of lamb. The proportions given below are for a two-pound shank, but you can easily increase the onion, garlic, and spices for a larger cut of meat. A two-pound shank will serve two-three people (much of it is bone).
This is an easy recipe that is very forgiving and that allows you to add or subtract ingredients according to your own tastes. I like to make it “by feel” without exact measurements, as described below. The resulting mix of flavors is savory, tangy, and very Iranian.
Get two pounds of American lamb shank (bone in) and remove all the visible, even next to the bone. Your butcher will do this for you, if you prefer. Make holes in the lamb and insert pieces of garlic (cut about five cloves lengthwise so that they are like spikes).
Cut one large onion into thin slices. Rub the lamb with salt, pepper, turmeric and olive oil. Drench the onions in oil and lay them on top of the meat and underneath it until the meat is completely surrounded.
Optional: Take a generous pinch of saffron, grind it in mortar and pestle, put it in a small cup, add an inch of hot water and let it stand for about ten minutes. Then pour the saffron on top of the lamb.
Cover the meat and let it marinate all night in the refrigerator.
The next day, remove the onions, chop them very fine, and set them aside. Brown every side of the leg of the lamb in a Dutch oven (if you don’t have a Dutch oven, use a frying pan). Remove the lamb, put the onions in the pan, and brown them in the meat drippings until they are golden. Then put the meat back on top of the onions in the Dutch even, or transfer the whole thing, including the juices, to a deep oven-worthy pan.
Add pure pomegranate juice to the pan until the mat is surrounded by about an inch of liquid; then cover the mat (even a tent of foil will work) and put the pan in an oven preheated to 375 degrees. Cook the meat for 1/2 hour, then turn down the oven to 350 degrees and cook your two-pound shank for at least another hour. Periodically spoon the juice over the lamb. Check to make sure that all the liquid doesn’t evaporate, add more if it does.
The best way to determine if the lamb is ready is to test it periodically with your fork, when the meat falls off the bone, it’s done. Let it stand for 15-20 minutes before serving. If you like, sprinkle fresh pomegranate seeds on top. Noosh-e-joon!