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Oven roasted Tunisian lamb shanks

Oven roasted Tunisian lamb shanks

I still vividly remember my first trip back to Tunisia in the late '90s when our family slaughtered one of their lambs in celebration of our visit. While it may have initially been a little traumatic for my pre-teen American self more accustomed to seeing meat pristinely packaged in a sterile way on grocery store shelves, I was soon enjoying the tender meat chez la famille.

Sheep (and subsequently, lamb) are ubiquitous in Tunisia. For many, including our shepherd uncle, lamb isn't just something eaten for a meal, it's a way of life.

Funnily enough, one of the oldest breeds of sheep which is available in the United States is the Tunis sheep which gets its name from where it first originated. (According to Wikipedia, it was first imported to the U.S. in 1799 and Thomas Jefferson was a fan.)

In Tunisia, lamb is often served with couscous, is the basis of merguez (North African style sausage), and most importantly, it's served during Eid El Kebir (Eid al Adha). 

It's no coincidence that we're sharing this on Easter, so if you're looking for a Tunisian twist to your lamb dish, consider our recipe for shanks which you'll find below. Happy Easter to those celebrating!

Our uncle's sheep grazing on a summer evening in Tunisia (photo taken in 2006)

Our uncle's sheep grazing on a summer evening in Tunisia (photo taken in 2006)



2 lamb shanks

1 tsp salt

1 tsp black pepper

1-2 tsp ras el hanout spice

¼ tsp cumin powder

Olive oil

Optional ingredients

Several sprigs of rosemary

A few small onions or shallots

A few cloves of garlic with the peel on


Pre heat your oven to 415 F.

Clean and trim the lamb shanks. Any thin pieces of extra fat or tendons can be trimmed away but leave the majority of the fat as it is necessary for roasting.

Place the lamb shanks in a roasting pan and season both sides well with all the spices, salt, and pepper.

Drizzle some olive oil on them and rub everything in.

Roast uncovered for about 20 minutes to give them some color.

Remove from the oven and lower the temperature to 325 F. Add the rosemary, onions, and garlic to the roasting pan and cover well with 2 layers of aluminum foil.

Return the pan to the oven and let the lamb slow roast for 1 ½ to 2 hours. The longer they roast, the more tender they will be.

Once they have cooked to your desired doneness, let them rest for about 10 minutes before serving.

Optional: collect the juices from the pan and place in a fat separator. If you don't have one, pour into a heat proof container and let cool until the fat has risen to the top and skim it off. The remaining juices can be used to pour over the lamb while serving.

Serve in a flat platter and garnish with the roasted rosemary, garlic, and onions. Enjoy!

Tunisian cucumber salad

Tunisian cucumber salad

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