Hind shanks are bigger and meatier than small shanks. Small eaters will find a hind shank too much. Usually, 4 hind shanks with accompanying vegetables can be stretched to serve 6. If you can, cook shanks the day before serving them so you can skim fat from the top of the juices before reheating them. If including peas, add them when you reheat the shanks.
4 hind lamb shanks or 6 small shanks, trimmed of excess fat
Oil for bowl
2 Tbsp plain flour
2 Tbsp sumac (or a sumac blend such as Greg Malouf’s Za’atar)
1 tsp salt
400g (14 ounce) can chopped tomatoes
¼ cup full-bodied red wine
¼ cup water
1 cup frozen baby peas, optional
1 Tbsp chopped parsley
Accompaniment to serve: (cooked couscous, rice or burghul, or a mash of your choice)
Date and herb paste
125g (about 10) fresh dates, halved, stones removed and roughly chopped
¼ cup finely chopped shallot
½ cup chopped mint
½ cup roughly chopped coriander
½ cup roughly chopped parsley
Finely grated zest 1 lemon
1 tsp crushed coriander seeds
1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
1 Bring lamb shanks to room temperature and preheat slow cooker on high for about 20 minutes. Lightly oil the inside of the slow cooker bowl.
2 Put everything for the date and herb paste in the bowl of a food processor and blend to a sticky but still lumpy-ish paste. Trim any loose fat from lamb shanks, then make 4-5 deep incisions in each. Stuff in some of the date paste. Form pockets in the shanks by slipping the fingers between any gaps in the meat and stuff in the remaining paste. Mix flour, sumac and salt and rub into shanks.
3 Put tomatoes, red wine and water in slow cooker and stir. Add lamb shanks, positioning bones uppermost where possible. Grind over plenty of black pepper and add any loose flour and sumac. Cover with a lid and cook on High for 4 hours.
4 If including peas, put them in a sieve and rinse under running hot water until they feel warm. Add peas to slow cooker and cook for 20 minutes more, until they are piping hot.