4 meaty lamb shanks about 4½ to 5 pounds
1 teaspoon salt, plus ¼ teaspoon for onions
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon turmeric
Light olive oil
¼ teaspoon crumbled saffron
Juice of 2 limes, about 4 tablespoons
1 tablespoon rosewater, plus 1 teaspoon
1 large onion, roughly chopped
Zest of 1 fresh lime
Zest of 1 orange, plus 1 tablespoon more for garnish
A few thyme sprigs
2 fresh bay leaves
6 cups hot chicken broth
2 tablespoons roughly chopped parsley, for garnish
1. Trim any excess fat from lamb shanks and season generously with salt.
2. Mix together 1 teaspoon of thesalt, the pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom and turmeric. Sprinkle evenly over shanks and rub into meat. Let sit at room temperature at least an hour, or wrap and refrigerate overnight, then bring to room temperature.
3. Preheat oven to 350◦F.
4. Place a Dutch oven or deep, heavy pot over medium-high heat and add oil to a depth of ½ inch. When oil is hot, add 2 lamb shanks and brown each shank on all sides, about 5 minutes. Remove and set aside, then brown the 2 remaining shanks.
5. Meanwhile, put saffron in a small bowl with lime juice, 2 teaspoons rosewater and ½ cup warm water. Let the mixture steep for 10 minutes.
6. Drain off all but 2 tablespoons oil from Dutch oven. Add chopped onion and cook over medium heat until softened and lightly colored, 8 to 10 minutes. Season the onions with salt. Add lime zest, orange zest, thyme sprigs and bay leaves. Stir in saffron mixture.
7. Lay the lamb shanks in the pot in a single layer and add the broth. Bring to a boil, then turn off heat and cover pot.
8. Transfer pot to oven and bake for about 1½ hours, covered, until meat is tender when probed and beginning to fall from the bone. Remove lamb shanks to a deep serving dish and keep warm.
9. Strain braising juices through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, pressing with a wooden spoon to obtain all the liquid (discard thyme, bay leaves and onions).
10. Skim fat, then taste and add salt if necessary. Add 1 more teaspoon rosewater, if desired. Reheat strained juices and pour over lamb shanks. Combine parsley, mint and reserved orange zest and sprinkle over top.
11. Use a large spoon to break the tender shank meat into large chunks. Serve in low, wide soup plates, giving each portion a spoonful of the juices. Accompany with steamed Basmati rice, lavash flatbread or a loaf of crusty French bread.
• This dish works well with rice or couscous.
• Rosewater is available from Middle Eastern grocery shops. If not available in your area, you can substitute vanilla, 1½ tablespoons for every 2 tablespoons of rosewater