Lamb shanks slowly simmered in peanut sauce are to me the image of comfort food in Senegal, especially when served with steamed rice, couscous, or fonio. I must thank Jenn Sit for the idea of topping the shank with a gremolata just as the Milanese people would do. This gremolata recipe is a twist on our traditional rof, the parsley mixture we use to stuff the fish in thiebou jenn, our national dish of fish on rice. The heat from the Scotch bonnet and brightness of the lemon zest brilliantly lifts all the earthy flavors of the peanut sauce.
(from Senegal: Modern Senegalese Recipes from the Source to the Bowl, by Pierre Thiam)
Lamb Shank Mafé with Rof Gremolata
2 Tbsp peanut or vegetable oil, plus more if needed
6 lamb shanks (about 1.25 pounds each)
2 Tbsp salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups chopped yellow onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste, mixed with a few tablespoons water
2 quarts chicken stock or water
2 dried bay leaves
1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh thyme
1 cup unsweetened smooth peanut butter
1 Scotch bonnet pepper
2 Tbsp Vietnamese or Thai fish sauce
Rof Gremolata (recipe follows), for serving
Spring Vegetable Fonio Pilaf (recipe follows), for serving
- Heat the oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season the lamb shanks with salt and pepper. Add the shanks a few at a time, without overcrowding. Brown them well on all sides, about 8 minutes, and set aside on a plate. Repeat until all the shanks are nicely browned, adding more oil if necessary.
- In the same pan, brown the onions. Reduce the heat to low and add the minced garlic. Stir well, then add the diluted tomato paste. Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, for 7 to 10 minutes, until a deep, dark red. Add another tablespoon or two of water to prevent scorching, if needed.
- Add the stock, raise the heat, and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Add the bay leaves, thyme, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Slowly add the peanut butter 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time, stirring constantly to dissolve it in the liquid.
- Return the shanks to the pot, pressing down to submerge them in the sauce. Add the Scotch bonnet and fish sauce. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for about 1 hour and 30 minutes, until the shanks are tender.
- Uncover the pot and continue cooking until the sauce is thick and coats the back of a spoon. Remove the bay leaves and skim off the fat. Adjust the seasoning. ›› Serve the lamb shanks and sauce hot, on a platter. Top each shank with a generous pinch of gremolata and serve with a side of fonio pilaf.
Makes about 1 cup
Italian gremolata, a condiment traditionally made with herbs, lemon zest, and garlic, meets Senegalese rof in this fresh, flavor-packed topping.
1 bunch parsley, leaves finely chopped
3 scallions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1⁄2 Scotch bonnet pepper, seeded and finely chopped
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Gently combine the parsley, scallions, garlic, Scotch bonnet, and lemon zest in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Store in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 1 week.
Spring Vegetable Fonio Pilaf
This simple fonio pilaf makes the perfect side dish for Lamb Shank Mafé or any other main dish that needs a healthy grain to sop up its sauce. I use spring vegetables in this version, but feel free to adapt to whatever is in season.
2 Tbsp red palm oil or olive oil
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
1⁄2 cup vegetable stock or chicken stock
1⁄2 lb baby zucchini, trimmed
1⁄2 lb asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1⁄2-inch lengths
1⁄4 cup fresh or frozen green peas
2 cups cooked Yolélé fonio
2 scallions, thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the shallot and cook until soft but not brown. Add the garlic and carrot and cook for another 3 minutes, until the garlic is fragrant. Add the stock and simmer, covered, until the carrot is tender, about 10 minutes.
- Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise, then into 1/2-inch pieces. Add the asparagus and zucchini to the pot and cook 5 minutes, until tender. Add the peas and cook for about 1 minute more. Fold in the fonio and scallions. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot or at room temperature.