Do lamb and couscous
Shangri La style

Ooh-la-la: Doris Duke's paradise

By Nadine Kam

In her cookbook, "Burst of Flavor: The Fine Art of Cooking with Spices" (University of Hawai'i Press, 2001) chef Kusuma Cooray, who was employed by Doris Duke, offers a few vignettes of life with the heiress at her various homes.

At Shangri La, Cooray recalls serving a dish of braised lamb shanks with couscous, saying, "I served this dish in a fairy-tale setting. A retinue of maids carried my preparation on priceless antique platters and served Doris Duke in a lavish, Arabian-style "tented" dining room.

"Oh, those meaty, fruity, spicy smells! I almost see those aromas wafting up in swirls and disappearing like memories into thin air."

Here is her recipe:

Braised Lamb Shanks with Couscous

6 lamb shanks
Salt to taste
Fresh ground pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil

>> Mirepoix:
1/2 cup each diced carrots, yellow onions and white parts of leeks

>> For braising:
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon dry ginger
6 cloves sliced garlic
1 whole bay leaf
5 cups lamb stock or defatted beef stock
1/2 cup red wine

>> Relishes:
1/2 recipe Orange Relish (recipe below)
1/2 recipe Spicy Couscous (recipe below)

>> To finish:
1/4 cup raisins
4 Preserved Lemon Wheels (recipe below)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Scrape the bone ends of the lamb shanks to make an attractive presentation. When the end bone is scraped, it will be clean looking after cooking.

Rub shanks with salt and black pepper to taste, heat oil in a heavy casserole dish, and sear to golden brown on high heat, 5 minutes. Remove shanks from casserole and set aside.

To the fat in casserole, add mirepoix and sauté to brown lightly. Place the shanks on the vegetables, add the braising ingredients; cover casserole and place in the pre-heated oven.

Braise about 2 hours, until lamb is soft and almost falling off the bone. While the lamb is cooking, make relish and couscous. Keep couscous warm.

Carefully pick out the lamb shanks and set aside. To the liquid in casserole, add raisins and preserved lemon. Simmer 5 minutes. Season with salt.

Presentation: Place a serving of couscous in the center of the plate and place a lamb shank leaning on the couscous. Spoon sauce over the lamb shank and orange relish on the plate. Serves 4.

Spicy Couscous

2 cups couscous
2 cups hot water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped yellow onion
1 teaspoon crushed cumin seeds
2-inch cinnamon stick
Salt to taste
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Place couscous in a bowl. Gradually add hot water and stir, making sure all the grains are soaked with water. Cover tightly and set aside for 10 minutes. Loosen couscous grains with a fork.

Heat olive oil in a pan, add onion and sauté 2 to 3 minutes. Add cumin and cinnamon stick, cook 1 minute and stir in couscous. Season with salt to taste. Cover pan and leave on very low heat for 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and fold in the parsley and butter.

Orange relish

2 oranges
Juice of 1 orange
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1/2 cup shredded garden mint
1/4 cup shredded cilantro
1/4 cup broken-up dill leaves
1/4 teaspoon cracked black peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon grated garlic
1 teaspoon roasted, crushed cumin seeds
1 teaspoon ground cumin seeds
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt to taste
Sugar to taste

Peel and cut oranges into segments. Remove pith and seeds. Combine with remaining ingredients in a stainless steel bowl with salt and sugar to taste. Marinate at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator and serve.

Preserved Lemon Wheels

4 lemons, sliced 1/8 inch thick, seeds removed
2 cups cold water
1 tablespoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup honey
2 cups water
8 whole cloves
1/2-inch piece cinnamon stick
4 cardamoms, crushed

Place lemons in a bowl, cover with water, sprinkle with salt and set aside for 25 minutes.

Place sugar, honey and 2 cups water in a stainless steel saucepan. Tie up cloves, cinnamon and cardamoms in a sachet. Add to saucepan and bring to slow bowl. Lower heat and simmer 10 minutes.

Drain lemon slices, wash in fresh water and add to syrup. Simmer 20 minutes on low heat. Discard sachet. Put into a sterilized jar. Cool and refrigerate. Keeps 1 month. Yields 1 pint.

Nutritional information unavailable.

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