Lamb is the durian of the meat world. To some, the smell is a stink. To others, a perfume.
Growing up, we managed to have lamb only when it was quarantined from Mom. Lamb chops -- the stinkiest of cuts -- was a once-a-year thing, meat eaten quickly, bones disposed immediately, and mom grousing the whole time. Lamb loin was less controversial. Mom wouldn't have noticed it was cooking until it was already on the cooking table. At which point she would turn up her nose and eat the leftovers Dad had cooked as backup dinner.
You can get glorious lamb kebabs on Steinway Street in Queens, with a funk sharpened by plenty of lemon juice. Your hands smell of lamb even days later. In France, braised lamb shank is called "souris d'agneau, which translates to "lamb mice", or perhaps just as easily, "lamb smile" from the verb "sourire".
Lamb shanks are not easy to find, but they're wondrous to eat. When they cook, the meat shrinks off the bone into a lovely lolippop of meat. The meat peels off in smooth petals, as silken as chicken thighs, but more full-bodied.
I picked up this lamb shawarma recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi's latest cookbook, Jerusalem, which is packed with the type of clean, hearty, and well-spiced flavors I go crazy for. The lamb is basically marinated in a blend of peppercorns, cloves, cardamom, fenugreek, fennel, cumin, star anise, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, paprika, sumac, ginger, garlic, fresh cilantro, and lemon juice, and then cooked for 7+ hours.
The good thing about this recipe is that making it also instantly builds out your spice collection. I'd rate it a 7 on the stinky scale, tipping towards the odiferous. Because otherwise, why bother?