Slow-cooked lamb shanks
This lamb shanks recipe is from my first cookbook, At My Table – I chose to share with everyone, because so many people say it’s the best lamb shanks recipe they have tried! Tender lamb lying provocatively on a bed of creamy luxurious mash and slathered in a rich, shiny sauce is a sight to warm the very cockles of any heart. This recipe can also be made in a slow-cooker set to low when you leave for work in the morning (see below for details). You can get fresh lamb stock in plastic pouches at good supermarkets and specialty food stores, and I reckon it’s worth the effort; but if you can’t find it, half chicken and half beef stock works well too. If you’re trying to impress someone, this is your recipe. It’s amazing.
For those of you worried about the wine – there will be no alcohol in the finished dish, as it all evaporates in the oven. If you would still prefer not to use it, use extra stock instead.
4-5 large lamb shanks
Grape seed or rice bran oil, for frying
3 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
2 sticks celery, finely chopped
2 shallots, chopped
7 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 1/2 cups red wine (any kind)
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 bunch thyme, leaves finely chopped
2-3 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves chopped
1 1/2 cups lamb stock (or use 1/2 beef 1/2 chicken)
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
Pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
2 bay leaves (fresh if you can find them)
1 1/2 tsp sugar
Chopped fresh parsley, to serve
Preheat the oven to 140c conventional bake.
Bring the shanks out of the fridge 20-30 minutes before frying if you can.
Cut through the tendon that connects the meat to the bone at the bottom of the shank – this will allow the meat to bunch up nicely. Season the shanks generously with salt and pepper.
Heat a large frying pan over a very high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of grape seed or rice bran oil, then brown the shanks a couple at a time, turning until really dark brown all over (browning creates a great depth of flavour you get once they’re cooked). Set the shanks aside in a large casserole dish (or a slow cooker).
Reduce the heat to medium and add the olive oil, butter, onions, carrot, celery, garlic and shallots to the same frying pan. Cook, stirring, for 10 minutes until the veges are golden and soft.
Turn up the heat to high, add the wine, bring to a rapid simmer and let it bubble for 30 seconds or so to burn off the alcohol.
Add the tomato paste, thyme, rosemary, lamb (or other) stock, tomatoes, cayenne pepper, bay leaves and sugar to the pan and stir to combine. Pour or spoon carefully over the shanks. Cover with the lid (or 2 layers of tinfoil) and bake in the oven for 4 hours (or about 8 hours in the slow cooker on low), spooning cooking liquid over the shanks every now and then. The meat should be almost falling off the bone by the end.
Gently remove the shanks using tongs or a large spoon (careful as they will be very delicate) and set aside in a dish covered in foil (at 50c in the oven if you want them to stay warm).
Strain the cooking liquid and veges through a colander/sieve into a large saucepan (you don’t have to strain it if you like a chunky sauce). Discard the veges (unless you want to eat them) but keep any bits of meat. How much cooking liquid you have leftover depends on how much steam evaporated during cooking. There’s no right or wrong amount.
Add the butter to the sauce and boil for about 10 minutes to reduce slightly, or until it’ a nice pouring sauce. You may need to add 2-3 tsp cornflour mixed with 1/4 cup water to thicken it up.
Season to taste with salt and cracked pepper.
Serve the shanks over creamy mashed potatoes, alongside steamed green vegetables drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with lemon zest. Pour the sauce generously over the top. Sprinkle with parsley and lemon zest if you like. And of course, if you’re partial to a glass or two of cheeky red, slurp away (you have half a bottle left, remember!). Shankerific!