You should be able to eat lamb shanks without a knife! And to test this recipe, that is exactly what I was able to do. I don’t mean to imply this recipe is brilliant, rather I am advocating that a long low, slow braise will give you sweet, tender meat that will literally fall off the bone. Indeed, the remainder of the recipe is simply about the flavours you want to eat with the lamb. This should suggest you can replace or add any flavour you like.
I prefer to use French style lamb shanks, simply because they permit more space in the pot that will become crowded with lots of fresh ingredients. There is no problem using a more generic cut.
4 Lamb Shanks
2 Brown Onions, diced
2 Celery Sticks, finely diced
2 Carrots, finely diced
3 Garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 Bay Leaves
1 small bunch fresh Thyme
1 small bunch fresh parsley
1 cup red wine
800g diced tomato
100g chopped dates
1/4 cup honey
2 tblspns plain flour
2 tblspn olive or vegetable oil
Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 140C and tie the thyme and bay leaves with cooking string into a bouquet garni.
Dust the lamb shanks with plain flour ensuring they are evenly and lightly coated. In a heavy based casserole pot, heat the olive or vegetable oil and brown two lamb shanks at a time, turning them to make sure they are sealed and caramelised on all sides. Remove them from the pot and set them aside. Then repeat the same for the remaining two shanks, also removing them and setting them aside until later.
Next, saute the onion and garlic in the remaining oil and juices in the pot. When they are caramelised, add the celery and carrot and cook until they are soft. Add the red wine, and use the spoon to deglaze the base of the pan. The flavours that come from deglazing pot can not be lost, they add so much depth to the dish.
When the red wine has reduced by about a third, add the honey, dates, tomatoes, bouquet garni and season well with salt and pepper. Finally, return the lamb shanks to the pot and spoon the sauce over the shanks to ensure they are well bathed. When the sauce is simmering, place the lid on the pot and pop it in the oven for 3 1/2 hours. You may need to check every hour or so to ensure all is ok.
At the 3 1/2 hour mark, remove the pot from the oven. Tear the parsley leaves from the steams and add them to the pot. Gently spoon the sauce over the lamb to ensure everything is well combined. Replace the lid and return the pot to oven for the remaining 1/2 hour.
At the four hour mark, remove the pot from the oven remove the bouquet garni and serve the shanks with plenty of the sauce spooned over the top. I like to serve lamb shanks with mashed potato.
Paul, our “vin de gourou”, suggested a Tim Adams, 2006 Cabernet Malbec from the Claire Valley to accompany this dish. As Paul indicated, the generous tannins work well to balance the rich flavours of the lamb while the blackcurrent and plum aromas complement the sweet lamb flavours. This is a great wine and comes highly recommended. You can check out more of Paul’s great suggestions by clicking on his website underate wines.