Essential slow-cooked lamb shanks

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Some recipes are indispensable; these lamb shanks are of that breed. Incredibly good and remarkably easy. I simplified the original recipe slightly (not that it was complicated to begin with), and it could be further modified and adapted without much risk. This isn’t high flying patisserie, it’s a simple home-cooked dinner.

For another occasion I may take it up a notch as per the original recipe, by first rolling the shanks in finely chopped rosemary, crushed coriander seeds, dried chilli, and a spoonful of flour before browning the meat. But recently I had no white wine, forgot the anchovies, even the garlic. It was fine. Really good in fact. The dish would live on without the carrots, and might even survive with no tomatoes (compensate with more celery and/or carrots).

The essential elements are: onions and celery, some acidity (wine, vinegar), aromatics (rosemary, oregano, marjoram), and of course the magic of slow cooking. Here I followed the instructions and the result is perfect.

Recipe mildly adapted from Jamie Oliver’s first book The Naked Chef

2 medium-sized onions

5 – 6 ribs celery

1 – 2 carrots

1 – 2 garlic cloves

4 lamb shanks

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Olive oil

2 Tbsps balsamic vinegar

2 Tbsps sherry or good wine vinegar

3/4 cup (200 ml) dry white wine

6 anchovy fillets

28 oz. can whole plum tomatoes

1 Tbsp fresh rosemary leaves

1 tsp dried oregano or marjoram

Fresh flat-leaf parsley, basil, or marjoram for serving

Preheat oven to 350°F (175ºC)

Chop the onions, not too finely. Halve lengthwise then slice both the celery and carrots. Finely slice the garlic.

Season the lamb shanks with salt and pepper. Heat a little olive oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, brown the shanks on all sides, remove from pot and set aside. Pour out the grease and wipe away any burnt bits.

Pour a little more olive olive into the pot and cook the onion until just starting to turn translucent. Add the celery, carrots, and garlic, season with some salt, and cook for 7-8 minutes until the vegetables being to soften.

Add the vinegars and cook for 1 or 2 minutes. Pour in the white wine and simmer for another couple of minutes.

Meanwhile chop the anchovies, drain the tomatoes and cut them in half lengthwise. Add the anchovies and tomatoes to the pot. Swirl the pan to shake up the flavors and place the lamb shanks snugly on top of the sauce.

Finely chop the rosemary to be sprinkled with the dried oregano (or marjoram) onto the shanks. Put on the lid and place in the oven. After 45 minutes turn the shanks over in the sauce (so that the part that wasn’t submerged now basks in the liquid) and place back into the oven for the another 45 minutes.

Now remove the lid, turn the shanks over once more, and cook for another 1/2 hour. (Altogether the shanks cook for 2 hours: 1 1/2 hours covered, 1/2 hour uncovered.)

Let rest and cool for at least 10 to 15 minutes before serving. Or better yet, let cool completely, refrigerate, and reheat the next day in a 350°F (175ºC) oven for about 20-30 minutes.

Serve over rice, polenta, or mashed potatoes sprinkled generously with chopped fresh herbs.

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6 Responses to “Essential slow-cooked lamb shanks”

  1. smerrill777 Says:

    Looks tasty–and I just bought a slow cooker. This will be the inaugural run. The only question I have: you say to brown the meat in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan, then the next oil goes into the “pot”… Is there a slow cooker involved in this? Do I stay in that original saucepan? Do I shift to the slow cooker at step 2, where it tells me to add the onions to the “pot”? Should I ask questions like this on Nettle and Quince– I’m a real novice, so maybe I look like an idiot. I’m comfy with that, but perhaps I should leave this on your FB post? Mmmm?

    • valerie Says:

      Yes, Steve, ask away! There is no slow cooker involved in this recipe, only one ‘heavy-bottomed, Creuset-type pot — the slow cooking happens in the oven (where the temperature is much more easily controlled than on a stove). If you want to use your slow cooker, you’ll need to transfer everything to the slow cooker just before adding the tomatoes and anchovies (that’s also where the browned lamb shanks go back in). From there I imagine you can follow your cooker’s cooking instructions (for timing, etc) — I personally don’t own one so I don’t know exactly how they work. Does that all make sense? Hope it’s helpful.

  2. Oui, Chef Says:

    YUM! I do believe that says it all.

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