Melting, unctuous meat with a herb gremolata and a crunchy salad on the side.
This is one of my favourite dishes from last year's virtual supper clubs. Blushingly pink lamb is all well and good, but there's something so special about slow cooked lamb shanks. So tender the meat just slips off the bone, its rich almost gelatinous texture really ticks all the boxes of comfort food. What I love about this recipe too is that it's rich and warming and comforting without being too heavy and stodgy. The fresh, zippy gremolata brings the dish to life and pulls it into the spring. I like to serve this with salad too, rather than with potatoes of steamed veg, as I love the contrasting texture of the crisp salad with the soft meat.
Braised Lamb Shanks with Rosemary and Cannellini Beans
2 lamb shanks
1 large onion
2 cloves garlic
½ tsp cumin seeds
2 sprigs rosemary
1 heaped tbsp. tomato puree
1 bay leaf
150ml white wine
600ml chicken stock
1 tin cannellini beans
salt and pepper
For the Gremolata:
1 clove garlic
zest and juice of 1 lemon
extra virgin olive oil
1) Pre heat the oven to 120c/ gas 1.
2) Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in an oven-proof casserole pan (preferably one with a lid) on a medium high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the shanks and brown them thoroughly on every side.
3) As the meat browns, roughly chop the onion and garlic.
4) Once thoroughly browned, removed the meat from the pan and place to one side on a plate. Add more oil to the pan, if necessary, and turn the heat down before adding the onions (not the garlic yet). Move the onions around to scrape up any bits of meat stuck to the pan, and to stop them colouring too quickly.
5) Once then onions have started to soften and caramelise, add the garlic and leave the mix to cook for a couple of minutes.
6) Roughly chop the rosemary, then add it to the pan along with the cumin seeds and bay leaf. Continue to cook until fragrant.
7) Turn up the heat a little then pour in the wine and the tomato puree. Allow the mixture to come to a rapid bubble for a couple of minutes then re-add the lamb shanks. Give the meat and good grinding of salt and fresh black pepper before covering with the chicken stock until the meat is almost covered. Add a bit of water if necessary.
8) Turn up the heat to high and allow the sauce to come to a boil. Meanwhile make a cartouche for your pan. To do this, you need a sheet of baking paper which is roughly the size of your pan. Cut it to a round which is just bigger than the circumference of your pan. Scrunch it up then flatten it out and lay it over the surface of your meaty sauce.
9) Once the mixture has come to the boil, turn off the heat, pop the lid on over the top of your cartouche and place the whole thing in the oven.
10) Cook the meat for 2 ½ - 3 hours until it is tender and falling off the bone. Halfway through cooking, check on it and turn the shanks over to help them cook evenly.
11) Once the meat is tender, remove from the oven and skim the oily layer of fat off the top and discard.
12) Remove the meat and the bay leaf from the sauce and place it over a high heat. Bring it to the boil and reduce the sauce for 10 minutes or so until it becomes glossy and coats the back of a spoon.
13) Drain the beans then add them to your reduced sauce, along with the meat. Pop the lid back on and leave the whole thing to simmer for another 5-10 minutes until the beans are heated thoroughly.
14) Serve with the gremolata (below) and a crisp green salad. Leftovers will keep for 3 days in the fridge or can be frozen.
For the gremolata:
15) Pick the leaves from the parsley. You are aiming for a pile of picked leaves which fills your cupped hands.
16) Finely chop the parsley leaves and add them to a small bowl with the lemon zest and a clove of grated garlic.
17) Squeeze over the juice of half the lemon and add approx. 2 tbsp olive oil. Stir to combine and season with a little salt and a lot of pepper. It should taste fiercely of lemon, raw garlic and parsley so add a little more here and there if necessary until it has a punch you’re happy with. Don’t over do it on the salt here because it is meant to be an sharp zippiness to cut through the rich, savoury sauce.
Crunchy Salad with Quick Pickled Shallots
For the pickles:
3tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp caster sugar
For the salad:
1/2 tsp wholegrain mustard
1 clove garlic, grated
1 tbsp onion pickling liquid
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 romaine lettuce
handful chopped chives (to serve)
pecorino (to serve)
1) Make a quick pickle by combining the 3tbsp white wine vinegar with 2tbsp water and 1 tbsp sugar.
2) Finely slice the shallot into rings and place it in the pickle. Set aside at room temperature for at least an hour to pickle. Pickled shallots can be kept in the fridge for up to a week. After this, they will still be safe to eat but the texture will start to deteriorate.
3) Place all of the ingredients for the dressing in a small jar with a pinch of salt. Shake to combine.
4) Cut the romaine lettuce into quarters, lengthways, so that you have 4 big long quarters of the salad. Drizzle with the mustardy dressing before tangling over the pickled shallots. Dust the whole thing with some chopped chives and a grating of pecorino to serve.