SLOW COOKED LAMB SHANKS IN RED WINE SAUCE

SLOW COOKED LAMB SHANKS IN RED WINE SAUCE

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 lamb shanks, around 1 lb / 500g each (Note 1)
  • 2 tsp salt, separated
  • Pepper
  • 2 – 3 tbsp olive oil, separated
  • 1 cup onion, finely diced (brown, yellow or white)
  • 1 cup carrot, finely diced (optional) (Note 2)
  • 1 cup celery, finely diced (optional) (Note 2)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2½ cups red wine, full bodied (good value wine, not expensive! Note 3)
  • 28 oz / 800g can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 cups chicken stock (or water)
  • 5 sprigs of thyme (preferably tied together), or 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 dried bay leaves or 4 fresh
Sauce
  • ½ to 1½ cups hot water

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F/180C.
  2. Pat the lamb shanks dry and sprinkle with 1 tsp of salt and black pepper.
  3. Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a heavy based pot (dutch oven is ideal) over high heat.
  4. Sear the lamb shanks in 2 batches until brown all over, about 5 minutes.
  5. Remove lamb onto a plate and drain excess fat (if any) from the pot.
  6. Turn the heat down to medium low. Heat remaining 1 tbsp of olive oil in the same pot. Add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic. Sauté for 10 minutes until the onion is translucent.
  7. Add the red wine and turn up the heat to medium high. Bring it to a simmer, scraping the bottom of the pan to mix all the brown bits into the wine. Simmer for 3 minutes to evaporate the alcohol a bit (Note 4).
  8. Add the remaining ingredients (including remaining 1 tsp salt and pepper) and stir to combine.
  9. Place the lamb shanks into the pot, squeezing them in to fit so they are mostly submerged. (Note 1)
  10. Bring back up to simmer, cover, then transfer to the oven for 2 hours (see notes for slow cooker).
  11. Turn the lamb shanks, cover, then return to the oven for another 30 minutes (so 2½ hours in total). The lamb should be very tender, the exposed surface above the liquid should be browned and the sauce should be reduced down to about ¼ of the original amount.
  12. Carefully transfer the lamb to a plate and pick out the thyme sprigs and bay leaves.
  13. Skim excess fat off the surface of sauce. Use a stick blender to puree the sauce to make it smooth and thick. Use hot water to adjust the thickness and intensity of the sauce. (Note 5) Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
  14. Serve the lamb shanks on mashed potato or cauliflower puree with plenty of sauce!
NOTES
1. The size of lamb shanks vary considerably so make sure you get ones that will fit in your cooking vessel! 4 x 1 lb / 500g lamb shanks fits snugly in a 24cm/10″ diameter Chasseur dutch oven which is what I use. Don’t worry if they don’t lie completely flat, you can squeeze them in on their narrow side, head to tail. As long as the meaty end is more than half submerged in liquid, that’s fine. Also, if you don’t have a pot large enough, you can switch to a baking dish for the slow cooking part, and cover with a double layer of foil if you don’t have a lid for it.

Here in Australia, Woolworths sells lamb shanks with the shaft partially cut so you can bend them to make them fit into the pot. You can ask your butcher to do that if you are concerned they are too long, or to trim the shaft slightly.

2. Onion, carrot and celery is the “holy trinity” of slow cooking. From Europe, including France, Spain and Italy, to Cajun cooking (jambalaya!), sautéing equal parts of these 3 ingredients forms the starting base of many of the best dishes to come out of these countries.

While including carrot and celery isn’t going to “break” this dish, it does “make” it!

3. Use a good value full bodied red wine, like cabaret sauvignon or merlot – no need to use expensive wine. Shiraz is ok too, or any mix of these 3. Pinots are not suitable, they are too light. You can tell if a red wine is “full bodied” by looking at the colour – if they are a dark, deep red, then they are full bodied. If they are lighter and almost see through, then they are light reds.

4. Most of the alcohol in the red wine will evaporate during this step but not completely – it will finish evaporating during the slow cooking. There is not a single trace of alcohol or even red wine flavour in the finished dish.

5. This step is optional. Also, if you don’t have a stick blender, you can either puree it in a blender (but cool the sauce down a bit first, then reheat it after pureeing).

6. This makes more sauce than you will need. The leftover sauce is fabulous tossed through pasta.

7. To make this in a slow cooker, start with the recipe in a skillet. Follow the recipe up to simmering the wine in the skillet, then place all ingredients in the slow cooker. Cook on low for 8 hours. You won’t get the brown crust and you will have far more liquid so DO NOT use the extra 1 cup of water in the recipe. If the sauce is too thin for your taste, reduce it on the stove or puree it.

8. Stovetop method – to cook this on the stove, cook for about 2 hours on low, ensuring that you check it at 1 hour then every 30 minutes thereafter to ensure there is enough braising liquid (because liquid evaporates faster on the stove). Turn the lamb shanks twice. You won’t get the brown crust, but the flavour is the same!

9. Cauliflower puree – boil cauliflower florets until soft, then puree with butter, milk or cream, salt and pepper. Use milk to adjust the consistency to your taste – I like mine very soft and creamy, as you can see in the photo.

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