Cooked until they are fall-apart tender, lamb shanks are a full-flavoured but tougher cut of meat that need slow, gentle braising to transform them into a comforting winter meal. It can also be made up to two days ahead.
4 lamb shanks
1 tablespoon olive oil
12 pickling onions, peeled with root end left intact
2 carrots, cut into thick batons
2 bay leaves
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon finely chopped rosemary
long strips of zest and juice 1 orange
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon each ground ginger and cinnamon
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons brown sugar
½ cup red wine
1 cup beef stock
1 x 400 gram tin whole cherry tomatoes
chopped mint for garnish, optional
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat the oven to 160°C.
Season the lamb with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large ovenproof casserole dish or sauté pan and brown the lamb on all sides. Transfer to a plate.
Add the onions, carrots and bay leaves to the pan, season and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, rosemary, orange zest and juice, all the spices, balsamic vinegar and the sugar. Cook for
3 minutes then stir in the wine and stock.
Return the lamb shanks to the pan along with any meat juices and stir everything together. Pour over the tomatoes and bring to the boil.
Cover the lamb with a piece of baking paper then cover tightly with a lid or foil. Braise for 2½ hours until the lamb is very tender. Uncover and cook for a further 30 minutes to reduce the liquids.
If serving straight away tilt the pan and use a spoon to skim the fat from the surface of the sauce. (See below for preparing ahead of time.) If the sauce is still quite thin, use a slotted spoon to carefully remove the shanks, onions and carrots to a large shallow dish. Cover to keep warm. Place the pan over a medium high heat and boil until reduced to a thicker sauce. Alternatively, combine 2 teaspoons of cornflour with 2 teaspoons of water and stir into the sauce. Simmer for a few minutes until thick and glossy.
To serve: Place the shanks and vegetables on a large serving platter and pour over the sauce. Sprinkle with the mint and serve with cooked green beans and creamy mashed potatoes.
Cook’s tip: If making ahead of time, carefully remove the shanks, onions and carrots using a slotted spoon and place in a large shallow dish. Cool the lamb and the pan with the cooking liquids then cover both and refrigerate for up to 2 days. When you're ready to serve lift the set fat off the surface of the cooking liquid, return the lamb and vegetables to the pan, cover and reheat in a 180°C oven until piping hot.