A few Sundays back Jess and Honor joined me for a true Winter warmer before the weather took a turn and it was too hot to cook such a slow-cooked house-warming dish. Probably one of my all time favourite things to eat this was the first time I had attempted cooking lamb shanks. I know they taste best cooked slowly and a fairly simple tomato sauce works to complement and not overpower the lamb. We also decided that for some added bulk to the meal we would cook up a small portion of brown rice; it also helps to soak up the sauce.
6 lamb shanks
1 large brown onion, finely diced
3 - 4 cloves of crushed or finely diced garlic
1 tsp dried or fresh thyme
120ml of vegetable stock (adding more if necessary)
1 sachet (4 tbsp) of tomato paste
800g tin of chopped/diced/crushed tomatoes (whatever you have handy)
1-2 cups of pitted olives (I chose green sicilian as they're my favourite for cooking)
salt and pepper for seasoning
quality olive oil
The steps involved in making this dish are so few and simple. The only skill you need is a few spare hours and patience.
Begin by heating a tablespoon or two or olive oil in a large casserole pot on a medium to high heat. You need to brown and seal your shanks and depending on the size of the ones you have you'll need to do them separately or in twos or threes. Once you browned each lot set them aside in a bowl (see the first image). You don't need to cook them all the way through or worry too much about how thoroughly you cook them at this stage as they will be cooked for a long time later on. When you've browned all of your shanks remove them from the pot.
If your shanks were particularly fatty you can then proceed to cook your onions in the oil that cooked off them in the last step. If, like me, your shanks were well trimmed by the butcher you'll need to add more oil to the pan before cooking your onions. Cook your chopped onion until it becomes translucent and add in your garlic and thyme, cooking until fragrant. Now you can add most of the ingredients including tomato paste, tinned tomatoes, and vegetable stock. Combine well with the onion, garlic and thyme and cook for 5 or so minutes. Then return your shanks to the pot. Feel free to add more stock until the shanks are mostly covered in liquid. Turn your shanks a few times, turn the heat to low and cover. Cook for thirty minutes to an hour, rotate the shanks around in the pot and add your olives. Continue to cook for another hour before returning to the pot and turning the shanks again. Repeat this method for at least another hour or until your satisfied with the tenderness of the meat. The meat should be able to slide off the bone with very little assistance.
Meanwhile, if you want a small side dish, roasted potatoes or a mound of cooked brown rice works perfectly with the dish.
To serve, separate the shanks out between plates with a serving of your side before ladling out the delicious tomato sauce/broth that you've created on top. Season and serve.
I hope its still cold enough to enjoy this dish where you are or that it goes on your list of things to attempt when the cold weather returns shortly. Again, let me know if you do.