Lamb shanks are definitely up there in my top 5 winter dishes. You get the beautifully braised lamb shank which should be falling right off the bone. You also usually get a rich glistening sauce that you can slurp off just about anything. Forks, spoons, bone, plate and fingers. Quite often you will see it served on a bed of creamy fluffy mash potato, though there are many other variations out there.
You see, this is one of those dishes that I absolutely love diving into. In fact the only reason I use cutlery is that scooping mashed potato up with your hands is taking things a little too far. Just.
Lamb Shanks are very easy to make and the end result is just superb. A word of warning though – this is not a quick dish to make. You will need at least 2-3 hours to allow the shanks to braise to the point where the meat falls apart when pressed between your fingers.
I made a variation that uses lentils and Pancetta. You will need:
4 x Frenched Lamb Shanks (get these from your local butcher)
6 Cloves of garlic, sliced thin
Beef Stock (about 1 litre)
Red Wine( about 500ml)
1 Brown onion
1 Cup button mushrooms
2 Cans lentils, rinsed and drained
Generous handful of pancetta, sliced
3-4 tbsp plain flour
3 tbsp vegetable oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
Start off by slicing the garlic, onions, carrots and 1/2 the leek. Cut the mushrooms in half and set aside.
Get the biggest pot you can find, get it on a high heat and add the vegetable oil. The aim here is to brown the shanks to extract the most flavour from the lamb. Get the oil nice and hot until it starts smoking and brown off the shanks in batches if you have to. Set aside.
As soon as you take out the shanks add the onions, leeks and garlic. Cook these off for about 2-3 minutes until they have softened slightly. Add the flour 1 tbsp at a time, mixing well. Cook this off for about 2-3 minutes.
(I’m not much for using precise measurements unless I am baking. As a guide though, feel free to use the measurements I have provided).
Add the red wine and allow it to reduce for 5 minutes or so, mixing well. Add the beef stock then check for seasonings. You may want to add a bit of salt and pepper at this stage.
Arrange the lamb shanks so that they fit as flat as possible at the bottom of the pot. Add the carrots and mushrooms. If the liquid does not cover the shanks, add water until it just covers everything. Pop the lid on and turn the heat right down.
Now, we wait.
You want to give it 2-3 hours, this should be enough for the meat to break down.
If you feel like it, after 2 hours you can take 1 cup of the gravy out, strain it of all solids, pour it into a smaller pan and let it reduce on a medium heat until you get a thick syrup. it should take around 20 minutes. Add a bit of thyme if you like. This will become your jus and if you have never tried doing this before, it will blow your
taste buds mind.
For the lentils, get a pan nice and hot. Throw in the pancetta right away, let some of those fats render out. When it’s brown going on crispy, add the rest of the leek and the remaining sliced garlic. After 2-3 minutes, add the lentils and cook through for a few more minutes, finish off with salt and pepper to taste.
You can serve the carrots and mushrooms if you like but I generally strain them out. Hopefully, you will end up with a succulent lamb shank and delicious lentils.
You will have a fair bit of leftover gravy. Do NOT throw this out!
Strain it of all solids, pour it into a plastic container and allow it to cool in the fridge. Remove the fat solids from the top and voila, you now have a wonderful base you can use for a Jus or for a gravy.