The crisp weather calls for generous bowls of steaming-hot soup, or a gutsy, flavoursome casserole. A dish of meat and seasonal vegetables, such as braised lamb shanks with carrots, thyme and creamy mashed potatoes, makes a perfect mid-winter meal. Better still, this can all be prepared the day before, allowing for maximum flavour and minimum fuss.
Preparing a braise or casserole involves simmering the ingredients slowly so that all the flavour and succulence is retained. Be patient. The mouth-watering rewards when you lift the lid on your efforts will be worth the effort. This recipe is inspired by a dozen or more recipes for Osso Bucco, another of my winter favourites.
SLOW COOKED (BRAISED) LAMB SHANKS
This recipe can be cooked in a preheated oven, on the stove top or in a slow cooker
4 fat Frenched lamb shanks
plain or gluten free flour
sea salt and cracked black pepper
few tablespoons of olive oil
2 large onions, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
4 carrots, peeled and diced
2 sticks celery, diced
2 rashers thick sliced speck or bacon, diced
1 cup beef stock
3 cups red wine or white if you prefer
2-3 cups tomato passata or 2 x 440g cans diced tomatoes
fresh sprigs of thyme
2-3 fresh bay leaves
thick strips of orange rind
Place a few tablespoons of flour, salt and pepper into a freezer bag. Toss in the lamb shanks and coat well. Set shanks aside. Heat the oil in a heavy based casserole (I love using my cast iron braising pan!), then add the onion, garlic, carrots, celery and bacon. Saute for a few minutes until the onion is translucent. Remove this mixture from the pan and set aside.
Heat a little more oil and add the shanks, turning and browning all over. Remove the shanks and set aside. Add the wine and deglaze the pan, allowing to come briefly to the boil, then add the vegetables and bacon, beef stock, tomato passata, herbs and orange rind. Bring gently to the boil, then either cook in a preheated 175 degrees C oven, or lower the heat and place a simmer mat onto the hotplate. Continue cooking for two hours, until the meat is tender, falling off the bone and the surrounding sauce is flavoursome. Remove the thyme sprigs, bay leaves and orange rind before serving on a bed of mash. You can also garnish with some gremolata. I like to make mine using orange zest. Serves 2-4.