Slow cooked lamb shanks, Italian style

Up the hill from Ballina is a little town called Alstonville that is home to a great little deli and butcher. When we called in recently one of the things that caught my eye were a couple of the plumpest looking lamb shanks I'd ever seen. We don't cook red meat that often but these shanks were calling out to me, so here we go. 

Slow cooked meat is pretty simple really, some fry-able veggies, some liquid and some flavour enhancers and you're good to go. This recipe, as is typical for me, gleans ideas from a few sources and is constrained by what we've got in the fridge or what we can buy easily.

2 (Normally I'd say 1 shank per serve, but these were huge, so we cooked both and plan to share one, and use the other for a pasta sauce tomorrow :-))

Time to chop and prepare ingredients, then at least hours 2½ cooking time. (2½ hours is the magic number if you want soft tender meat.)

Equipment (main)
  • Cast iron enamel pot
  • Saucepan (for potatoes)
  • Tongs (for browning shanks)
  • Wooden spoon
  • Peeler 
  • Measuring cup
  • Chopping boards and knife
  • Handheld blender (for potato)

  • 2 x lamb shanks
  • A couple of glugs of oil
  • 1 x onion (or 2 x small), diced
  • 1 x capsicum, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic (crushed)
  • ~ ¼ cup tomato paste
  • palm of mixed herbs
  • 3 x (dried) bay leaves
  • 500ml chicken stock
  • 200ml red wine
  • 1 x 400ml tin of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 x 400ml tin butter beans
  • 1 x jar pitted Sicilian olives
  • handful of fresh flat leaf parsley (to serve)
  • 2x large potatoes
  • 2x knobs of butter
  • splash of milk (I used almond because that's what I had, but any will do.)
  • pepper and salt (in potato mash to taste)
  • handful of green beans

  1. Heat oven to 120° (note that gas ovens do not need to be preheated very long)
  2. Heat oil in the base of the pot (low to medium) and brown shanks. (browning meat apparently helps keep in the moisture) Remove to a plate
  3. Add the onion and capsicum and cook for 3-4 mins until translucent. 
  4. Add the garlic, tomato paste, herbs and bay leaf and cook for 1 min.
  5. Add the stock, crushed tomatoes and wine and bring to a simmer.
  6. Return the shanks to the pot and ensure they are covered with liquid, then transfer the covered pot to the oven.
  7. Cook for 2 hours, checking and turning shanks occasionally. (If the liquid is low, add some water or stock to maintain a generous stew.)
  8. Add the butter beans and olives and cook for a further 30-40 mins or until the meat falls off the bone. 
Potato mash
(Once you've added the beans and olives)
  1. Peels and cut the potatoes into pieces and bring to the boil
  2. Allow to cook until the potatoes are very soft.
  3. Drain the potatoes, add the butter and milk.
  4. Use the handheld blender to whip the potatoes into a creamy mash.
Green beans
(while the potatoes are cooking)
  1. Bring some water to boil in another saucepan. (I only have a fry pan unused, so drained the potato water into that for the beans.)
  2. Bring back to the boil and blanch the green beans (for 3 minutes)
  3. Drain and keep covered until ready to serve.
Serve on a large plate with a shank and a pile of stew on top of a 'pancake' of potato mash. So good.

PS. I had a bottle of Taylors Merlot, which I used in the recipe. A glass of it was a great complement!


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