Slow cooking

Some friends had a shank cooking competition on Sunday at lunch time. The shanks were really good. Geoffrey was the defending title holder; the meat absolutely melted, it was so tender, having been in the slow cooker for many hours in a tomato based sauce, the tastes very subtle. Bruce’s were cooked in the oven and were also delicious, with a richer tomato base and caramelised onions. Importantly, the mashed potato and the mashed sweet potato were also great. Strangely enough, the different versions of lamb shanks reflected the personalities of the cooks, to a degree.

I had not planned on taste testing for the competition and had cooked lamb shanks the night before, ready for Sunday Dinner. I decided to make Jamie Oliver’s shanks cooked in beer which I had cooked once before, after I saw Jamie cook them on television a while ago. They were pretty tasty, and a perfect way to end a pretty cold and bleak winter weekend. 

 

Jaime made dessert for Sunday Dinner this week – poached pears in vanilla bean syrup – and they were absolutely fantastic, perfectly cooked, and the flecks of vanilla bean in the syrup warmed the cockles of my heart! I am including a photo of the dessert because they looked so beautiful.

Jamie’s lamb shanks cooked in beer

Adapted from from Jamie’s Great Britain by Jamie Oliver

Serves 6

Ingredients:

6 Lamb Shanks

3 Red onions, chopped

Olive oil

Sea salt and pepper

Handful of dried raisins

800ml chicken stock

3 Dessert spoons of chunky marmalade

1 Tablespoon of tomato sauce

2 Tbspns Worcestershire sauce

200ml Medium ale

8 stalks of Rosemary

To a large pot add 3 red onions, a glug of Olive oil and a good pinch of salt and pepper.

Bring the pan to a low/medium heat and leave for 15 mins, stirring occasionally.

While the onions are cooking, season the Lamb shanks with salt & pepper and brown them in a hot pan, turning occasionally.

After 15 minutes add the following ingredients to the onions: a handful of dried raisins, a small cup of chicken stock, 3 dessert spoons of marmalade, a tablespoon of tomato sauce and 2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce.

Stir these ingredients together and leave to simmer for a couple of mins before adding 200ml of a medium Ale and a good pinch of sea salt.

Leave the sauce to simmer, add 5 stalks of Rosemary to the browning Lamb shanks and leave for 30 secs before taking off heat and placing them into the pot with the sauce.

Add the rest of the chicken stock to the pot, put the lid on and leave on a low simmer for 3 hours.

After 3 hours, lift the lid on the Lamb shanks pot and carefully remove them, placing them on a plate to one side.

While the shanks are resting, use a hand blender to turn the juices into a lovely rich consistent sauce, adding a final few sprinkles of Worcestershire sauce.

Sticky lamb shanks

My children are opposites in almost every way. When it comes to food, he likes salads, she likes vegetables; she likes slow cooked meals and he prefers barbeques; she loves chocolate, he doesn’t etc etc.

Mim was home for the weekend and requested lamb shanks for Sunday Dinner. Alexander’s constant request is “anything as long as its not slow cooked”. This Sunday, Mim ruled.

I have a few favourite lamb shank recipes – osso bucco style, Jamie’s lamb shanks cooked in beer and Bill Granger’s morroccan lamb shanks topping the list. But this weekend I decided to stick with the mushroom-lovers’ theme and made Adrian Richardson’s “Lamb Shanks with Mushrooms and Sticky Port Glaze” from his book The Good Life. They were delicious.

The lamb shanks I bought were organic, not cheap, but the best I’ve had in a long time. Unfortunately, when I went to start cooking I was a shank short – the butcher had sold me 5 instead of the 6 I had requested - so we made a mad dash to the markets and bought the last lamb shank left… Phew!

I used a combination of button, flat and shimeji mushrooms. I had no luck finding swiss brown mushrooms which would have added to the flavour of the mushroom mix. I used a lot less butter than the recipe specifies - more like 30 grams rather than 100 grams.

Mim was happy.

Lamb Shanks with Mushrooms and Sticky Port Glaze

Serves 4

4 lamb shanks (shanks from the hind legs are meatier)

salt

freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons olive oil

100 g butter

2 onions, finely sliced

6 garlic cloves, crushed

2 tablespoons roughly chopped thyme

1 bay leaf

500g mushrooms (mixed varieties if possible), sliced 1 cm thick

375 ml chicken stock

375 ml port

Preheat the oven to 160C. Season the lamb shanks with salt and pepper.

Heat the oil in an ovenproof pot and brown the shanks all over. Transfer to a plate.

Lower the heat under the pot and add the butter, onion, garlic, thyme and bay leaf and fry for 3–4 minutes, until the onion is soft but not coloured. Add the mushrooms and stock and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes, until the mushrooms are soft. Add the port and return to the boil.

Return the lamb shanks to the pot, making sure they are completely submerged in the sauce. Season with more salt and pepper, cover with the lid and bake for 2 hours, by which time the meat should be very tender and falling from the bone.

Increase the oven temperature to 200C, remove the lid and cook for a further 30-40 minutes, until the sauce reduces and thickens. Keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t burn.

Serve with lots of mashed potatoes.

Italian Lamb with Egg

I love my Le Crueset cast iron casserole dish. It was given to me by my mother about 18 years ago. Mum had 2 – she gave this one to me and the oval one to my brother. They must now be close to 40 years old. I have wonderful childhood memories of the meals produced in these yellow casseroles – osso bucco, moussaka, pot roast chicken to name a few.

Whenever I look at it, I think of osso bucco – definitely one of my favourite meals – which I cooked on Saturday night. For Sunday Dinner this week I cooked Lamb with Egg and Lemon, from the Italian Regional Classics Cookbook included with the April 2012 Australian Gourmet Traveller.

The dish didn’t look that great but the lamb tasted fantastic. Next time I would take more care when adding the eggs and cheese - the eggs instantly curdled when they hit the liquid because it was so hot. I should have added a ladle of the liquid to the eggs first, before adding the eggs to the dish, so that the mixture became a custard. Nevertheless, it tasted fantastic so I’d like to give it another go.

I also cooked the lamb for longer than the recipe suggested – I always find it takes longer than 45 minutes for lamb to become tender, even if it is good quality lamb shoulder. The pecorino cheese I used was organic fresh pecorino from the markets – delicious on its own.

This week we had my nephew’s girlfriend returned after a long absence – hooray! She liked the lamb so much that they took the leftovers home to have during the week.

Lamb with egg and lemon

Serves 6-8

4 tablespoons olive oil

2 onions, finely chopped

100 g mild pancetta, diced

6 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 boneless lamb shoulder (1.6 kg), ciut into 6cm pieces

250 ml white wine

500 ml (2 cups) veal or chicken stock

3 rosemary sprigs

4 eggs. lightly beaten

90 g each of finely grated pecorino and parmesan

180 g (1/1/2 cups) frozen peas

1 lemon, cut into wedges

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a frying pan over high heat, add onion, pancetta and garlic, stir occasionally until caramelised (10-15 minutes) and transfer to casserole.

Wipe out pan, add lamb and remaining oil in 2 batches and turn occasionally until lamb is browned (3-5 minutes). Transfer to casserole.

Deglaze pan with wine, add to casserole with stock and rosemary, season to taste, cover and braise in oven until tender (mine took about 75 minutes). Transfer lamb to a bowl and keep warm. Turn oven down to 180C.

Add half a cup of the hot cooking juices to the eggs and whisk to combine. Add 75g of each of the cheeses and add the mixture to the casserole with the peas. Stir to combine, scatter with remaining cheeses and bake, uncovered, until custard is set and crust is golden (15-30 minutes).

Serve with lemon wedges and a green salad.