As a dish, lamb shanks provide one of the finest spectacles to place in front of any keen carnivorous diner, reminding them instantly of why they enjoy meat so much. There it stands, dramatically upright on the plate, with the bone rising proudly from a tempting hunk of succulent meat.
In this recipe, the lamb is slow cooked with vegetables and bone broth until it is a melt-in-the mouth savoury sensation. The celeriac mash and peas provide the perfect accompaniment. I’m sure no chef worth his salt would serve such a superb dish with common or garden peas, but put aside such snobbery as they provide colour and a sweet popping texture like nothing else. Call them petits pois and it’ll be immediately acceptable.
UK lamb is pretty well, free-range grass-pastured by default, however buying organic will ensure high welfare and minimal antibiotic use. Ours came from the Goodwood estate where we buy most of our meat as they are local, and where, in the spring, we visit to observe the lovely lambing and chat with the shepherd and his girls who are wonderful examples of skilful, knowledgeable and straightforward young women.
Recipe, Lamb shanks with celeriac mash
The quantities below will vary depending on the number of shanks and size of your pot, but none are very crucial:
- One lamb shank per person
- Ghee, lard or dripping (approx. 1 – 3 tbsp)
- Stock or bone broth (approx. 2 – 3 ladles)
- Red wine (optional, approx. 200 – 500 ml, depending..)
- Carrots, celery, onion
- Bay leaves, rosemary, salt and pepper
Melt a goodly amount of ghee, lard or dripping in a large cast iron oven-proof enamelled pan, such as Le Creuset, on a medium heat. Salt and pepper the lamb shanks all over and add to the hot oil for a few minutes, turning to brown and seal on all sides.
Coarse chop carrot, onion and celery, I did them in chunky batons on this occasion, which looked great. Add these around the meat, along with rosemary and bay, and turn so they are sautéing in hot oil for a bit.
Add a few ladles of stock (I had a pot of bone broth on the go at the time) and some red wine, if you like, and I like, so that the liquid is about one third the way up the meat. Put the lid on and bring to boiling point.
Pre-heat the oven to 140C (gas mark 1, 275F) and transfer the pot from the hob to the oven. Cook for about 4 hours. If you want to slow cook for much longer – while you are at work, or over night for example – reduce the temperature to 100 or 120C (gas mark ½, 250F) to ensure a melting finish without ending up with a burnt offering.
About 45 minutes before you want to serve the meal, peel and chop one large or two smaller celeriac roots. Place the chunks in a pan of water and bring to the boil. Simmer with a lid on for 10-20 minutes depending on the size of the chunks, but until they are soft when tried with the point of a knife. Drain very well, then mash thoroughly and add whatever fresh herbs, spices or seasonings you prefer. We used fresh thyme, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper here, but marjoram or herbs de provence would be great too. Add some good quality olive oil (such as Sainsbury’s organic, extra virgin unfiltered) or butter/ghee as these are superb additions. (By the by, the addition of butter, cream and grated cheese in quite large amount to mashed celariac render it a superb dish in itself, rich in quality nutrients and a great way to feed fussy, undernourished or convalescing people and works well as a topping for cottage pies and the like. It is a very low carbohydrate root vegetable, unlike potato, so can be eaten regularly).Serve alongside the lamb shank, with it’s glossy, gorgeous vegetables and juices, and add some quickly boiled petite pois to the plate too. A robust organic red wine ensures that this is a meal to remember! (Other green vegetables would do just as well, such as fine green beans, asparagus tips, broccoli spears or Brussels sprouts, or all of these.)