Monday, March 27, 2006

Recipe: Braised Lamb Shanks

Sometimes, when looking for a recipe, I come across not one, but two, that look promising. Instead of choosing between the two, I prefer to combine both in the hopes that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Sometimes this works, but other times one isn't as fortunate.

In this case, I found two recipes, one here and another here. The first I chose because I really liked the addition of porcini mushrooms, and the second because I thought the first lacked a suitable amount of braising liquid.

Ingredients (Serves 8)

4 cups hot water
1 cup dried porcini mushrooms
Zest of 2 oranges
Juice of 3 oranges
4 bay leaves
4 large fresh rosemary sprigs
8 whole cloves
Extra-virgin olive oil
4 onions, chopped
4 carrots, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
8 lamb shanks
3 cups (1 bottle) dry red wine
2 cups veal stock
1/2 cup tomato paste

Lamb shank meez

Notes on ingredients: Dried porcini mushrooms have to be bought at a specialty store, like Culina or Indoguna. Get lamb foreshanks rather than hindshanks, as they're smaller, tastier and less smelly. You may find that 8 shanks take up a lot of space, so what I did was to split them into two batches of four, cooked in two separate pots.


Combine 2 cups hot water and mushrooms in a bowl. Let stand until mushrooms soften, about 30 minutes.

Sweat vegetables

Heat some olive oil in a wide pot over medium-high heat. Sweat vegetables until softened, about five minutes or so.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer vegetables to a separate bowl.

Brown meat

Add more oil to the pot and brown the lamb, in batches, as evenly as possible. You can see just how big the hindshanks are here. Not only do they take long to cook, they take long to eat too. Once all the lamb has been browned, return them to the pot.


Using a slotted spoon, add mushrooms, then mushroom soaking liquid, leaving any sediment in the bowl. Add orange peel and juice, herbs, wine, and tomato paste. Bring to a boil for 5 minutes. Add stock to the pot and bring to a boil again. If the level of liquid doesn't cover the lamb, top it up with wine, stock or water. I used water, which result in a somewhat diluted sauce.


Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. By this time your braising liquid should have changed colour, becoming saffron coloured.


Return the vegetables to the pot and partially uncover it. Simmer until lamb is tender and the meat is falling off the bone, turning every 15 minutes, about 1 1/2 hours longer.

Falling off the bone

Your lamb should look something like that once you're done with it. Note that the meat has also become much darker.

The recipe then instructs you to "Transfer lamb to bowl. Boil until sauce is thick enough to coat spoon lightly and is reduced to 5 cups, about 35 minutes. Discard herbs and orange peel. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper."

Personally, I wouldn't really bother, because it's nigh-impossible to discard the herbs and orange peel without tearing out your hair. Reducing the sauce is a good idea though, but 35 minutes seems a bit excessive.

Lamb shank

Spoon the lamb and sauce onto a plate. You may choose to include some of the vegetables and mushrooms, if you so desire.

In all honesty I wasn't very pleased with the way this turned out, as the lamb wasn't quite tender enough and tasted a bit bland despite my best efforts. Also, there was far too much of it to eat. I might try this again with foreshanks though, and perhaps less water.

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