Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Slow-Cooked Lamb Shanks with Balsamic Vinegar

Hello my fellow foodies - it has been too long!  I blame the siren charms of Bali for my break from the blog.  I spent a blissful week in Ubud and Seminyak, followed by a much less blissful week of catch up at work.  This has actually been my first night in pjs on the couch since I got back to chilly Canberra.  What better way to catch up on home time than tapping at the computer keys while rugged up in my ugg boots and fleece!

In reparation for my long absence (oh, the spa treatments, oh, the martinis and oh, the sumptuous two-course breakfasts!), I present not one, but two blog posts.  The first is a slow-cooked lamb shank recipe just perfect for the incredibly cold winter nights we are enduring in Canberra at the moment.  This recipe was one my Mum sent me when I was living in Jakarta.  Believe it or not, we actually had access to some high-quality lamb shanks there.  It took just a moment to slip out to do some shopping at lunch, purchase a few shanks, and then cook up this wonderful dish for a crowd of friends.

Serve these babies with creamy mashed potatoes to sop up the sauce and enjoy the tenderest of meats as it flakes off the bone after almost four hours of cooking.  I remember when Mum first told me the recipe involved half a bottle of balsamic vinegar and another of good quality red wine - I couldn't believe it would turn out so well.  The vinegar adds a piquant undertone, while mellowing so beautifully over the long cooking time that it's hard to believe it started out so tart.


Slow-Cooked Lamb Shanks with Balsamic Vinegar

- 4 large lamb shanks (or 6 smaller lamb shanks)
- plain flour for dusting
- salt and pepper (I LOVE Maldon salt...)
- olive oil (around 2 tablespoons, but don't be too stingy)
- 4 small red onions (or 2 large red onions), diced
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
- 6 dried juniper berries
- 4 garlic cloves, chopped
- 150 ml balsamic vinegar
- 300 ml red wine (make it good quality, and don't be afraid to add a bit more as it cooks down)


First off, preheat your oven to 175 degrees Celcius and dust off your cast iron casserole pot.

In a nice broad, flat bowl (something like a pie dish), mix your flour with your salt and pepper.  Next, roll your lamb shanks in the flour, tapping on the bottom of the bowl to knock off the excess flour.


Now, heat up your oil in your pan and, when it's nice and hot, brown off your floured lamb shanks.  Just do them one at a time, and don't add too many at once, then remove from the casserole pot and put aside.  Lower the heat a little.  Now, add the diced red onions and cook, stirring, until they are light brown in colour.  Throw in your rosemary and garlic, and cook for a couple more minutes.



Add the balsamic vinegar and red wine - beware the initial burst of steam - and allow to reduce for around 2 minutes.


Next, add the shanks back into the pot, reduce your heat and then, before you pop your lid on, place a sheet of baking paper which you have moistened with water on top.  Then put your lid on and put the pot in the oven.  This can also be cooked on the stove if you are out of oven space, but I much prefer the results with a nice, long, steady bake in the oven.

At this point, pop a DVD on the telly, turn up the heater, dust off your novel or (heaven forbid) set up the ironing board.  The shanks will take approximately 3.5-4 hours.  Check them every thirty minutes or so, basting them in the juices or adding more red wine if it's starting to look a little dry.  You'll know when it's ready - the house will be smelling amazing and the meat will literally be falling off the bone.

Like I said earlier, this is at its ambrosial best served with mashed potatoes and maybe some steamed green beans.  I get nothing but rave reviews...

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