I probably say this about a lot of my recipes, but this has got to be one of my favourite ‘friends for dinner’ dishes. The only thing that can throw it all up in the air is someone who doesn’t like lamb. There are quite a few of them out there, so for your own peace of mind it’s always worth checking that out before the event.
One of the best things about this dish is that it can be made a day or two in advance, kept chilled in the fridge, then re-heated on the day. Served with plain boiled basmati rice, some naan bread and a little salad; it’s the perfect, well-behaved, easy entertaining dinner.
- A casserole – suitable for use on the hob and oven – with a close-fitting lid, big enough to hold all your lamb shanks in one layer. Or two separate ones if required.
- a food tongs, for turning and moving the shanks, is really handy but not essential.
INGREDIENTS: These quantities serve about 4-6 people.
- 1 heaped teaspoon of sweet paprika
- half a teaspoon of cayenne pepper
- 2-3 large onions, roughly chopped
- 3-4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- two bay leaves, rinsed
- 2 teaspoons of garam masala
- 1 heaped teaspoon of ground cumin and
- 1 heaped teaspoon of turmeric.
- tablespoon of rapeseed oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Heat the oil in the casserole to a med-high heat, and brown off the lamb shanks. This will take about 10 minutes, by the time you’ve turned them over a couple of times.
- Put the sun-dried tomato paste, the saffron strands and the sweet paprika into a jug and add 300ml warm water. Stir, and leave to one side.
- Roughly chop the onions and finely chop the garlic. Keep them separate, as they’ll be cooked at different times.
- When the lamb shanks are browned, remove them to a plate, and reduce the heat to the casserole.
- Add the onions and allow them to cook for about 5 minutes until they’re softened but not browned.
- Add the garlic and stir in.
- Add the 3 spices (cumin, turmeric and garam masala) and stir in.
- Add the contents of the jug and stir it all together.
- Season with salt and pepper
- Return the lamb shanks and turn them in the sauce – it will only come about halfway up the shanks, but that’s fine – you’re going to be turning them halfway through the cooking time.
- Put in the bay leaves.
- Cover with a close-fitting lid and put in the oven for 2-3 hours at 120, turning halfway through.
1. If you’re serving them straight away:
- Remove the shanks from the sauce (careful now! They’ll be delicate at this stage) and keep them warm
- Allow the sauce to settle for 5 minutes or so, them skim off the fat.
- The sauce at this stage should be rich and thick, but if you’re concerned, bring it back to the boil to reduce a little if necessary.
- Put a shank onto each plate, then spoon the sauce over the lamb, and serve with the rice and naan bread.
2. Serving from chilled:
- If the dish is chilled, you’ll easily be able to remove the cold fat with a teaspoon (leave yourself about 5 minutes to do this) before heating as above.
- I generally give the whole dish about an hour to come together. It’s a personal thing, but I think it always tastes better when it’s been reheated.
- To remind me to turn the lamb shanks halfway through the cooking time, I just set my oven alarm for an hour and a half, do the turning and checking thing; then just give it the same time again.
- If your casserole doesn’t have a close-fitting lid, just put a generous sheet of tin foil between the lid and the casserole to achieve a good seal.
- When you check half way, and the sauce looks as if it has reduced too much, just add a little cold water, and check that the sauce isn’t sticking to the base of the casserole.
- I often serve this with bulgur wheat as a change from rice – you can add little extras to the Bulgur, like chopped apricots or finely chopped coriander – whatever you fancy really.
- I’ve discovered that this freezes really well too – it does take quite a while to defrost though. You should probably remove it from the freezer the day before you want to eat it, and keep it in the fridge overnight.