Lamb shanks were a winter staple when I was growing up. When walking home from school on cold winter afternoons, I came to love the soupy redolence of lamb, carrot, celery, onion and barley rolling across the suburb like an aromatic fog. Everyone made lamb shank soup! There was nothing like that smell.
Six days to the winter solstice, so I’ve dragged this recipe out of the archive. Right now we need something robust, homely, and crammed with flavour.
Lamb, rosemary, and a bottle of red.
(Important note: the bottle of red wine in the title is an ingredient, so you’ll need to buy two if you plan to actually drink some.)
Rosemary comes to the fore in this highly aromatic dish that will blanket the neighbourhood with tantalising aromas of lamb braising in red wine with herbs and garlic. (Is garlic also a herb?)
In a plastic bag, dust six lamb shanks with a tablespoon of flour and salt and pepper.
Brown the seasoned shanks in olive oil in a large heavy pot in batches. Remove browned shanks to a platter.
Chop two onions. Cut two carrots and four sticks of celery into small dice. Mince twelve garlic cloves. Place these in the pot with a little more oil. Turn the heat down lowest, put the lid on, and sweat the vegetables for about ten minutes. Stir them occasionally.
Now return the shanks to the pot and add a bottle of red wine, two cans of tomatoes, three cups of chicken stock, a tablespoon of fresh chopped rosemary – yes, it is a large amount - and half a tablespoon of chopped thyme (optional: one leaf of sage and some chopped parsley).
Bring pot to the boil, turn the heat down, put the lid on the pot and simmer for a couple of hours. Then take the lid off and simmer another 30 minutes. Transfer shanks to covered platter. Turn up the heat under the pot and boil the juices, stirring, until thickened, ten to twenty minutes. This will vary according to pot, stove, volume of fluid, hemisphere, phase of the moon and elevation above sea level, for all I know.
Serve shanks on a bed of mashed potato and pour over thickened sauce so that it runs down the mash like rivers to the sea (wait for me, wait for me). I like to add interest to the mash by folding through flavour bursts such as a mere sprinkling of diced black olives or, even better, tiny flecks of anchovy. Added sparingly, they add an amazing taste sensation and work well with the flavours of the stew. Sides of creamed spinach, or green beans, or broccoli tossed in toasted and pounded pine nuts.
Drink a Mt Alexander Shiraz, if you remembered to buy a second bottle. If not, have a Grand Ridge Natural Blonde. That will warm you up.