Slow-cooked lamb shanks in red wine sauce with creamy mash
Winter comfort food doesn’t get much better than these fall-apart tender lamb shanks with creamy mash.
Super-tender lamb on a bed of creamy mash and slathered in a rich, wine-infused sauce is one of the best ways to warm up this winter. RACV Club executive chef Jason Camillo uses orange zest and star anise to add aromatics and extra flavour to this classic dish, but you can also use cinnamon to add a bit of zing. The beauty of this recipe is you can use a slow cooker and make dinner while you keep working, or you can use an oven or stovetop. Whatever the method, the cooking needs to be long and slow. If you boil the lamb, you will make it tough. “This dish is at its best when the meat is tender and falling off the bone and you only need a spoon to eat it,” Jason says.
Slow cooking breaks down the collagen in the meat to make it tender and gelatinous. Photo: Getty.
What are “frenched” lamb shanks?
This is simply stripping the top 5-10cm of lamb from the top of the bone to reveal the bone and make them look like lollipops. This gives you a nicer presentation. It is quite easy to do, but you can ask your butcher to do it.
Why are shanks so good for slow cooking?
Any muscle that is used regularly like a leg or shank is best for slow cooking. Long periods of slow cooking break down the collagen in the meat to make it tender and gelatinous.
Do you need flour to brown the shanks?
Some chefs do, but without the flour you get a sauce that is rich, shiny and full of flavour. This sauce is also lighter than the heavier tomato-based recipes.
What size pot do I need?
The shanks should fit snugly inside a pot and then you add enough stock to cover them. If the pot is too big you will need more stock and if it’s too small the stock may overflow
Does a more expensive red wine improve the dish?
It’s better to drink an expensive bottle of wine than cook with it. There may be a small uptake in taste but it’s not worth the added expense. Any variety of red wine is good to use.
What can I use instead of star anise?
You could add a quill of cinnamon instead of star anise for a different flavour.
Are fresh or dried bay leaves better?
They are different in flavour, but both are good. Use twice as many dry leaves as fresh leaves to get the same amount of flavour.
What are the best potatoes for mashing?
Bintje potatoes have a great flavour and high in starch, which helps them fluff up when mashed. Desiree or Dutch creams are also good.
Do lamb shanks freeze well?
The shanks can be frozen, or if you need more space in your freezer remove the bones and use the meat for a delicious ragu or pasta sauce at another time.
- If using the oven, preheat to 140C conventional bake. For a slow cooker, set on low.
- In a pan heat olive oil.
- Season the lamb shanks well with freshly cracked pepper and pink salt, rub well into the meat.
- Brown the lamb well on all sides evenly, remove from the pan and set aside.
- Sweat off the whole garlic cloves, carrot, celery and onions until soft and translucent.
- Add the red wine, turn up the heat and reduce the liquid until it thickens.
- Add the lamb back into the pot, along with the rosemary thyme, whole peppercorns, orange zest, juice and stock to cover.
- Bring to the boil and then gently simmer covered for around 2.5-3 hours. If cooking in the oven, transfer the lamb and vegetables to an ovenproof dish and cover with a lid (or two layers of tinfoil) and bake in the oven for 4 hours. For a slow cooker, cook for about 8 hours on low, spooning cooking liquid over the shanks every now and then.
- The lamb is cooked when the meat is almost falling off the bone.
- Remove the lamb and keep warm.
- Strain all the stock through a fine strainer and reduce until you get a thick sauce consistency.
- Serve lamb in a nice dish along with mash potatoes and your choice of greens.
Creamy potato mash
- Bring a pot of water to the boil with the potatoes and cook until tender.
- Bring cream and butter to the boil in a pot.
- Mash the potatoes until you have a fine puree.
- In a mixing bowl, whisk the potatoes and slowly add the cream and butter mixture.
- Add all other ingredients and adjust seasoning, if necessary.