from one generation to the next
Winter in Melbourne isn’t harsh by world standards. Bleak damp days are interspersed by driving rain and bone chilling winds with crisp clear days of glorious sunshine for respite. I embrace the winter for giving me the opportunity to oven braise cuts of meat that are out of place in summer, like oxtail, lamb shanks, beef cheeks and short ribs.
On the constant lookout for inspired and distinct flavour variations, a long forgotten half consumed bottle of Tawny Port at the back of the booze cupboard looked like a good candidate for the braising pot. Partnered with fresh perennial herbs from our communal garden, it cried out for long slow oven braised lamb shanks.
My shanks were busily browning in the pan before I discovered that I’d put the last carrots in the stock pot, so, vowing to add carrot the next day when I reheated the lamb at dinnertime, I pushed on.
It’s no secret that I am a big fan of covered cast iron casserole dishes, I have five of different shapes, sizes and capacities. The gentle evaporation of the cooking liquid at a low temperature in the oven guarantees an irresistibly delicious rich and sticky sauce, but I wasn’t prepared for the incredible depth of flavour I got from these braised shanks braised devoid of aromatics.
I’ll never know if it was the sweet port, fragrant herbs or rich stock made with deeply caramelised bones that was responsible, or maybe together they wove a little magic.
Braised Lamb Shanks with Port and Rosemary
6 lamb shanks, frenched
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 large sprigs of fresh rosemary
small bunch fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
4 strips of lemon rind
400g can peeled chopped tomatoes
1 cup port
2 cups strong flavoured lamb or beef stock
2 teaspoons hot English mustard
Preheat the oven to 160C.
Tie the herbs, lemon zest and bay leaves into a bundle with kitchen string.
Generously season the lamb shanks with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Over a medium heat, brown the shanks in a saute pan until well coloured.
Remove to an ovenproof casserole dish, then discard the excess fat from the pan.
Deglaze the saute pan with the port, scraping all the crusty bits into the sauce.
Mix the mustard with a little stock to soften then add it along with the tomatoes and stock to the pan. Bring to the boil, then pour over the shanks.
If necessary, add extra stock or water to totally submerge the shanks.
Cover the surface of the sauce with a piece of baking paper, put the lid on the casserole dish then oven braise the shanks for 1 1/2 – 2 hours.
Remove the casserole dish from the oven, allow to cool, then refrigerate overnight for the flavour to mature and the surface fat to set.
The next day, lift all the fat off the surface.
The sauce should be an unctuous glaze. If not, remove the shanks from the dish and set aside.
Over a medium heat bring the sauce to the boil, lower the heat then reduce to a glazing consistency. Adjust seasoning if necessary.
Return to shanks to the pan and gently heat through.
Delicious with buttery mashed potatoes.