Lamb shanks in a rich red wine sauce = slow cooked heaven. The red wine makes an incredible stock base for this ultimate comfort food. No need to splurge on expensive wine – get the cheapest you can find! I used a $5 end-of-bin bottle in this!
I have a real soft spot for lamb shanks. I just love the look of a hunk of meltingly tender meat wrapped around the shaft. Hits my carnivore sweet-spot, every time.
Because it is such a tough cut of meat that needs slow cooking, it’s also actually quite hard to stuff up. The cook time is very forgiving – leave it in for an hour too long, and the worst that will happen is that the meat falls off the bone when you go to serve it. They can be cooked in a braising liquid, which is what I’ve done in this recipe, or they can even be roasted, did you know that? Roasted lamb shanks are beautiful. Kind of like my Slow Roasted Lamb Shoulder.
This recipe is pretty classic, and I recently found that it is similar to the one used by a top Sydney restaurant called Three Blue Ducks. The one thing I do a bit differently to most recipes is this: I really like to get a beautiful brown crust on my lamb shanks rather than cooking it entirely submerged in the braising liquid for the whole time. So the liquid quantity is such that by the end of the cooking time, it reduces down substantially and over half the lamb shanks are exposed above the liquid. Even baked with the lid on, the exposed part of the lamb shanks gets a beautiful crust on it.
4 lamb shanks, around 1 lb / 500g each (Note 1)
2 tsp salt, separated
2 – 3 tbsp olive oil, separated
1 cup onion, finely diced (brown, yellow or white)
1 cup carrot, finely diced (optional) (Note 2)
1 cup celery, finely diced (optional) (Note 2)
3 garlic cloves, minced
2½ cups red wine, full bodied (good value wine, not expensive! Note 3)
28 oz / 800g can crushed tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 cups chicken stock (or water)
5 sprigs of thyme (preferably tied together), or 2 tsp dried thyme
2 dried bay leaves or 4 fresh
½ to 1½ cups hot water
- Step 1
Preheat the oven to 350F/180C.
- Step 2
Pat the lamb shanks dry and sprinkle with 1 tsp of salt and black pepper.
- Step 3
Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a heavy based pot (dutch oven is ideal) over high heat.
- Step 4
Sear the lamb shanks in 2 batches until brown all over, about 5 minutes.
- Step 5
Remove lamb onto a plate and drain excess fat (if any) from the pot.
- Step 6
Turn the heat down to medium low. Heat remaining 1 tbsp of olive oil in the same pot. Add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic. Sauté for 10 minutes until the onion is translucent.
- Step 7
Add the red wine and turn up the heat to medium high. Bring it to a simmer, scraping the bottom of the pan to mix all the brown bits into the wine. Simmer for 3 minutes to evaporate the alcohol a bit (Note 4).
- Step 8
Add the remaining ingredients (including remaining 1 tsp salt and pepper) and stir to combine.
- Step 9
Place the lamb shanks into the pot, squeezing them in to fit so they are mostly submerged. (Note 1)
- Step 10
Bring back up to simmer, cover, then transfer to the oven for 2 hours.
- Step 11
Turn the lamb shanks, cover, then return to the oven for another 30 minutes (so 2½ hours in total). The lamb should be very tender, the exposed surface above the liquid should be browned and the sauce should be reduced down to about ¼ of the original amount.
- Step 12
Carefully transfer the lamb to a plate and pick out the thyme sprigs and bay leaves.
- Step 13
Skim excess fat off the surface of sauce. Use a stick blender to puree the sauce to make it smooth and thick. Use hot water to adjust the thickness and intensity of the sauce. (Note 5) Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
- Step 14
Serve the lamb shanks on mashed potato or cauliflower puree with plenty of sauce!