“There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort.”~ Jane Austen
I’m totally in love with my slow cooker right now. Just ten minutes of preparation in the morning and the slow cooker does all the work so that by nightfall I have a luscious, melt-in-the-mouth dinner, brimful of goodness and with next to no effort. It also makes for wonderful left-overs!
This recipe can just as easily made with lamb neck or lamb chops. The flavour is wonderfully Italian; the orange gives a hint of sweetness and the herbs, garlic, bacon and tomato create a rich sauce to ladle over the meat.
I served my lamb shanks with roasted cauliflower (have you tried this? seriously addictive and good!) and a sweet potato mash for Wednesday’s dinner, and used the leftovers last night for a delectable ragu sauce with rustic pasta.
This recipe also freezes well, and is easily reheated for an easy meal later in the week. If you don’t have all the ingredients, feel free to experiment. Slow cookers make everything taste good!
6 to 8 frenched lamb shanks (or other lamb cuts with bones in them eg chump chops or neck), 1 large onion, 8 to 10 cloves of garlic, 1 cup of olives with the seeds removed (kalamata olives are good!), 1 large carrot, 2 sticks of celery, 2 tins of diced tomatoes or 4 cups fresh chopped tomatoes, 2 tablespoons of tomato paste, 1 cup of red wine, 1/2 cup of red capsicum (bell pepper), 1 teaspoon of mixed dried Italian herbs, 1 cup of rich chicken or vegetable stock, 3 tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley, 2 thick slices of orange with the skin on, 2 rashers of bacon or 3 tablespoons (75 grams) of pancetta, salt and pepper to season.
Chop onion, carrots, celery, capsicum (bell pepper) and bacon or pancetta. Chop parsley finely.
Brown your lamb shanks in a large frypan over medium heat. Place the lamb shanks in layers, alternating with a sprinkle of the vegetables, garlic, herbs, bacon and olives.
Add the stock, orange slices, tomatoes, tomato paste and wine. Give a good grind of pepper and a little salt. Cover and cook.
Don’t be put off by the long cooking times. The longer you cook the meat the more tender it will be, and the more nutrition will be imparted to the sauce. Slow cooked meats are very good for you – packed full of fat soluble minerals, amino acids, easily digestible proteins, gelatin and other health-promoting things!
Cook on low in a slow cooker for 6 hours.
Cook on low heat in a saucepan on the stove for 4 to 5 hours. Turn your shanks at least once during this time, and re-baste with sauce.
Cook in a moderate oven (180 degrees celsius/ 350 degrees fahrenheit) for 30 minutes, and then reduce heat to 150 degrees celsius/ 300 degrees fahrenheit) and cook for 3 hours. Turn your shanks at least once during this time, and re-baste with sauce.
Serve with your favourite seasonal vegetables, and some mash, rice or pasta if it suits you. Perhaps a slice or two of rustic sourdough bread to mop up those juices?
When cooked low and slow the marrow and gelatin from the meat help thicken the sauce. Don’t waste any of it! Whatever is not eaten with dinner can be used as a basis for a pasta sauce, or as a gravy over other meats or vegetables.
Strip the meat from the bones, add back into the sauce, heat and serve with cooked pasta as another meal. This is comfort food at its finest!