This recipe was borne out of a series of predicaments that arose when I recently tried to get creative with some lamb shanks. I was to either take the Moroccan route (one full of warm spices and probably with some chickpeas and apricots thrown in at the end) or the boozy route (essentially involving lots and lots of red wine). I’ve always been a fan of the vino, but my stash of spices was practically jumping from the cupboard at the thought of being partnered with lamb. This was Predicament No. 1.
Predicament No. 2 arrived soon after I learnt that old, boozy habits die hard, which meant that the wine route had won and I would now also need bay leaves, rosemary and sage from the garden. But, believe it or not, the bloody builder had the back door key. I very briefly considered climbing out of an upstairs window, down the scaffolding and into the garden, but that idea was soon shunned. Back I moved to warm spices, ditching the unobtainable herbs.
Luckily, Predicament No. 2 was actually removed when I found the back door key – funnily, sat right by the back door. Clever builder. So in I threw all the ingredients, along with plenty of red wine and port. Into the oven.
Ten minutes later I was back onto Predicament No. 1. I could sense the cumin, cinnamon, ginger and all their pals calling to me, and I felt a strange pang of guilt – but then I had a brainwave. I realised I could satisfy the best of both worlds by combining Moroccan spicy warmth with rich red wine: mulled lamb.
So here it is. And it smells like Christmas.
4 lamb shanks
1 heaped tbsp flour
Glug of port (a very good glug)
1 large onion, sliced
1 carrot, chopped
1 celery stick, chopped
1 clove of garlic, peeled
1 glass of red wine (about 250ml, but add more if needed)
500ml lamb or chicken stock
2 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick
2 star anise
2 tsp mixed spice or ground cinnamon
A couple of peels of orange rind
Turn the oven onto 200°C/fan 180°C/gas mark 6.
Coat the lamb shanks in flour and add a small knob of butter to a frying pan. Brown the shanks and transfer into a casserole. Use the residual fat to quickly fry the onion, before also transferring into the casserole along with the carrot, celery and garlic.
With the heat still on, pour the port into the frying pan to deglaze it. Pour this into the casserole, before adding the stock, wine, herbs, spices and orange rind.
Put into the oven and cook for 2 – 2 ½ hours, checking every now and again to see if more liquid is needed. If so, add more wine or port to keep the sauce rich.
Half an hour before serving, you’ll find yourself ready for an early evening sherry, whilst you crack on with some creamy mash to soak up the juices and some greens for a bit of colour.
Follow me on Twitter: @Jess_Hardiman