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Jamie Oliver's "Spicy" lamb shanks

When I read ‘spicy’ I think hot and spicy, fiery, piquant. I am aware that spicy has several other meanings in relation to food – aromatic, fragrant, ‘seasoned with or containing spices’ – but I think it is misleading to use the word 'spicy' in the name of a dish if it doesn’t pack any heat. This dish sits in the aromatic camp.

Technicalities aside, this is a very nice recipe. I have my friend Ray to thank for reintroducing me to Jamie Oliver; in admitting that I liked this recipe and the meatballs she made me, before I knew they were Jamie Oliver’s, I also had to admit that my dislike for him was mostly superficial.

Unlike with the meatballs, Ray had not made any additions to the lamb shanks, so nor have I. The only thing I did differently was that I cooked them at a lower heat for longer (150C for 2 ½ hours) to ensure they were perfectly fall off the bone. “Oh my God, their so tender” shouted the boyfriend after his first mouthful. Mission accomplished.

Several choices are given for the herbs and aromatics. For the record, I used dried chilli, marjoram and oregano, 1 large onion, and basil as my fresh herb. I also used chopped rather than plum tomatoes because that is what I had. Oh, and I did NOT skim off the fat.

Oliver suggests mash, polenta, cous cous or rice as accompaniments. I went with the mash, while Ray chose crusty bread which was great for mopping up the juices.

Serves two greedy, three hungry, or four abstemious people as a main course. This depends to some extent on the size of the lamb shanks.


4 lamb shanks
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 small dried red chilli or 2 teaspoons chopped fresh chilli
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon dried marjoram or oregano
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 large carrot, quartered and finely sliced
6 sticks of celery, quartered and finely sliced
2 medium/large onions, quartered and finely chopped
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
170ml dry white wine
6 anchovy fillets
2 x 400g tins of plum tomatoes
1 handful of fresh basil, marjoram or flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped


Season the lamb with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Smash up the coriander seeds and dried chilli and mix with the chopped rosemary and dried marjoram.  Roll the lamb in this mixture, pressing it in well.  Dust the lamb with the flour.

Heat a thick-bottomed casserole pan, add the oil, brown the meat on all sides and then remove from the pan.  Add the garlic, carrot, celery, onions and a pinch of salt and sweat them until softened.  Add the balsamic vinegar and allow it to reduce to a syrup.  Pour in the white wine and allow to simmer for 2 minutes.  Add the anchovies (these really seem to intensify the lamb flavour) and then add the tinned tomatoes, kept whole.  Shake the pan and return the lamb to it.  Bring to the boil, put on the lid and simmer in the oven at 180C/350F/gas 5 for 1 1/2 hours, then remove the lid and cook for a further 1/2 hour.  Skim off any fat and taste for seasoning.  Finally, stir in a handful of roughly chopped fresh basil, marjoram or flat-leaf parsley.

Use corn or rice flour for a gluten-free meal.

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Reader Comments (8)

Al Wi Fee just made a superb rendition of this dish, so well done Vi Jams ! It was made even superberra by discovering there was some left over the next day! I think that lamb and anchovy definately have an affinity and for anchovy loathers it's not an upfront hello ! No, it's in the the background smiling encouragingly at it's little lambie mate. A little tip for those left to do the washing up, ask the cook to put the seasoning and herbs in a plastic bag and roll the shanks about in it. You can keep your hands clean by pressing on the outside of the bag. When the herbs are adhered, add the flour to the bag and toss about.

February 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHasi

Thanks for your advice re. the seasoning, that is a good idea. And for plugging the lamb and anchovy - one of the many things you taught me. Hasi is right - even if you are not a fan of anchovy you will like this. You really can't taste the fish by the time it has cooked, but it imparts a wonderful, rich, savoury flavour.

February 21, 2011 | Registered CommenterVix

Freezing cold night as Sydney winter begins and I think of lamb shanks. Thought you might have some lurking in the recipies. I had a bunch of foodies for dinner and they nearly ate their plates!!!
Thanks to you and Jamie. I followed your modifications and the shanks were spelndid. We went for couscous.

May 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJudy Rymer

Hi Judy, thanks for your comment. Glad Jamie and I could be of service and that the foodies approved. I'm going to Oxford today and thinking of going to Jamie's Italian. Not so cold here, so lots of fish and pasta on the menu which will be nice on a humid rainy day.

May 7, 2011 | Registered CommenterVix

I had another go at the lamb shanks last night - followed recipe to the letter except that in our oven - our NEW oven, it seemed too hot and fast at 180C so I turned it down to 150. I needed a recipe I could cook in advance - busy afternoon and evening - so this was perfect . Cooked it midday. Warmed it through later , probably even more delicious as a result.

November 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMA

Hi ma - Ooh! I didn't know you had a new oven. Nice! Although surely the point of a new oven is that it is not too hot or too cold but just right? :) Still never hurts to turn the heat down and do it slower and longer. Sounds like it worked a treat.

November 14, 2011 | Registered CommenterVix

This is great dish, I cook it in the Webber, but ran out of anchovies and replaced with worchestshire sauce!

February 20, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMary fleming

Hi Mary, what a great idea to add the Worcestershire sauce instead. Same same, but different ;-)

March 3, 2016 | Registered CommenterVix

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