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.
Excuse the cliche, but I must eat my humble pie. It turns out that this recipe was in fact called 'Spiced slow cooked lamb shanks' as opposed to 'Spicy lamb shanks'. As such, I take back all I said about the misleading title, the adjective 'spiced' firmly placing this in the aromatic camp.