I either serve these slow-cooked lamb shanks whole with all the vegetables that I add to the casserole, or I use the meat and vegetables to make a delicious shepherd’s pie.
It does take a bit of time to make a shepherd’s pie like this – mostly because of the slow-cooking - but you end up with a sensationally tasty dish.
I have made this type of shepherd’s pie for up to 30 people in one go. You can slow-cook the lamb shanks and vegetables and prepare it all, once cooked, well in advance. It tastes even better the next day. All you have to do to finish it off is to add some mash and bake it in the oven.
As I like full flavoured food without too much calories, I don’t cover the gorgeous slow-cooked meat and vegetables with heaps of buttery potato mash. I usually make my mash with a mixture of parsnips, celeriac and potato and only add a thin layer of this on top.
If you really want to hold back on the calories, toss the vegetables for the mash in a bit of olive oil, season with salt and pepper and oven-roast them. When they are done, mash them up without adding any butter. You will get a lot of super-tasty stock from the casserole and you can just add more of this to the meat mixture.
A quicker, much more slim-line and still mega-tasty way to eat these slow-cooked lamb shanks is to serve them straight out of the casserole with an assortment of vegetables that has cooked alongside the meat.
Just add some steamed or boiled green vegetables and you will serve up a tasty and healthy feast.
Whichever way you choose to eat these slow-cooked lamb shanks, an important part is to reduce the stock once the meat is starting to fall off the bone. Remove the meat and vegetables from the casserole dish. Bring the remaining stock to a rapid boil to reduce the stock and to intensify the flavours.
Slow-Cooked Lamb Shanks
For 4 people:
First of all, you need a large casserole dish with a tight-fitting lid - something that I personally think it’s worth investing in if you haven’t already got one. If you are using a casserole dish that is not flame-proof, you can brown the meat in a frying pan and then transfer the meat to the casserole dish.
4 lamb shanks
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 large onion, peeled and quartered
Vegetables for the casserole: I add as many vegetables as I can fit in with the lamb shanks in the casserole – like carrots, butternut squash and sweet potato. Once peeled, and the butternut deseeded, I cut the carrots and sweet potatoes in two and the butternut in large chunks.
5 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Lamb or chicken stock – you’ll need enough to almost cover the lamb shanks and vegetables, around 1 ½ – 2 litres, 1 ¾ - 2 ½ pints, 6 ½ - 8 ½ cups
Salt and pepper
If you are making a shepherd’s pie, make the mash with potatoes alone or a mixture of potatoes, parsnips and celeriac - about 800g, 1lb 12oz, altogether.
1. Pre-heat the oven to 170C/Fan 150C/325F/gas mark 3. Season the lamb shanks with salt and fair bit of pepper. Add a bit of oil to the casserole dish (or a large frying pan if your casserole dish is not flame-proof) over a medium high heat. When the oil is hot, add two lamb shanks at a time and brown the shanks on all sides. Remove the ones that are done and do the same with the other lamb shanks.
2. Return all the lamb shanks to the casserole dish. If you have browned the meat in a frying pan, deglaze the frying pan by adding a bit of water to the pan and pour this into the casserole dish. Add the chopped garlic, onion, vegetables of your choice and thyme to the casserole dish (I add as many vegetables as possible). Add the Worcestershire sauce and then the stock – your meat and vegetables should be almost covered.
3. Bring everything to a simmer, cover the casserole dish with a tight-fitting lid and place the casserole dish in the oven for 1 ½ - 2 hours, until the meat starts to fall of the bone.
4. Once it’s ready carefully remove the meat and vegetables from the casserole dish. If you are going to eat the slow-cooked lamb shanks and vegetables as they are, keep them warm while reducing the stock. Place the casserole dish on the stove-top or pour the remaining stock into a sauce pan and bring to a rapid boil. Cook until the liquid is reduced by about half. If you are making a shepherd’s pie, you might want to reduce it a bit more.
5. Taste and check the seasoning of the reduced stock to see if you need to add any more salt and/or pepper. If you are serving the lamb shanks whole with the cooked vegetables, pour some of the reduced stock over each portion.
6. To make a shepherd’s pie, once the slow-cooked lamb shanks have cooled down enough to handle, remove all the meat from the bones and shred it with your hands. Roughly mash all the vegetables from the casserole dish. Place the meat and mashed vegetables in a lightly greased oven-proof dish. Add as much of the stock as you like – if your mash that will go on top is very soft you don’t want the meat and vegetables to be too wet. Any left-over stock is great to freeze and will make a mean gravy for another meal.
7. Once you have added your mash on top, place the dish in the oven, 220C/fan 200C/425F/gas mark 7, and cook until the shepherd’s pie is bubbling hot and the mash on top is nicely browned.