Thursday, 21 June 2012

Easy Maggie Beer lamb shanks made for sharing

There’s nothing that frustrates me more than having friends over for dinner, and spending more time in the kitchen with my head in a pan than talking to my friends (except maybe people that take too long at petrol stations, but lets stick to the topic…food). 

So when I was planning what was going to cook for dinner the other night, I decided to make a conscious effort to cook something that I could pre-prepare and then just dress/serve/dish up when we were ready to eat. I also didn’t want anything overcomplicated, after all…isn’t it all about delicious simplicity. So I found a lovely little Maggie Beer recipe for lamb shanks where all you essentially needed to do was brown the meat, stick it all in a pot and put it in the oven for 4 hrs and that’s it. I know it sounds like ages, but the great thing about recipe like this is that you don’t actually need to do anything to the meat once it’s in the oven.

So that’s what I did… I put it in the oven and got on with the other things I needed to do. Cleaned the house, caught up on some emails and even had a sneaky glass of pre-dinner red with a friend who dropped round. It was perfect. I also whipped up a salad too make sure there was something fresh on the side. Plus, being winter, how could I not make some mashed potatoes to go with the lamb. And of course desert: Jamie Oliver’s Quick Portuguese Tarts. But the hero of the night was definitely the lamb shank. It fell off the bone, just like it’s supposed to. So here’s how it went…

Ingredients (Serves 4)
16 juicy cloves of garlic
8 small lamb shanks, or 4 big. Make sure you get good quality shanks
12 sprigs fresh, aromatic rosemary
olive oil
4 or 5 quarters preserved lemons
8 bay leaves. Fresh is better, but dried if you can’t get them
500ml verjuice
1 tsp whole peppercorns
1 tsp sea salt

Heat the oven up to 120 degrees. Its low, but that’s good as the lamb needs to cook slowly to make it really tender.

Peel the 16 cloves of garlic and finely slice 3 of the cloves. Remove the pulp from the 4 – 5 quarters of preserved lemon, rinse the rind and cut each one in half. My cousin actually uses the pulp, so if you want, give it a go. Can’t hurt.

Put a heavy based, non-reactive pot on the stove over a medium heat (I just use a nice big CorningWare dish that I have). Now, the recipe says to add the 3 of the cloves of garlic, the 12 sprigs of rosemary and a good splash of olive oil, the put the lamb on top to brown it. I did that and I found that the garlic and rosemary burnt. If I were to do it again, I’d brown off the sliced garlic and rosemary in a good amount of oil and then put them aside. 

Then, add the 8 lamb shanks (or 4 at a time) and brown each side, turning regularly. 

Once all the lamb shanks are browned on all sides, add back in the browned garlic and rosemary. Then, add the other 13 garlic cloves, the 8 bay leaves, the 500ml of verjuice, a teaspoon of whole peppercorns and the teaspoon sea salt. 

Then pop it in the oven for four hours. I checked on it about once an hour or so, and I quickly basted it 2 or 3 times, but not because I had to, just because I could. That’s it. It’s that simple.


  1. What do you use if you can't get verjuice

  2. That's a good question. The recipe says that if you're using 4 large shanks rather than 8 small ones to use stock and verjuice. I've only cooked it with verjuice, but my guess is you could cook it with just stock and it would be delicious, but may lack some of the depth of flavour or richness. Having a bit of a look around, it sounds like you can substitute verjuice with white wine and stock, or white wine vinegar. Has anyone else got any good substitutes for verjuice?

  3. just wondering if you cover the shanks while cooking, or leave them uncovered?

    1. The pot needs to be covered the whole time, it helps keep the moisture in. The actual shanks don't need to be covered by the liquid though. Hope that helps! Lissx