Letter from America #3 – Spiced Lamb Shanks Braised in Port Wine

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My mouth literally waters as I read through this from my sister State side. Following on from her Letter from America 1 and Letter from America 2, here is surely one of the best Winter Lamb dish that exists. I know what I’ll be cooking for dinner Saturday night! AND I just received her birthday gift – Lori Greenspan’s brilliant “Baking Chez Moi”, so I also know what I’ll be doing in front of the fire Saturday afternoon too! (Future posts sorted!!)

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From Nessa:

I’m beginning to think I have a problem.  It seems I begin every post with ‘I really love’ what ever food is on the menu.  And here I go again.  I really really love lamb.  Shoulder, loin, leg, shanks, sheep’s milk cheese. All bleeting forms of this delicious animal are welcome on my plate.  This week, with the freezing cold weather and first snow on the ground, the longing for those slow cooked comfort meals where the warm oven fills the house with lovely smells for hours was eagerly welcomed.  And since I hadn’t had my fix of lamb this week, the chosen cut was the lamb shank. Braised for hours, the meat will fall off the bone and simply melt in your mouth.  This dish, as with the lamb for my tagine, is actually way better if you put the spice rub on at least 24 hours before….if you can think that far ahead!

Ingredients

Lamb Shanks (over here in the US I buy New Zealand lamb, it is tastier than the milder US lamb.  This week they actually had Icelandic Lamb at Wholefoods.)

Spices(I use a mix of some or all of the following depending on what I have on hand) Corriander, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, thyme, crushed fennel seeds, black pepper, red pepper flakes

1 fennel bulb, chopped finely

1 medium carrot, chopped finely too

1/2 bottle ruby port

1 can beef stock

Salt & Pepper

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Mix all the spices together and rub all over the lamb.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 F

Heat some oil in an oven ready casserole (a good heavy cast iron one does the job brilliantly).  Add the lamb shanks (save any excess spices to add in a bit) and brown on all sides.  Once nice and brown take the lamb out and keep on a plate for the time being.  Add a little bit more oil to the pan and then the chopped fennell and carrots and any of the left over spices.  Sauté over medium heat for about 10 minutes. Add the port and stir up all those little tasty burned lamby bits stuck on the bottom of your pan.  Simmer until reduced by about half.  Add the beef stock and then the lamb shanks. Cover and put in the oven for about two and a half hours. The lamb  will literally fall away from the bone when its done.  Remove from the oven. Gently take the lamb out of its delicious sauce and cover with foil until ready to serve. Using an immersion blender if you have one, if not a regular blender, blend the lovely sauce till smooth.  Season to taste.

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Tonight I served my lamb shank with my favourite Parsnip Purée (see previous post) and some balsamic roasted Carrots and Brussels Sprouts.

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