Wednesday, 29 April 2015


Lamb Shanks In Red Wine and Summer Berries

Ingredients (to feed 2):

2 Lamb shanks on the bone
2 Banana shallots finely chopped
2 Cloves of garlic finely chopped
150g Mixed summer berries such as raspberries, blackberries, blue berries etc
(Waitrose sell packs of frozen summer berries)
Large glass of red wine
2 Carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
50g Small garden peas or petite pois
Handful of parsley (about 6-8 sprigs)
The same sized handful of thyme
1 Sprig of rosemary
1 Bay leaf

The cooking:

This dish is suitable for a slow cooker as well as a conventional oven. Start by seasoning your lamb shanks with plenty of freshly ground salt and pepper. Set aside for a few minutes. Then, melt a knob of butter in a tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Lay the lamb shanks in and seal on all sides. Keep turning them every 2 minutes until they are golden/brown on all sides and underneath. Set aside in your slow cooked, or in a casserole dish. Next, de-glaze the frying pan by adding a small glass of water to it, and stirring it gently over the heat for a minute, to absorb all the meat juices and and bits from the pan. Pour over the shanks.

Next, add another knob of butter to the pan. Throw in the shallots and lightly fry for about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and the berries. Turn the heat up and stir. Then add your wine and cook on the high heat until it has reduced down (about 4 to 5 minutes). Then pour over the shanks. Add your chopped carrots and lace all the herbs on one side (to make them easy to pull out once cooked). Finally top it up with water from the kettle so it nearly covers everything (just islands of meat sticking out of the top).

If you are using a slow cooker, put the lid on and cook on the "low" setting all day (approx 6 to 8 hours). If you are using an oven, put the lid on your casserole dish and place in an oven at 120 degrees c for 5-6 hours. Check it every couple of hours to make sure it does not dry out.

The only problem with slow cookers, is that they tend to produce watery sauces. So if you have opted for this method of cooking, when you are ready to serve up, thicken up your sauce first. I would do this by putting a sieve over a large jug and pouring the contents of the slow cooker through it. All the juices will pass through. All the meat and veg gets left behind. Return the meat and veg to the slow cooker (but turn it off), just to keep it warm. In a pan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter and add to it 2 table spoons of cornflour and stir into a paste over a medium heat. Then, gradually add the juices from the jug to it. No more than a cup full at a time. Every time you add some sauce, stir it with a whisk until it is all absorbed and then add the next. Keep going until you have used all the sauce then turn up the heat and whisk continuously until you get the consistency you want. Like a gravy.

Serve up with fresh green savoy cabbage, fine beans and some creamy mash potato.

A couple of variations you may want to try. If you find this sauce too quite bitter, then 10 minutes before serving up, stir in a tablespoon of honey to make it a sweet sauce. You can also add mustard to it if you want a bit more bight. its up to you really.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Braised Neck of Lamb Casserole with Butter Beans

Braised Neck of Lamb Casserole with Butter Beans

A traditional Provencal farm house dish. Still often a favourite on rural cafe set menus in the South of France. Tastes amazing, doddle to cook and uses cheap ingredients. For best results use fresh herbs rather than dried ones. Feeds 4.


500 - 600g of lamb neck fillets
5 salad tomatoes, chopped roughly into chuncks
500mls boiled water
2 tins of butter beans
200g of smoked bacon lardons
1 large handful of curly leaf parsley (6 or 7 sprigs)
The same quantity of thyme (6 or 7 springs)
2 bay leafs
1 sprig of rosemary
25g unsalted butter
2 table spoons of olive oil
6 whole garlic cloves peeled

The cooking:

Preheat your oven to 150 degrees and prep your ingredients. In a frying pan, on a low to medium flame, heat your olive oil and butter until it starts to froth. Fry your lamb fillets in the butter and oil for 8 to 10 minutes, turning frequently and seasoning with freshly ground sea salt and black pepper as you go. You want them to end up browned all over.

Remove from the heat and transfer the neck fillets into a casserole dish. Spoon the excess fat out of your frying pan and then pour in 100ml of your boiled water, return to the heat and stir, to deglaze your pan. In effect what you are doing here is absorbing all the crispy brown bits and all the meat juices from the pan. You should achieve this in less than 2 minutes. Once done, pour this liquid over your lamb neck fillets in your casserole dish.

Now add to the casserole all your other ingredients except the lardons and the butter beans. Specifically, that is your 6 peeled but not chopped garlic cloves, your tomatoes, the parsley, thyme, rosemary and bay leafs and as much water as is required to cover your ingredients in the casserole. Cover with a lid and place into your preheated oven and cook for between 1 hour 30 and 2 hours.

An hour before the dish is ready, place your bacon lardons on a baking tin and place them onto a shelf in your oven to crisp up. Once they have browned and reached the desired degree of crispness use a slotted spoon to separate them from the fat that has been rendered from them cooking and place them and your butter beans into your casserole for the last 45 minutes of cooking.

Serve up in a bowl with some rice and a chunk of rustic bread.