Roast lamb shank basted with caper and anchovy butter is meltingly tender and flavoursome. Presented on a bed of cabbage, the star of the show.
Chefs don’t like everything
I’ve recently realised that the difference between proper chefs and me – notwithstanding the obvious, like the ability to cook preternaturally smooth béchamel or bake a soufflé – is that they don’t always cook what they like to eat. Unless they like it all. Which I find hard to believe.
Obviously, when creating a menu chefs must design it so it’s appealing to punters, not to themselves. When they test new dishes, it’s the tasters’ opinion that matters rather than their own.
I cook plenty of things for others too but hardly ever foods that I don’t like. Because even though I’m famous for EATING EVERYTHING, I have certain dishes I’m not that keen on.
Lamb shanks, for one.
Lamb shanks are not my idea of yummy
Confession alert: I don’t like lamb shank. I eat it happily on occasion but it wouldn’t be my first choice, whoever cooks.
I’m a meat eater all right, and scary bits of animals don’t freak me out. Offal, cheeks, calf’s head, I’ll scoff it.
But one thing I can’t stand is gristle, those gelatinous bits attached to otherwise nice muscle.
Some people recoil at fat, but fat is good. Fat makes the meat tender, and I do rather adore nice white clean fat attached to a chop, marbled throughout a rib eye steak or the integral element of bacon. I’m up there with Italians who love lardo which is cured, pure fat and gorgeous with it.
But lambs trot around on their little legs (buy free range of course) so the said little legs get so much exercise, fat doesn’t develop, only tendons.
Higher up on a lamb there’s fat of course: the highest up, shoulder, has beautiful fat coating the tender meat and melting away when cooked slow and low.
But whichever way you look at it, shanks are lean. Veiny. With gristly bits.
Still, I’ll show I’m worth my salt here and present you with a marvellously tasty roasted lamb shank. Trust me – I had it tested by someone who adores them.
How to roast lamb shanks?
Roasting is a doddle – seasoning them aptly is the trick. I swear by the caper-anchovy butter: capers and anchovies pounded to a paste, mixed or blended with softened butter, then chilled.
This flavoured butter is then studded into the lamb shanks, where the bone or skin meets the flesh or into incisions made with a sharp small knife. Any remaining can be spread over the skin.
Thus seasoned, lamb shanks will roast for a couple of hours covered not too tightly with foil. For the last 45 minutes the foil will need to come off to help scorch the skin appetisingly.
Rest for ten minutes, then serve with – and I also swear by this combo – quickly cooked cabbage flavoured with bacon and tomato.
How to make stir fried cabbage?
If this were the first cabbage dish you’d ever tasted in your life, cabbage would become your favourite vegetable for life. Sadly, the tasteless boiled cabbage overhang mars its reputation. Try it like this, to change your cabbage outlook for ever.
Bacon crispened in the frying pan is the base to receive shredded cabbage, cherry tomatoes and aromatics, with lots of butter.
And that’s pretty much it, just a couple of minutes of vigorous stir frying, so the cabbage is softened but still al dente. It is most gracious background for the gutsy meat of the lamb shanks.
More lamb recipes
Quick grilled lamb neck fillet marinated overnight in rosemary, mint and honey. Buy it cheap, cook it quick - beats the pricey lamb chops or steaks.
Slow roasted lamb shoulder with anchovies and truffle oil cooked in low oven for four hours. That’s going to be crispy skin and pull-away meat.
Lamb breast, or lamb belly, is a cheap cut which needs to be cooked really slow and low. My recipe is for rolled breast of lamb stuffed with raisins and served with roast grapes. Rolled or unrolled, roast lamb breast is a cut deserving attention and very easy to cook.
More cabbage recipes
Another way to cook cabbage: crispy and caramelised. Brown cabbage Swedish style is simply fried down then baked. This method turns the vegetable into the perfect side dish.
Vietnamese cabbage and prawn salad with nuoc mam dressing, layered on baked brown rice. The best salad bowls are a/ Asian and b/ contain cabbage.
Roasted savoy cabbage charred in the skillet then baked in the oven for 20 minutes, my childhood throwback and one of the best, less common side dishes for fish or pork.