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lamb shank with stir fried cabbage

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Lamb shank

I’ve recently realised that the difference between proper chefs and me – notwithstanding the obvious, like the ability to cook lumpless 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. Even I, and I’m famous for EATING EVERYTHING, have certain dishes I’m not that keen on.

Lamb shanks, for one.

I’m a meat eater all right, and scary bits of animal 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. 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, an integral element of bacon needless to say. Lardo – pure fat and gorgeous.

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, there’s fat all right, the highest up, shoulder, beautiful fat coats the tender meat and melts away when cooked slow and low.

Shanks are lean. Veiny. With gristly bits.

I had a shank languishing in the freezer for a while, won at a meat auction held in a restaurant a while back, so waste not – want not, I cooked it. It was all right. Caper and anchovy butter stuffed generously around the bone helped.

lamb shank with stir fried cabbage

Servings: 1 shank per personTime: 4 hours

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 lamb shank per person
  • 2 tbsp. butter, very soft
  • 1 heaped tsp capers in brine, drained
  • 2-3 anchovy fillets
  • rosemary salt*
  • For the cabbage (full recipe here):
  • 1 small head of spring or pointed cabbage, shredded roughly
  • 2-3 rashers of streaky bacon, diced
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • a drizzle of white wine vinegar
  • dried marjoram
  • a handful of cherry tomatoes
  • 2-3 tbsp. ketchup
  • *to make the rosemary salt, grind stripped rosemary needles in a coffee grinder with a spoonful of coarse sea salt, store in a small jar. Alternatively just chop the rosemary very, very finely and mix with fine salt.

Fresh lamb shank


METHOD

1. Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/gas 3.

2. Prepare the anchovy and caper butter: pound the anchovy and capers in a pestle and mortar until they turn into rough paste. Add to the softened butter and mix very well. You can also whiz it in a small blender. Chill the butter before using.

Caper and anchovy butter

3. With a sharp knife make a couple of incisions into the shanks along the bone. Stuff the butter as far in as you can, stuff some also in between the flesh muscles and smear some over the skin. Place the shanks in a roasting tin and cover with aluminium foil.

Lamb shank ready to roast

4. Bake for 2 ½ - 3 hours, taking off the foil for the final 45 minutes. Let the shanks rest before serving.

5. Make the cabbage while the meat is resting: cook the bacon with the butter in a large frying pan or a wok until almost crispy. Turn the heat up and add the cabbage, the seasonings, the tomatoes and ketchup and stir fry for a few minutes until wilted but still retaining a bit of a bite. Serve a shank perched on top of a pile of cabbage.

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