Lamb shanks are ideal slow roasted or braised. This is a braised version, and a classic red wine sauce is used as the braising liquid.
The red wine sauce is super simple to make but after hours of slow cooking, it transforms into an incredible rich, deeply flavoured sauce that’s silky and glossy, and looks totally posh-restauranty.
The wine is a key flavour for the broth in this recipe. However, if you cannot consume alcohol, substitute the wine with the following: 1.5 cups beef broth LOW SODIUM + 1 cup water. + 1 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce. Beef has a stronger deeper flavour than chicken so will be more suited to being the sub for wine.
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 2hrs 50 mins
Total time: 3hrs
- 4 lamb shanks , around 13 oz / 400g each
- 1 tsp each salt and pepper
- 2 – 3 tbsp olive oil , separated
- 1 cup onion , finely diced (brown, yellow or white)
- 3 garlic cloves , minced
- 1 cup carrot , finely diced
- 1 cup celery , finely diced
- 2 1/2 cups / 625 ml red wine , full bodied (good value wine, not expensive!)
- 28 oz / 800g can crushed tomatoes
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 cups / 500 ml chicken stock, low sodium (or water)
- 5 sprigs of thyme (preferably tied together), or 2 tsp dried thyme
- 2 dried bay leaves (or 4 fresh)
- Mashed potato, polenta or pureed cauliflower
- Fresh thyme leaves, optional garnish
- Preheat the oven to 350F/180C.
- Pat the lamb shanks dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a heavy based pot over high heat. Sear the lamb shanks in 2 batches until brown all over, about 5 minutes.
- Remove lamb onto a plate and drain excess fat (if any) from the pot.
- Turn the heat down to medium low. Heat remaining 1 tbsp of olive oil in the same pot, if needed. Add the onion and garlic, cook for 2 minutes.
- Add carrot and celery. Cook for 5 minutes until onion is translucent and sweet.
- Add the red wine, chicken stock, crushed tomato, tomato paste, thyme and bay leaves. Stir to combine.
- Place the lamb shanks into the pot, squeezing them in to fit so they are mostly submerged.
- Turn stove up, bring to a simmer. Cover, then transfer to the oven for 2 hours (see notes for other cook methods).
Remove from oven, remove lid, then return to the oven for another 30 minutes (so 2 1/2 hours in total). Check to ensure lamb is tender – if not, cover and keep cooking. Ideal is tender meat but still holding onto bone.
Remove lamb onto plate and keep warm. Pick out and discard bay leaves and thyme.
Strain the sauce into a bowl, pressing to extract all sauce out of the veggies (Note 5 for repurposing the veggies). Pour strained sauce back into pot. Bring to simmer over medium heat and reduce slightly to a syrupy consistency (see video) – I rarely need to. Taste then add salt and pepper to taste.
Serve the lamb shanks on mashed potato or cauliflower puree with plenty of sauce! Garnish with thyme leaves if desired.
- Lamb Shanks – sizes vary considerably so make sure you get ones that will fit in your cooking vessel! 4 x 400g/13oz lamb shanks fits snugly in a 26cm/11″ diameter Chasseur dutch oven which is what I use. They don’t need to be completely submerged, just as long as most of the meaty end is mostly submerged, that’s fine.
If you don’t have a pot large enough, you can switch to a baking dish for the slow cooking part, and cover with a double layer of foil if you don’t have a lid for it.
You can also ask your butcher to cut the shaft so it bends if you are concerned, or to trim it slightly.
- Onion, carrot and celery is the “holy trinity” of slow cooking, creating a beautiful flavour base for the sauce. It’s not a deal breaker to exclude the carrot and celery, but it does give the sauce an extra edge.
- Wine – Use a good value full bodied red wine, like cabaret sauvignon or merlot. Shiraz is ok too. No need to use expensive wine for slow cooked recipes like this (and the New York Times agrees). Use discount end of bin specials (I get mine from Dan Murphey’s). Pinots not suitable, too light.
99% of the alcohol in the red wine evaporates during cooking. The sauce does not taste winey at all, it completely transforms.
Non alcoholic sub: 1.5 cups beef broth LOW SODIUM, 1 cup water. + 1 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce. Beef has a stronger deeper flavour than chicken so will be more suited to being the sub for wine.
- Most of the alcohol in the red wine will evaporate during this step but not completely – it will finish evaporating during the slow cooking. The sauce does not taste winey at all, it completely transforms.
- Sauce options: The other option is to blitz the sauce using a sick blender. The sauce will be thicker, and you’ll have more of it (leftovers great tossed through pasta). This is what I used to do, but nowadays I prefer to strain the sauce because I like how glossy and rich it is – this is how restaurants serve it. You could also skip straining or blitzing, it just means you get little veg lumps in the sauce. All are tasty options, it mainly comes down to visual.
TIP: If you strain the sauce, keep the veggies etc in the strainer to make a terrific sauce, they are loaded with flavour even though all juice is squeezed out of them. What I do is make a basic tomato sauce with garlic, onion, canned tomato and water. Then I blitz that with the veggies. Use it to make a killer pasta or lasagna!!
- OTHER COOK OPTIONS:
Slow cooker – Follow recipe to step 7. Bring sauce to simmer, scrape bottom of pot to get all brown bits into the liquid. Place shanks in slow cooker, add the sauce. Cook on low for 8 hours. Remove shanks, strain and reduce sauce to desired thickness on stove (if you blitz per Note 5, you won’t need to reduce).
Pressure Cooker – Follow Slow Cooker steps, cook for 40 minutes on high. Release pressure according to manufacturer directions.
Stove – to cook this on the stove, cook for about 2 hours on low, ensuring that you check it at 1 hour then every 30 minutes thereafter to ensure there is enough braising liquid (because liquid evaporates faster on the stove). Turn the lamb shanks twice. You won’t get the brown crust, but the flavour is the same!
- Cauliflower puree – boil cauliflower florets until soft, drain and let steam dry for few minutes. Then puree with butter, milk or cream, salt and pepper. Use milk to adjust the consistency to your taste.
- Nutrition per serving. This is conservative – it doesn’t take into account fat trimmed from shanks or discarded fat. Also assumes all sauce is consumed which it probably won’t be.