Sunday, December 7, 2008


Stew made from lamb shanks is another winter favourite of mine. It is rich and hearty: a real stick-to-your-ribs kind of meal. This stew, like any meat stew, requires several hours of simmering until the meat is tender and falls off the bone. I prefer making stew from the shank rather than pieces cut from the shoulder. The bones add lots of gelatin and flavour and create a thick gravy without having to add any additional flour.

You can buy lamb shanks in the freezer section at the supermarket or from your butcher. Ontario lamb is wonderful and usually available by special request from any reputable butcher. The Healthy Butcher gets its hands on the most divine Certified Organic lamb. It costs a fortune (about $15/lb) but is incredibly delicious. Ontario lamb tends to be less barnyard tasting that the frozen New Zealand lamb you find in the freezer section. If you don't like lamb because of that barnyard taste, then only buy the freshest Ontario lamb you can find.

This recipe is concocted from the stew made by Mama Rosa at 7 Numbers restaurant on Eglinton in Toronto. She told me her recipe ("I use garlic, onion, white wine and rosemary" she explained, gesticulating widely). I interpreted her explanation as the following, adding red lentils for additional sustenance. Very tasty.

Serves 2-4
1 Tbsp olive oil
2-4 lamb shanks
3 garlic cloves and 2 shallots, minced
2 cups water
2 cups white wine
1 tsp salt
1 tsp fresh rosemary, minced
1 tsp fresh thyme, minced
2 bay leaves
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1/4 cup dried red lentils
salt & pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
In a heavy large lidded pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Sear the lamb shanks on all sides until they are brown, about 10 minutes. Remove shanks from the pan and set aside. Reduce heat to medium and saute garlic and shallot, being careful not to brown or burn (add more oil if necessary). Return shanks and their juices to the pot, then add the wine, water, salt, herbs and tomato paste. Bring to boil, then simmer covered for 3-4 hours. If the liquid doesn't cover the meat entirely, turn shanks every hour or so.

Once the meat is tender, add the lentils and stir, then simmer another 30 minutes. Remove from heat. If desired, or if serving for more people than there are shanks, remove the bones. Taste liquid for seasoning and finish with extra virgin olive oil.

Serve alongside boiled green peas (this is how Mama Rosa serves hers), soft polenta, or steamed winter greens such as kale, collards or rapini.

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