I picked up two lamb shanks that were reduced at the butchers counter of my supermarket and popped them in the freezer for a weekend meal. I have always slow cooked lamb shanks in a casserole dish until they fall apart and planned on doing the same thing here. I then remembered I had a cutout from a Good Food magazine showing how to make a salt crust to bake the lamb inside and whilst it looked more tricky than a regular casserole I thought I would give it a go. I was a bit concerned about how salty the meat would be, especially after I made the mistake of picking at a bit of caramelised juice that had leaked out onto the tray when I took them out the oven and found it tasted like pure salt crystals…but actually the taste was divine. The lamb has a lot more texture than when it is braised, mainly due to the fact it is steamed in its own juice rather than soaking in a bath of liquid, so it holds its shape a lot more. That it not to say the meat is not juicy, it really is, and the flavour is really deep and rich. I was worried about the lack of sauce which you normally expect with a slow cooked meat so at the last minute I panicked and made an onion gravy. It turned out very nicely but in future I would probably plan ahead and use proper lamb stock to tie the flavour together. It is always super exciting to get the blow torch out too – a lot more of a wow factor than just a casserole dish being presented on the table! You can find the original recipe on the Good Food website here.
Ingredients – serves 2
- 500g plain flour
- 150g fine sea salt
- 2 egg whites
- 2 lamb shanks (French trimmed but see in method below if not)
- 4 garlic cloves
- drizzle of olive oil
Optional gravy and veg:
- one red onion, finely sliced
- splash of red wine
- a tablespoon of some kind of jelly (redcurrant/apple etc)
- 500ml chicken stock (preferably lamb though if you have it)
- 2 tablespoons of plain flour
- cornflour if needed
- mashed potatoes (peeled maris piper potatoes, knob of salted butter, splash of milk, seasoning, and a handful of chopped fresh parsley and chives)
- green vegetable (I used kale)
Method – takes about 5 hours from start to finish but only about 30 mins of hands on action!
Start by preparing the crust: mix the flour, salt and egg in a bowl with a wooden spoon and add water until it comes together in a heavy dry mixture. Knead for 5 minutes until it is smooth the fridge in a ball for an hour.
Cut the dough in half and use a rolling pin to roll out until about 0.5cm thick. Place two garlic cloves in the middle and lay a shank on top. Use a pastry brush with some milk to dampen the edges of the dough, then wrap up the shank tightly. I didn’t have my shanks trimmed as it recommended in the recipe so I covered them up completely with the crust to hide all of the meat. As the meat shrinks away from the bone when it cooks it had a french trimmed appearance at the end so I would’t worry about it if you can’t. Put the parcels in a roasting tin lined with baking paper and cook in the oven for 3 and a half hours at 140 degrees (fan oven).
Remove the tray from the oven and leave to rest for half an hour.
During this time you could make a gravy and some vegetables. I made a gravy by first frying off the onions in the roasting tin that the lamb had been cooking in.
Add the wine and let the alcohol cook off. Use the liquid to get any burnt or sticky bits off the pan. Add the jelly (I had some homemade apple spiced jelly from Christmas) and plenty of seasoning. Stir in the flour until soaked into the onions and let is cook for a minute. Add the stock and bring to a simmer for 5-10 minutes until it has thickened and it nice and glossy. Use cornflour to thicken if it is too runny. I like my gravy nice and thick so it coats everything I pour it on! Meanwhile I boiled the potatoes for ten minutes, then mash them with butter, milk, seasoning and fresh herbs. In the last two minutes I pan fried kale with seasoning and a squeeze of lemon.
When all the sides are prepared, cut open the lamb packages with a bread knife. On a baking tray drizzle the shanks with a little olive oil, then use a blow torch to sear the outside of the meat and give it an nice caramelised texture. Serve up with your choice of sides.