Red wine-braised lamb shanks with cheesy polenta

Oooooooh it just sounds hearty and winter-appropriate, doesn’t it!?

I hadn’t cooked lamb shanks before this recipe, but I’ve eaten my fair share and I think they’re utterly underrated. When they’re cooked low and slow like here, they’re just as good as slow-cooked beef and have heaps of flavour. And you don’t have to treat them very differently.

This is a good dish to make when you have visitors – it sounds pretty fancy and looks pretty darn splendid on the plate. I serve my red wine-braised lamb shanks atop a cheesy bed of polenta, letting the meaty sauce spill all around it, and though it’s not the most photogenic of my experiments, in real life, it’s a big fat hug for all your senses.

It takes 3 hours to make but your casserole dish/oven will do most of the work. Feel free to use a slow cooker if you have one, but make sure you keep it on low and shave a little time off as it can become a little too melt-in-the-mouth (see: falls off the bone and kinda defeats the point of having a shank).

If you Google cheesy polenta there are a variety of instructions that make it seem like hard work but it’s not – you can just follow the packet instructions or bring a pan of water to the boil, pour in the polenta, then stir in butter and cheese. Easy.

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Serves 2

You’ll need:

2 lamb shanks

4 garlic cloves, diced

1 red chilli, diced

1 white onion, chopped

Tsp flour

Paprika

Chilli flakes

Sprig of rosemary

Salt & pepper

200ml passata

Handful of cherry tomato

1/2 glass red wine

100g polenta

1/2 tub grated parmesan

Handful of feta, crumbled

50g butter

Douse the lamb shanks in olive oil and rub with the garlic and chilli. Leave for an hour (or overnight in the fridge if you’re prepared enough) to really let the flavours infuse the meat.

Heat a little more oil in a casserole dish and seal the meat on each side. You just want it to be lightly browned and it’s fine if there are a few red bits still. Once sealed, place the shanks on a plate and set aside.

Add the onion and cook for 10 minutes with salt and pepper. Then, add the flour, paprika, chilli flakes, and rosemary. Stir for 1 minute, then add the passata, tomatoes, and red wine. Let that bubble away for about 15 minutes until the sauce is thick and the tomatoes have broken down.

Place the shanks in the casserole dish. The liquid should almost cover them, if not, add a mug of lamb or chicken stock.

Roast in the oven (without a lid) for 30 minutes, and then pop the lid on and cook for another hour and a half.

Once cooked, let the shanks rest in the liquid for 20-30 minutes with the lid on but skewed to let a little heat out.

While the shanks are resting, make the cheesy polenta as per my previous instructions or the packet. You can have it plain if you so wish but I’d definitely recommend making it cheesy!

Serve the shank on top of the polenta and smother in the rich sauce that’s left behind. A handful of wilted spinach provides a welcome hit of health.

Top tip: You probably won’t use all the lovely sauce – I actually had about a pint left over! – but don’t throw it away. Keep it (covered) in the fridge for up to a week, and use it as a base for something else. We popped it in the slow cooker with beef mince and turned it into a cottage pie, and I’d bet my bottom dollar it’d make for a great bolognese or chilli with a few extras.

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Freelance writer, eater, drinker and cook living in London.

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