This is the ultimate lamb shank dish.  Slow cooked, tender-fall-off-the-bone meat with a sauce that has the basics……and then some!  There are so many elements of flavour that you really don’t need much more than some nutty brown rice or cheesy, soft polenta and some crunchy green beans  for the perfect accompaniment.  I have also used the basis of this recipe for other meats such as rabbit and veal shanks.

Prep time:   30 Minutes             Cooking time:  31/2 Hours                  $   Low Budget

Serves 4

Olive oil for frying

4 lamb shanks

3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 large brown onion, finely diced

1 carrot, peeled and diced

2 celery stalks, diced

100gm of diced pancetta*

2 bay leaves

5 dried juniper berries*

1/2 a bunch of thyme

1/2 a bunch of rosemary

1/2 a bottle of good quality dry red wine

400gm tin of crushed tomatoes

400gm tin of cherry tomatoes

2 tbs of tomato paste

2 tsp of sugar

sea salt and cracked black pepper

For the Gremolata:

1 small garlic clove, crushed or very finely chopped

rind of 1/2 a lemon

1 sprig of rosemary, stalk removed

1/4 cup of mint leaves

Heat a heavy based casserole dish or large fry pan and fry the pancetta until crispy. Remove from the pan and set aside.  There should be a nice amount of fat left in the bottom to brown the lamb shanks on all sides.  You can add a little olive oil if you need to.  Remove the shanks and set aside.  In the pan juices, lightly fry the garlic and onion until the onion is translucent.  Return the pancetta to the pan and add the carrot, celery and juniper berries.  When the veggies have softened add the red wine and bay leaves, bring to the boil and reduce heat to a simmer for approximately 10 minutes.

While the liquid is reducing, tie the thyme and rosemary bunches together with a piece of kitchen string and pop them in the pan along with both tins of tomatoes, tomato paste and sugar and season with salt and pepper.  Return the lamb shanks and whatever juice is with them to the pan, making sure they are nice and buried in the sauce.  Bring back to a boil, reduce heat to low, pop on a lid and don’t lift it for an hour.  After an hour give the shanks a little shuffle and cook with the lid on for another hour.  Shuffle again but this time, cook for 1/2 an hour with the lid off, to reduce the liquid a little and pop it on for a further 1/2 an hour. Long and slow is the key!

To make the gremolata I use a potato peeler to get the rind off the lemon.  Slice it into fine little batons and remove the rosemary from the stalk.  On a large chopping board, chop the garlic, lemon rind, rosemary and mint until you have a lovely fine mixture that will smell amazing.

Serve the shanks with brown rice, polenta or mash…….whatever takes your fancy!  Make sure to spoon over plenty of sauce and top with a generous sprinkle of the gremolata.  With dishes such as this, there is usually a lot of sauce left over.  I freeze it and add it to the next slow cooked meat dish I make.  The flavour intensifies and the dishes get better and better…..twice cooked!

* Dried juniper berries are available at good supermarkets and gourmet food shops.  You can buy pancetta already diced in the cold meat section of the supermarket.  I like to buy it in a chunk, which isn’t always available at the supermarket but you should be able to get it at most delicatessens.  This is called flat pancetta.