Every school holidays, I spend a fair bit of time with my dad, and one of the little things we do together is go to nice cafe in Windsor (Simon’s), hit up the lolly store opposite while Dad has a conniption over the price of old fashioned sweets that he loved as a kid and bought with currency that was removed from circulation in 1966, then drive up to M & A Butchery in Wilberforce to buy meat while Dad has a conniption over me doing things like spending $20 on a rabbit to cook “for fun”, when he was forced to eat it as a child due to being so poor. I’m not too sure how or when this tradition came to be, but I really do treasure it so.
An extension of this tradition is that I buy and cook lamb shanks on “abattoir day”, largely because the shanks from this place are large, meaty and relatively cheap, unlike what I usually see in the supermarket. I have many recipes for shanks due to a number of old cookbooks that say infuriating things like “try lamb shanks for a cheap and tasty meal”, which pairs beautifully with my dad’s third conniption of the trip: “I can’t believe the price! I used to feed these to Jedda (a dog who died long before my birth) because they were so cheap!” This plum and wine recipe, however, is the Official Family Shank – a firm favourite by far. The sweetness of the jam complements the richness of the lamb, and the peppery undertones bring it all together. Which brings me to the wine: I prefer to use a shiraz, to cut through the sweet, but have made it with several types of wine, and never had a bad experience. Whatever you do, make it a good one, because you really can taste it. It’s worthy of a decent wine, anyway. It’s a crowd pleaser (although for economics, it’d best be a small crowd!) and I often pull it out for dinner guests, and occasions like Quarant-Easter, which was spent in lockdown but still deserved a little pomp and circumstance. I tried to work out the calories, but there are a lot of variables: the size of shanks aren’t standardised and you don’t actually consume all of the sauce, so the best I can come up with, is that with mash and veg, you probably are eating about 700 calories. Not an everyday dish, that’s for sure, but not too bad for a special treat.
Oh, and the leftovers. The best sammich I’ve ever had. Seriously.
4 Frenched lamb shanks
2 tbs olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
1tsp dried rosemary leaves
1tsp dried thyme leaves
1 cup red wine
1 1/2 cup chicken stock
2tbs worcestershire sauce
1 cup plum jam
Pepper, to taste
Mashed potato and steamed veggies, to serve
- Preheat oven to 160C.
- Dust shanks with flour, and shake off excess.
- Heat 1tbs oil in a large, flameproof casserole dish over medium heat. In batches (depending on size of shanks and dish), brown shanks all over, and transfer to a plate.
- Heat remaining oil and cook onions for five minutes, until translucent. Add wine and bring to boil. Add stock, herbs, jam, worcestershire sauce, and pepper (generously), and cook for one minute.
- Return shanks to the dish. Cover and transfer to oven. Cook for one hour. Remove from oven, baste, and continue cooking uncovered for 30 minutes.
- Serve with mashed potatoes and vegetables.