People have often said to me they find slow-cooking ‘fussy’ and time-consuming; with the impression you have to plan your life around your food, not visa versa. In actual fact, this couldn’t be further from the truth! Slow-cooking is a wonderful way of preparing food. You simply put dinner in the oven, then go off and leave it. These lamb-shanks were in for 8 hours – I put them on in the morning and we went out for the day. Then arriving home in the evening, dinner was all but ready. What could be easier or more convenient than that!
Lamb lends itself perfectly to this treatment. Over time, the meat becomes so succulently tender it literally falls off the bone; at the same time developing a delicious chewy crust on top, which is moreish in the extreme! Any cut of lamb ‘on the bone’ will work for this recipe – I used shanks, but you can equally use shoulder, leg or even chops. The technique can also be applied to pork or beef – ham hocks cooked this way are truly sublime, as is oxtail or ribs. With slow-cooking, the world is your oyster!
The only carbs her are the cellular carbohydrates locked up in the vegetables themselves. This is the best and most natural way of processing glucose – there’s a thick wall of fibre for your stomach to work through first before the energy is released; making what little carbohydrate there is slow release (this recipe is slow all round!). As such, it’s perfect for diabetics or those on a ketogenic diet. Gluten-intolerants and paleo-fans can also tuck in with gusto, and because this dish looks so beautiful, it’s the perfect thing to serve up at a dinner-party if any of your guests are following one of the above eating plans. In short – it’s a winner all round!
Start by seasoning your shanks. Place these in a heavy-based pan and seal in a hot oven for 15 minutes; or sufficiently long to brown the surface. Then turn your oven down to circa 120-130ºc and lift the pan out. If you have a fan oven or are cooking with gas, leave the door open for a minute to allow the temperature to drop.
Now tumble in a chopped onion and pour in a good glass of red wine or port. Add sufficient water to at least three quarters cover the shanks and then return these to the oven to cook for at least four hours. Whether you place a lid on the pan depends on the heat-source you’re using. Fan-ovens tend to dry-cook food, evaporating the liquid, which can result in ‘dry’ or tough meat. If you’re using one of these, I’d advise putting a lid on the pan to prevent moisture loss. If you’re cooking on gas or an aga, you’ll be fine to leave the dish uncovered.
As I detailed above, I left these shanks in the oven for 8 hours. Upon returning home, the liquid had only reduced by an inch and the meat was sublimely tender. The top had developed a glossy crust; which locks all the juices into the meat, preventing them from evaporating upwards during cooking. When ready, drain off all but a half-centimetre of the liquid and return the pan to the low oven with the lid off to crisp up even further.
Place a solid casserole onto the hob and melt in a little butter and oil. Finely slice an onion and sauté this for a couple of minutes, before crushing in a generous clove of garlic or two. Whilst these are cooking, peel and dice your celeriac into pieces of less that 1cm cubes. Turn up the heat a little and add these to the pan, stirring as you do so to prevent the vegetables from sticking. Sauté for a couple of minutes and then pour in your lamb-stock until the vegetables are covered. If you need to add a little water to this, all well and good. Season the mix then crumble in a stock-cube for background warmth. Sprinkle in some dried herbs (sage, oregano or thyme are wonderful) then place a lid on the pan to simmer for ten minutes, allowing the celeriac to soften before you reduce the liquid.
When the 10 minutes are up, take the lid off the pan and taste to adjust the seasoning. Give the pan a good stir, then leave the lid off to allow the moisture to evaporate. You’ll need to stir this occasionally to prevent the contents from sticking. When you have approximately half a centimetre’s depth of liquid remaining, add your washed sugar-snap peas and stir in to cook through for the last five minutes.
At this point, take your lamb out of the oven to rest until the stock has all but reduced from the vegetables. If you’re feeling indulgent (I was), you can grate a handful of cheese and stir this through the celeriac to add richness. This is by no means essential, so I leave the choice entirely up to you!
Spoon your vegetables into broad bowls, then place one shank on each, with the bone standing upright like a bayonet to add a little theatre! Drizzle a spoonful of the lamb-juices over each portion, then garnish with chopped herbs and a cheery cherry tomato for colour!
Then simply dig in. Believe me, it’ll be worth the wait!
Browse this and other recipes by picture on my pinterest page: country walks in ketosis pinterest.
Thanks for reading and bon ap!