Taking inspiration to post my Indian Lamb Shanks. Thanks Karen!

Indian Lamb Shanks (24 of 24)I had a great post organised. What could be easier to write about? Indian style lamb shanks made from delicious Irish lamb.  Also, we had decided to make our own coconut milk from scratch. That had to be something most of you haven’t tried. This was going to be easy. So I concocted the recipe, organised the ingredients, cooked the meal and photographed the proceedings. Why then, did I find myself writing, scrapping and re-writing this post four times? That was until I saw Karen’s recipe for Lamb Shanks with Gremolata Crumbs. That fired and inspired me. 

Karen didn’t do anything with a hammer and nail in her post. This bit will separate my post from others. We were in the supermarket and saw coconuts on sale at 69c each. We bought two and set about our work. You will need the following utensils: a hammer, a nail, a blunt knife and a peeling knife. First, Hammer the nail through two of the coconut’s eyes. (A good thing we are not cooking a cat, or a dog).

A good thing it's inanimate. Though I thought it was watching me.

A good thing it’s inanimate. Though I thought it was watching me.

You want to make two holes so the air can get in as the water comes out. Pour the coconut water out into a bowl.

That's the second coconut, otherwise, you might think I had found a coconut Tardis.

That’s the second coconut, otherwise, you might think I had found a coconut Tardis.

Take the coconuts out to the back garden and hammer them until they crack and the insides start to come away from the shell. Having bashed the first one open in the kitchen, I learned that this work is definitely for the outdoors. Safety glasses are not a bad idea either.

The coconut meat revealed after removing the shell.

The coconut meat revealed after removing the shell.

Next, pry the flesh away from the shell using the blunt knife. You don’t want to risk a sharp knife. Trust me, I did. I’ll bet Karen didn’t stab herself preparing her (admittedly delicious) lamb shanks. Pare off the tough brown crust around the flesh. This can be hard going. Chop the flesh into small pieces and put it in a blender. Add the coconut water (through a sieve) and then add about half as much boiling water. Blend immediately.

The blender burned it's motor out dong this little lot.

The blender burned its motor out doing this little lot. Again, did Karen burn out her blender? No.

Strain the resulting mess through muslin, squeezing it to get as much wonderful coconut milk as possible.

Not a pretty sight but worth the effort.

Not a pretty sight but worth the effort.

This yielded a bowl full.

The bowl of coconut milk with the burned out blender shamed in the background.

The bowl of coconut milk with the burned out blender shamed in the background.

The coconut milk is delicious. Soft flavour and creamy texture combine to make a wonderful base for our Indian Lamb Shanks.

There is a lot of flavour in this dish. That flavour comes from a lot of ingredients. So, here’s a picture of everything that went into the dish (except the lamb shanks).

Unusual for me to forget the main ingredient in the shot. In truth, there was no rom.

Unusual for me to forget the main ingredient in the shot. In truth, there was no room.

Ingredients:

  • Milk of two coconuts (or a couple of cans if you are a wimp).
  • 4 onions
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 6 cm or so of ginger
  • 6 sticks of cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon of chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon of fennel seeds
  • 1 tablespoon of cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon of turmeric
  • 8 cloves
  • 12 – 16 cardamom pods
  • A generous handful of coriander
  • A grating of nutmeg
  • 1 tin of tomatoes
  • Salt and black pepper
  • Flour to dust the shanks

Here’s what you would need to do.

Season the flour with some salt and pepper. Brown the shanks in a pan.

My shanks look very inspiring. Why could I not come up with a post idea?

My shanks look very inspiring. Why could I not come up with a post idea?

Dry-fry the fennel and cumin seeds.

Cumin and fennel seeds get browned in a dry pan. The aromas are inspiring...

Cumin and fennel seeds get browned in a dry pan. The aromas are inspiring…

Then crush them along with the cinnamon, cloves and seeds from the cardamom pods.

Crush the aromatics hoping to release some inspiration at the same time.

Crush the aromatics hoping to release some inspiration at the same time.

Roughly chop the onions and brown them in a large oven-proof dish.

Wow! Those tomatoes are very red.

Wow! Those tomatoes are very red.

Add the small mountain of spices.

I did say there was a lot of flavour in this. Here's where most of it originates.

I did say there was a lot of flavour in this. Here’s where most of it originates.

Stir this to make a goo. Add the lamb shanks, being careful to cover every bit of them with the spice/onion/tomato mess.

Everything coated. I know Karen didn't use so much spice.

Everything coated. I know Karen didn’t use so much spice.

Next add the coconut milk.

A totally gratuitous pouring shot. My first ever coconut milk pouring shot.

A totally gratuitous pouring shot. My first ever coconut milk pouring shot.

Side note on making your own coconut milk: Despite the self harm and hard work involved, it is well worth the trouble. I encourage you to try it as the resulting milk has vastly more freshness and flavour than the tinned stuff. Not that I am dissing the tin.

Cover this with aluminium foil (shiny side facing the cooking) and pop it into the oven at 150º C for four hours.

This is what they will look like after the first round of cooking.

This is what they will look like after the first round of cooking.

Pour off the liquid and what remains of the onions and spices through a sieve and then separate the fat from the liquid.

Separating the gravy into a saucepan. Contrast the colour with the next photo.

Separating the gravy into a saucepan. Contrast the colour with the next photo.

Pour the resulting gravy into a saucepan and reduce until nice and thick. Pour this back over the lamb shanks and return them to the oven for another 30 to 45 minutes, uncovered, turning and basting them occasionally. In the interim, squeeze the remaining liquid out of the onion / herb mixture and keep it warm.

The gravy thickened (and a lot browner as a result) goes over the shanks.

The gravy thickened (and a lot browner as a result) goes over the shanks.

If the liquid is getting too thick, cover them. Cook until the meat if just about falling off the bone.  At the last minute, chop the coriander.

An action shot is called for. Chopping the coriander.

An action shot is called for. Chopping the coriander.

I served mine on a bed of polenta made with chicken stock and plenty of salt and pepper. First I put down a spoon of that beautiful spice mixture.

It would have been a crime to waste this incredible mix of flavours.

It would have been a crime to waste this incredible mix of flavours.

Then spoon over the polenta.

The polenta is a lovely contrast and flavour carrier. Great with spicy foods.

The polenta is a lovely contrast and flavour carrier. Great with spicy foods.

Settle a lamb shank on top. pour over some of the gravy and sprinkle with coriander.

We had it with a nice cold beer. This was very, very satisfying and tasty.

We had it with a nice cold beer. This was very, very satisfying and tasty.

Thanks Karen for giving me the nudge needed to finish this post. The occasion was also the first outing for my ‘Indian’ tablecloth, bought from a market stall in Dublin city. But, that’s another story altogether. Perhaps I could use it for a blog post? Yes, perhaps.

 

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Latest comments
  • Well done for all the hard work… I bet you must have enjoyed the result. I looks delicious with all those spices!

    • Thanks for the comment. It was one of the tastiest Indian dishes I have ever cooked. Well worth the process.

  • It looks great. Especially the coconut-milking-experience is admirable.

  • I’m running out of hats to take off to you – and I have a lot of hats. Well done for making your own coconut milk – I know all the Indian cookery writers say it’s a vast improvement on the tinned stuff but I’ve never found the time. I have to go and eat something now. You’ve made me ravenous.

    • Hi Linda, put the hats back on (if that’s what one does in these circumstances). My brother in Dar es Salaam sent me a picture of a coconut shredding station. The shaver sits on it and shreds the coconut on a thing called a beard, attached to it. That would have been worthy of a naked head.

  • What a terrific recipe…I can just imagine the incredible taste your lamb shanks had. I’m happy that I played a small part in your getting your post finished. 🙂 Sorry about your injury, I hope it wasn’t serious. I made a coconut cream pie using fresh coconuts and said never again…even though the taste was the best I ever had. I’ll try your dish with canned coconut milk. 😀

    • Thank you Karen and ‘Thank you’ again for your assistance with preparing the post. You did provide the spark to get things going. I read your mail to the Wife and she laughed at the prospect of welcoming more blog tourists to our shores. We have the welcome mat out.
      Best,
      Conor

      • Truly, my pleasure… and thank you!

  • Oh Conor I can smell the spices from here! With coconut milk your dish had to be amazing! Despite my deep passion for polenta I’ve never thought to use it in a Indian inspired recipe! great to know!

    • Thanks, I get a lot of pleasure from working with the spices, particularly when I get to grind my own. It makes such a big difference to the depth and range of flavour.

  • My husband and I have been entertaining the idea of making our own coconut milk. Figured it was worth trying. I think I”ll be trying this recipe as well. Looks gorgeous.

    • Hi Virginia, Do please give it a spin and let me know how it turns out. I feel a bit like a lone voice promoting the coconut industry. Come join me!

  • Wow Conor, you do take your quest for maximum taste to the extreme! I bow to your commitment. I think that I’d be a total liability with a hammer and a coconut so I’ll either have to stick with the tins or else hire you to come on over and do them for me

  • I have a friend who loves an excuse to don his safety specs, and also loves lamb. To date, most of his safety spec-donning opportunities have been shed related. I will send him this link to see if we can’t give him some food related excuses too!

    • Hi Mel,
      Thanks for the visit and kind comments. Get that chap out of his shed and into the kitchen! This is a good way to play with the tools and produce something very tasty.
      Best,
      Conor

  • Wow, Conor, I’m so impressed. Can’t believe you actually made your own coconut milk! I tried this once and it was a ridiculous amount of work. Beautiful pictures as usual. I should really watch them on a large screen rather than on my phone on the train to do them justice. What I like is that you have your own style of recipes. Despite the large number of ingredients (needed for the spice mix), the recipe is very ‘Conor’ 🙂 Keep it up!

    • Thanks for the words of encouragement Stefan. Funny enough, I have cooked a couple of ‘posts’ recently and I feel that they are just not blogworthy. I am wondering if it’s just my mood or if I need to step it up a gear. Time will tell…

      • If you thought this post wasn’t blogworthy, you are being silly.

        • Not that one. The one I am struggling with right now!

          • Good, I was getting worried 😉 I’m sure you’ll think of something as soon as you stop trying.

  • P.S. Love the photo of the sheep 🙂

    • Taken on our recent trip to the west of Ireland. A Connemara Black Face.

  • Manfully gathered milk, Connor! I’ll agree with you about the value of freshly squeezed milk vs the canned stuff but you might give powdered milk a try – in Sri Lanka (where it’s much easier to make our own milk, since we have the proper equipment!) we began using it for curries when coconuts were hard to find in the city. Reconstituted properly, it gave a very good result, though I I’d never use it for a pure coconut gravy! PS – I think the runny polenta is a terrific idea. 🙂

    • Thanks for the info and for the kind words. The polenta is excellent (particularly when the gravy seeps in).

  • Damn well magic Conor! Home made coconut cream is bawsss!!

  • Since lamb shanks Asian style are just about my very favourite food in the world [just checked two in the freezer 🙂 !] and there being a hundred million recipes to make such unctuous. your recipe will be faithfully copied for the weekend! As long as it is a given that as far as coconut milk goes I am a decades long wimp 🙂 ! You use more cardamom than I have and cook them lower longer – methinks you win Milord!!!

    • Do let me know how it turns out Eha. The recipe is right out of my head and it worked well. I’m sure it would stand being improved by a more sensitive soul, which I know you are.

      • Have always believed in male cooks and their natural instincts!! Have been married to two I could not even try to ‘beat’ 🙂 !

  • Well done, Conor! From harvesting your own coconut milk to preparing these fantastic shanks, this is one impressive post.

    • Thanks John. A lot of work but great family fun in the whole process. I believe that’s cooking Nirvana.

  • So much work! Very impressive. Shanks are so good done right.

    • Too true. The trick, to my mind, is low and slow. Or even lower and even slower…

  • Fantastic recipe – very work heavy ;). Looks great though. I’m a big fan of the lamb, though I’ve never has polenta with a curry. Interesting…

    • Thanks Nick. It was but, given the long cooking time, the effort was well spread. The polenta works really well.

  • I will go back to Dublin if you open a restaurant.

    • If you promise to come, I’ll probably do it! Thanks Mimi.

      • I’ll bring bandaids. errrr, plasters

  • The Indian spiced shank recipe!!! Finally!! You know what I’m going to do right now Conor? Run out and buy EVERYTHING that I need to make this! Or actually, it’s almost midnight. I’ll curb my excitement until tomorrow 😉

    • Sorry for making you wait Laura. Hopefully, when you get the ingredients, you will cook and post it. I’d love to see it.

  • This mash looks so silky and that shank looks so tender besides the sprig of vibrant coriander. Beautiful food! I need to spice up my life too now!

    • Thanks Alice. From what I see, you are spicy enough as you are.
      Best,
      Conor

  • OMG. I saw Karen’s recipe and was drooling and now I REALLY want to make it. I cannot believe you made your own coconut milk. That’s effort and dedication. This truly looks amazing. It’s hard to find good lamb over here, but I will look. This is the perfect season for it. Thanks for sharing. Beautiful photos.

    • Thanks Amanda,
      The coconut milk thing is not something one might do of an evening, having got in from work. But, everybody should do it at least once.
      C

  • There’s dedication right there, burning out an appliance. I suspect I would have gone for smashing the coconut indoors, and then missed and taken out a kitchen tile or something like that.

    • There was a bit of a clean-up after the first indoor round.

  • If it’s any consolation, I have plenty of draft posts that never made it Conor, let alone rewrites.. This looks superb though, I can honestly say I think lamb and curry spices may be my favourite combination. Love the polenta ‘fusion’ too.

    • Thanks Phil, Funny enough, I went through some of my photos with the Wife last night and she just told me to get over myself in relation to all this. So I now have another three posts to write…

  • Wow looks incredible! Although I am a wimp so I’d probably just use the canned coconut but I admire your hard work. What a beautiful dish!

    • Thanks for the nice comment. It worked pretty well and was worth the effort. Thanks be to goodness!

  • A beautiful plateful! Big fan of saucy lamb served with creamy polenta. Nicely done!
    I have a question: the strained out spice mixture, does it make the whole meal spicier served under the polenta? I always discard mine because I find they get in the way of texture as well. I am curious, maybe next time I shouldn’t throw it out.

    • It had a slightly grainy texture but there was a lovely bit of heat and spiciness in there that the coconut based gravy had softened. If that isn’t an ambiguous answer, what is! Best to try it and see what you think.

  • Any thoughts on a side to go with this, the lads in the house wouldn’t be happy unless there was a side! PS i suggested a cold beer but the quickly pointed out that that’s an essential not necessarily a side.

    • Hi Eoin,
      Trust me on this. If one gets through a big shank and a bowl of polenta, covered in that delicious sauce, there will be no room for a side. If they keep at you, I would suggest any crunchy green vegetable (mange tout, for example) quickly stir fried in a lot of garlic. For myself, I would be with you – BEER!

  • Hi Conor, couldn’t see where to add the garlic or ginger so just chucked it in with the onion after browning.

    just going in the oven will let you know how it goes.

    Any thoughts on a side? the lads in the house are insisting on a side. I mentioned a cold IPA but they explained that’s more of a necessity rather than a side!

    • Hi Eoin
      Exactly right on the garlic etc. Like I say, any green veg should do the trick. Most lads I know just want the meat and see veg as something their parents inflict on them.

  • Went down a treat. The extra shank for the pot got devoured too.

    My spice mix didn’t dry out as much as yours seemed to. It ended up being a bit gloopy and not very appetizing so gave that a miss from the final plate.

    Quickly fried up some asparagus in some cumin giner and garlic and this worked well as a side along with some essential super cold beers.

    • Excellent! I have never had a left over shank. I don’t think there is such a thing. The asparagus reads tasty too.

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