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).
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.
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.
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.
Strain the resulting mess through muslin, squeezing it to get as much wonderful coconut milk as possible.
This yielded a bowl full.
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).
- 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.
Dry-fry the fennel and cumin seeds.
Then crush them along with the cinnamon, cloves and seeds from the cardamom pods.
Roughly chop the onions and brown them in a large oven-proof dish.
Add the small mountain of spices.
Stir this to make a goo. Add the lamb shanks, being careful to cover every bit of them with the spice/onion/tomato mess.
Next add the coconut milk.
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.
Pour off the liquid and what remains of the onions and spices through a sieve and then separate the fat from the liquid.
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.
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.
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.
Then spoon over the polenta.
Settle a lamb shank on top. pour over some of the gravy and sprinkle with coriander.
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.