I’m a positive person who looks on the bright side whenever there is an opportunity. I don’t often set out to write about failure. I do take a bit of pride in what I do. Even though my inclination is to hide my light under a bushel, I really hate to leave you unimpressed.
I will, in fact, try my best to do right by you. I want to make an impact. But this exercise of producing a Lamb Shank and Bean Casserole started out badly. I stopped into a major supermarket to get the shanks. I won’t name them so they can hide their shame. The meat section is very large with many chaps dressed in red aprons swanking around, in a butcherly way, behind the counter. I approached and was served.
Me (In usual cheery form): “Good morning. Could I have seven lamb shanks please?”
GDAAB (Guy dressed as a butcher): “No, they aren’t available any more.”
Me (Slightly taken aback): “Not available? What are the sheep doing?”
GDAAB (As if explaining to a small child): “No, they are attached to the shoulder and are no longer available as shanks.”
Me (In a strategic move to preserve my good humour): Thank you. Have a good day.”
I left the supermarket, crossed the road, went into a butcher’s shop, pointed to the cabinet and said: “Could I have seven of those please?” The butcher obliged. I had my shanks. The supermarket experience for all the “retail theatre” failed to impress.
I got the rest of my ingredients (in a different supermarket) and repaired to the kitchen.
- 7 lamb shanks (if available and if cooking for seven)
- 3 onions
- 3 carrots
- 3 sticks of celery
- 2 tins of tomatoes
- 2 tins of butter beans
- 2 tins of black-eyed peas
- 1 tin of kidney beans
- 500 ml of good chicken stock
- 3 teaspoons of tomato purée
- 3 bay leaves
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1 glass of red wine
- Salt and pepper
I made this using the ‘holy trinity’ of Italian soups and stews onion, carrot and celery. The first thing to do is to slice these and get them into a little oil in the casserole.
Regular readers like to have a gratuitous meat slicing shot every now and then. While there is lots of meat in this, there is no slicing so you will have to make do with a vegetarian substitute.
Sweat them over a low heat until the onions are translucent and the celery and carrots have a nice high colour.
While this is going on, add a little oil to a pan and brown the shanks on as many sides as you can.
Add the shanks to the casserole. Then add everything else except the peas and beans. Season it well with salt and pepper.
It doesn’t matter what order you oik the stuff in. Just get it in there.
Side note on tinned tomatoes: Based on my experience, use whole tomatoes, even when you want chopped. The chopped tomatoes tend to be very watery and tasteless when compared to the whole tomatoes. “Just sayin” as they say.
I know how much you love a good pouring shot.
Bring this to a boil on the stove top then transfer to a 150º C (300º F) oven for five hours. Take it out of the oven and spoon some of the fat off the surface. The shanks release a good deal of fat.
Side note on fat removal: You can leave the fat there if you choose. It will not add a lot to the flavour of the stew but it will add a lot to the lining of your arteries and may even clog up your heart to an unacceptable degree. Take my advice, spoon off the fat.
Then add the beans and peas.
Return the casserole to the oven for another 30 minutes or so. Then serve to your hungry guests.
Here’s where I really failed to impress. I chose a bowl and tablecloth to show off the casserole to its best advantage. I really failed on photographing this one.
I served the six others and ate my own dinner too. It was pretty delicious. Later that evening, I was processing my photos and was feeling pretty angry at having made such a mess of that final shot. In a self-serving and futile effort to make it right I asked eldest daughter for her opinion. “It’s awful” was her response to my plea. She then laughed and said that was a good thing. “Good! Why?” I blurted. “Because you will have to cook it again to get the photo.” was her laughed reply.
So I ‘failed to impress’, no matter what way you read it. I hope you are impressed with my re-cook and re-photo below.
As long as sheep continue to have legs, this will be a very easy to prepare (if not so easy to photo) dish. The meat was so tender, that I ate mine with the spoon in the picture. Try it and I guarantee you won’t fail to impress.