As I was struggling for an original dinner idea, I decided to ask a couple of foodie friends for suggestions. Given that I have cooked lamb shanks every which-way in the last while, when the best idea that emerged from their deliberations was “Why not do a lamb shank?” I wasn’t impressed. However, I hadn’t cooked them sous vide. So the thought arose and it didn’t really inspire me.
Once cogitated, like a lost sheep, the idea followed me around for the rest of the day. Not that untended ewes tend to trail me anywhere. They probably know that I will want to get my hands on their shanks. I eventually settled on cooking some shanks with a slightly spicy twist. Hence my recipe for Spiced Lamb Shanks Sous Vide. The sous vide cooking allows lots of flavour to permeate the meat and really add some flavour. I did go a little further and cooked a lovely, simple side dish that worked very well with this delicious bit of meat.
Side note on sous vide: This dish won’t have the same depth of flavour cooked any other way. So, I really encourage you to get a sous vide bath and start cooking this way. It produces unique texture and flavour from some of the least expensive and less popular cuts of meat. It is well worthwhile.
- 5 lamb shanks ( 1 lamb shank per person). I was cooking for 5.
- 3 to 4 stalks of lemongrass
- 2 to 3 chilis
- 5 star anise (1 per lamb shank)
- 2-3 teaspoons of fennel seeds
- 2-3 teaspoons of caraway seeds
- 3 cm of ginger
- salt and pepper to season
- 2 heaped teaspoons of cornflour diluted in 2 tablespoons of water
Add the seeds to a frying pan and gently heat them until just starting to smoke.
They will turn a nice toasted colour.
Grind the seeds to a powder.
Slice the lemongrass, chilis and ginger into big pieces. These will let their flavour impregnate the meat during the cooking (That sounds vaguely rude!).
Brown the lamb shanks on a frying pan. Rub them with the fennel and caraway, then season with salt and pepper.
Place a shank, some lemongrass, ginger, chili and a star anise into a vacuum bag and seal.
Place the bags into a sous vide and cook at 62ºC (140ºF) for 48 hours.
Second side note on sous vide: The long cooking times involved in a lot of sous vide cooking is a real bonus to any serious cook (or even to a cook who laughs a lot). Once the preparation for this dish is done and they are in the bath, you have two days during which you don’t need to even think about them. That gives one lots of opportunity to think up other delicious ideas to tempt your diners.
About an hour before you serve the lamb shanks, get your hands on the side dish ingredients. These are 2 aubergines, 2 tins of tomatoes, a handful of fennel seeds, salt and pepper. Slice the aubergines nice and thick and sprinkle with salt to extract some of the liquid hidden within.
Let the aubergine sweat and then mop the water from them with kitchen paper. Slice them in half and arrange them in a roasting pan. Add the tomatoes and fennel. Season well.
Place this in the oven at 180ºC (360ºF) for between 30 and 40 minutes.
When the lamb shanks are cooked, remove from the bags and place it in tinfoil. Keep these warm.
Pour off the juice from the bags into a frying pan. Add the cornstarch mixture.
Side note on the cornstarch: While we were visiting Stefan, over in Amsterdam, (the renowned Sous Vide King of Northern Europe) he showed me the cornstarch trick for making a sauce from sous vide bag juices. It works. If one simply heats the juices, the proteins coagulate and need to be strained, leaving a very flavour rich but very thin colourless gravy. This way one avoids the coagulation and one gets a thick, delicious sauce.
Heat the mixture until nice and warm. Serve this with the shanks and the aubergine dish. I served them on a bed of celeriac purée. It worked very well.
The lamb was delicate enough to eat with a spoon. The flavours were fantastic. If you have a sous vide machine, please give this a go. If you don’t have a sous vide machine, get one. You will not regret it.