I have cooked hundreds of lamb shanks in my time. There is a bevy of recipes here on the blog for all sorts of lamb shank delights. This one is a revelation. In some ways it is very simple, in others it is the result of planning and a bit of work that many of you are not going to do. You can, of course, cut some corners. If you do, you are on your own as I will have cut you loose and want no part of your second rate cookery. If you do follow along, you will enjoy an Oriental lamb shank treat.
Before cooking the lamb shank, you will need to boil a chicken. I reckon I have lost many of you at this stage. The chicken needs to be cooked in the Oriental spice mix. You can enjoy the chicken with rice and spring onions, soy sauce and some chilli oil. As there are only two of us eating in our house these days, the chicken goes a long way with risotto, chicken noodle soup, chicken fried rice amongst our favourites. Whenever we cook the chicken, we make a stock. The chicken is extremely versatile and it is given a unique flavour by the dried Oriental spice mix used. Typically we would use a tablespoon or so of these spices in a pot of water. We boil the chicken over a high heat for ten minutes, simmer it for twenty minutes, turn off the heat and apply the lid. Then leave it overnight to “cook in a reducing heat” as the Chinese might say.
Side Note on Spice Mix
The dried spice mix contains:
- Fennel seeds – 17%
- Sichuan peppercorns – 17%
- Dried ginger – 17%
- Cinnamon – 13%
- Cloves – 13%
- Star anise – 12%
- Dried liquorice – 8%
- Cardamon – 3%
I was given my first bag of this by a friend who runs a Sichuan restaurant in Dublin (China Sichuan, THE Sichuan restaurant in Dublin). I later picked more of it up in the Chinese supermarket. It’s called Mixed Spices (not surprisingly) and is a product of the Wah Loong Co., Ltd. for those interested. It comes in a yellow, white and red packet of 227g net weight. The catering pack is a lot bigger. But, you don’t need that.
The next day, we remove all the meat from the carcass and return the skin and carcass to the pot. Then we add an onion cut in half, a bay leaf or two and eight or ten peppercorns. This is then simmered for a couple of hours, reduced by about half, strained and reserved. This is a highly flavoursome stock with lots of the original spice notes driving the flavour. There is an almost liquorice and clove flavour in there along with lots of others. Half a litre of this stock is needed for the lamb shanks.
Now to the lamb shanks that only the most ardent of you will ever cook. The rest will have fallen by the wayside because the spices are too unusual or the chicken sounds like too much work. From here it gets easy.
- 2 lamb shanks
- 500 ml of chicken stock as per the above
- 1 tablespoon of honey
- 1 tablespoon of soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons of black vinegar
- 10 cm piece of fresh ginger
- A generous handful (about as much as in the photo) of mixed spice
Peel and roughly chop the ginger. Then trow the spice mix, ginger, pepper, honey, soy, vinegar and stock into a casserole dish. Stir it all to combine as best you can. Add the shanks and spoon the mixture over them to coat well.
Place on a well sealed lid (I used aluminium foil to seal). Place the casserole in a 150ºC fan oven for 5 hours. Turn the shanks every hour or so, spooning the mixture as you go.
Remove the shanks from the casserole. Pour the liquid into a separator and remove the fat.
Pour the remaining sauce over the shanks and serve them along with some rice, couscous or whatever takes your fancy. You will not need a knife (There in the picture for show from my prop box).
A spoon will do for cutting the lamb. This dish is a flavour sensation and well worth the trouble of feeding yourself a chicken dinner followed by a chicken risotto and even a chicken sandwich as part of the preparation.
Try it all if you believe in me. If you don’t, it’s your loss. Believe that much.