JOANNA'S FOOD: family cooking, from scratch, every day

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Lamb shanks for the crew

Well, they looked pretty good as they flashed by in the qualifying races - the boats set off at 15 second intervals, and the qualifiers are the nine fastest out of well over 30 crews. These photographs were taken at the end of the course (one mile and 550 yards, against the stream, which is running extremely strong at the moment), and before they heard the result. They were the 10th fastest. The fastest non-qualifiers. They hid their disappointment well, and behaved magnificently in defeat.

Later, they came home, and I gave them lamb shanks for dinner. I needed it to be something that I didn't have to cook at the last minute, something that would be ready as soon as they were, something that wouldn't spoil if it was in the oven for an hour too long. Pot roast would have been good, but I didn't want to bother with carving. The lamb shanks were in the oven for three hours or so, the meat dripping off the bones, easy to make, easy to serve, easy for four disappointed but hungry boys to eat.

Lamb shanks

I'm not giving precise amounts, because this is a method, rather than a recipe, and because this is fuss-free food, the sort of thing that is supposed to make your life easier, not more fretful. Don't worry if you haven't got any tomatoes, leave them out, it'll be just as good. I suspect you could add a few soaked chickpeas. Etc. The point is that you can prepare it ahead, and leave it to cook later. I did all the prep in the morning (right through to adding the water), left it to one side, then put it in the oven just as I was leaving the house at six o'clock, and we ate at about nine. How easy is that?

Chop and brown onions, one for each lamb shank (one shank per person, this is one occasion when you really don't need any extra for luck!). Soften them in some oil in a casserole dish large enough to take all the meat. Push to one side and brown the shanks (in practice, you want the "top" side browned, don't worry too much about the rest, because you'll never get substantial bits of them to make contact with the pan). Put in a little flour to thicken the sauce, and, if you've got some, a little red wine. At this point you could also add whatever flavourings you like to accompany lamb - cumin, or cinnamon, perhaps mint. Add a tin of chopped tomatoes, and then top up with water, leaving the top third of the shanks exposed (browned side up). Bring to the boil, then put in the oven 150C for at least a couple of hours. Go out and do something else while they cook - they don't need any kind of attention.

Serve with bread and a salad (or cook some potatoes if you feel like it).

PS you could cook it more slowly if you wanted more time to be out and about - you'll need to experiment a bit, but the same dish at 100C would probably need three to four hours. I would think that the slower cooking would make the meat even sweeter.

Lifting the boat out of the water before hearing the results. The house you can see in the background on the other side of the river was my childhood home. My parents used to host Harvard lightweight crews in the 1970s. One of them also won the Thames Cup (see yesterday's post).


MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Technique over recipe is always a winner in my book Joanna! This sounds beautiful! Sorry about the crew but they sure had a great dinner.

Anonymous said...

' something that I didn't have to cook at the last minute, something that would be ready as soon as they were, something that wouldn't spoil if it was in the oven for an hour too long' is what gardeners need, too. Thank you for this recipe, these 'I need it now' meals are so hard to find.

Joanna said...

Thanks, both of you - I've spent a lifetime searching out things that can cook slowly while you get on with your life. I've never quite understood why people think cooking for half an hour when they get home is such a good way to run their lives - I suspect it's driven by television, and the need for a result within a half-hour programme. (Just a theory.)