Irish Lamb Shank Stew
England is famous around the world for its gloomy weather, with little sunshine and miserable rain. Even in spring, England can sometimes be chilly, with downpours that make you want to stay at home and snuggle under a warm blanket. On days like this, nothing beats coming home to the aromas of a good stew on the stove top wafting through the house. To pair with this, what better way to enjoy a good stew than with a freshly baked loaf of bread just out of the oven to soak up all the delicious stew?
Spring in England is the season for spring lamb. British lamb is famous around the world, on par with New Zealand lamb. Furthermore, lamb is also highly sustainable and ecologically friendly, with little water intake compared to cows. And if it sounds too good to be true, almost all lambs in England are free range and grass-fed.
Lambs are sheep that are less than one year old. After being weaned off their mother’s milk, most lambs in England spend their time on the english country side running up and down hills and pastures. Spring lamb is the most sought after lamb in England because of their sweet and tender characteristics. This is because spring-lamb were traditionally born in the late winter, so that after they finish feeding on their mom’s milk, they were able to easily switch over to the newly grown grass. Lamb is also a cheaper red meat alternative to beef as they mainly feed on grass and clover, and not need to be fed on expensive feed.
I for one, absolutely adore stew cuts. While tough, they are packed with flavour and if cooked slowly for a couple of hours, will become extremely tender and juicy. Lamb shanks are one of those cuts. The shank of a lamb is the meat and bone from below the knee. Lamb shanks are usually cooked whole, with the usual serving size being one shank per person. This lamb shank recipe is fairly simple, with a paprika, oregano and garlic base to it.
Irish Lamb Stew
- Ground Paprika
- Dried Oregano
- Minced garlic or garlic powder
- Red Wine
- Red Onions
- Lamb Shanks
- Olive Oil
- First, combine the minced garlic, oregano, salt and paprika with some olive oil to make a paste. Using your hands, rub the paste onto the lamb shanks, making sure they are well coated.
- Leave the lamb shanks in a container to marinade overnight.
- The next day, scrap off the excess marinade into a bowl before searing the lamb shanks in a pot.
- When searing the lamb shanks, make sure to get all sides of the shanks well coloured. Remember, no colour means no flavour. You don’t have to cook the lamb shanks through, just browned all around.
- After that, remove the lamb shanks from the pot and pour in a dash of red wine just to deglaze the pot, not more than a cup. Once deglazed, pour in the rest of the marinade and replace the lamb shanks.
- Cut the vegetables up into smaller pieces and place the vegetables in between the lamb shanks.
- Pour in enough water to cover the lamb shanks and stew for 3 hours (covered) until the meat is falling off the bone. After this, remove the cover and reduce the stew to your desired thickness.
Deglazing the pot is the act of adding liquid (usually wine) to a pot that was used to cook vegetables or meat in order to scrap off the bits and pieces that have stuck to the pot. This step is important as this residual food contains the most flavour, and is prone to burn if not scraped off. I prefer to place the vegetables in between the lamb shanks and the pot instead of placing the vegetables below and the lamb shanks on top. This allows us to use less water to cover the lamb shanks, meaning that the final stew will be more concentrated, and less time will be needed to reduce the stew. From my experience, 3 hours is about the minimum that you can stew this dish for, any less and the lamb shanks will still be chewy. Many people say that the longer you let a stew cook for the better it gets. I actually disagree with this. If this dish is let to cook longer than 4 hours, all the fat in the lamb shank is melted off, and what remains is just the lamb meat which will not be cushioned by fat when eaten, giving it a rather stringy texture. This being said, as with all stews and soups, they taste better the day after and this stew is no exception. In fact, if left to cool in the fridge and reheated the day after, this presents the opportunity to skim off the lamb fat that would have gelled together in the cold. In order to speed up the cooking process, it’s completely possible to cook this dish in a pressure cooker, which can reduce the cooking time from 3 hours to 30 minutes, thus saving time and energy. However, the stew will probably still need to be reduced down to your desired thickness before serving. While it is possible to thicken the stew with flour or corn starch, I prefer not to as it doesn’t increase the flavour concentration of the stew. If you however decided to use this method, remember to whisk the corn starch or flour with hot water first before pouring into your stew to get rid of lumps which risk sinking to the bottom of the pot and burning, thus ruining your stew.