The glory of lamb shanks: Braised Lamb Shanks with Chickpea Mash

One of the nicest meals out that I ever had with my family occurred in a small, unpromising, cellar-type Italian restaurant on the Douglas promenade in the Isle of Man about five years ago. We were on a family holiday and, when the ages of the family members range from my Granny, still sprightly in her mid-eighties, to an ever-active obstreperous pair of children, then aged nine and ten, it is sometimes difficult to strike the right balance between keeping the kids fed and entertained while the adults relax. But this restaurant managed it very well. The younger duo were fascinated at being able to observe the cooking in the open plan kitchen and the older members of the party were kept laughing by a flirtatious Italian waiter who tried to insist that Granny had wine. They were no mean shakes in the food department either but my clearest memory is of the dish that my sister ordered. She was the last to be served but we were all impressed at her plate of lamb shanks, braised so that the meat was meltingly tender, falling off the bone when touched by her fork. Or touched by the forks of others at the table for we weren’t going to allow her to struggle through such a plateful on her own!

Since then I have rarely encountered lamb shanks on a restaurant menu. I have, however, often come across them in cookbooks and have been amassing a collection of recipes in case some shanks should arrive on the doorstep some day. Recently, when some former housemates from Ireland were coming round for dinner, I decided to take the plunge. Peter Timbs Butchers in Edgeware provided me with four meaty shanks and all I had to do was figure out which way I wanted to cook them. As I had been going through an Indian and Middle Eastern phase lately, I decided that I wanted to go with something more straightforward and Tamasin Day-Lewis’ West of Ireland Summers had just the recipe I needed. Her Braised Lamb Shanks were served with Champ but, as I am not in the least bit interested in potatoes, I decided to accompany the dish with Nigel Slater’s Chickpea Mash. With Cauliflower and Broccoli Cheese as vegetables on the side and (another) Feijoa and Apple Crumble for desert we had the perfect cold winter evening comfort dinner.

Lamb shanks – 4
Plain flour – 2 tablespoons
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil – 2-3 tablespoons
Onions – 4, sliced
Garlic – 6 cloves, chopped
Rosemary and thyme – 2-3 sprigs, finely chopped
White wine – 300ml
Balsamic vinegar – 150ml
Water – 150ml
Lemon rind – 2 strips

Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
Heat the oil in a heavy frying pan. Add the onions, garlic and herbs and fry until soft and golden. Remove to a deep ovenproof dish. Season the flour and toss the shanks in it, shaking off any excess flour. Reheat the frying pan and add more oil if needed. Add the shanks to the pan, two at a time, and brown all over. Put the shanks on top of the the onion/garlic/herb mixture and deglaze the frying pan with the wine and vinegar. Bubble furiously for 2-3 minutes to reduce then pour over the shanks.

Add the strips of lemon rind to the dish and place it in the oven. Leave simmering for about two hours. A little longer isn’t such a bad thing. You will know that they are cooked when the meat is starting to fall off the bone.

Serves 4.

Adapted from West of Ireland Summers by Tamasin Day-Lewis.

Chickpea Mash
Chickpeas – 600g, either soaked and boiled yourself or 2 x 400g tins
Olive oil – 2-3 tablespoons
A small onion – finely sliced
Water – 150ml
Hot paprika
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the olive oil in a heavy based pan then toss in the onion and let soften over a moderate heat until starting to brown. Add the chickpeas and water and simmer for a couple of minutes. Using a potato masher, crush the chickpeas roughly. Season with salt, pepper and paprika.

Serves 4.



Food writer. Broadcaster. Blogger. Author. Married to Eight Degrees Brewing. Member of the Irish Food Writers' Guild, founder of Irish Food Bloggers Association and co-author of Sláinte: The Complete Guide to Irish Craft Beer & Cider (New Island)

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2 Responses

  1. Jayne Pope says:

    Hi CarolineBought some lamb shanks yesterday and couldn’t decide what to do with them, so I typed in ‘lamb shanks’ on your blog and got your recipe. Excellent. Will report back. See you tomorrow at the launch!Jayne xPS I’ve been chatting with my brother who’s a foodie and he’s really interested in your blog

  2. Caroline says:

    Hope they turned out well, Jayne! I’ve made these a couple of times, most recently when my mother and aunt were over from Ireland and Mum has been pestering the butcher at home to get her some lamb shanks ever since – they’re not so easy to pick up in Ireland, apparently. I’d better take advantage of them while I’m still here!

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