Everyone knows that I harbour major love for Sir Jamie of Oliver, the man can do no wrong in my opinion and I appreciate that not everybody feels the same. This recipe is taken from his first book ‘The Naked Chef’ which I have owned for an extremely long time, since I was at school in fact. My Dad, who can be described as quite the wit, wrote in the front cover (as he does to every book every Christmas) ‘I don’t think he’s really naked’. But it was shocking when he first appeared, this bouncy, shouty man prancing about shouting ‘pukka’ and not spending ages drizzling and fiddling in the style of the horrendous prat that is Gary Rhodes. The first of Jamie’s books is probably his most fancy, it still has a real edge of him having worked at places like The River Cafe but that genial entertaining/throw it on a plate and get stuck in attitude is still very much there.
My friend and I were reading Jamie’s Christmas magazines the other day and in the back of the magazine is a huge double page of everything he lends his hand to, it’s enormous! He is an incredible businessman and I think half of his success is down to the fact that he understands people want to be cosy, they want to be surrounded by nice looking things and they want cheerful, easy lives. He’s obviously incredibly talented creatively, you only need see how he puts a plate together, the kinds of crockery he uses, the layout of his books, his kitchen and his magazine to realise that he has a real eye and that eye as well as his enthusiasm is what makes him really talented.
I first made this years ago, I know this because the person who ate it has since returned to their native Australia, got married, had a baby and probably doesn’t remember the strange year she spent in the middle of the Oxfordshire countryside selling turkeys and pulling pints. I think the real success of these lamb shanks is the rub you use before you cook them. That combination of coriander, chilli and rosemary packs a real punch but also carries a lovely almost Moroccan flavour through it. It also does an amazing job of cutting through the fat because you can fancy a lamb shank up as much as you like but it is still an extremely fatty piece of meat, perfect for slow cooking. Lamb shanks are also crazily inexpensive, which is good if you are poverty stricken which we will all be come January. They sort of made a resurgence as a cheap cut when Jamie appeared on the scene and I don’t expect that’s just a coincedence. I think I remember he encourages you to eat this with polenta, which is the yuckiest thing I have ever met so I use mashed potato and sometimes some cabbage, because you can never have too much green.
Jamie Oliver’s Braised Lamb Shanks
- 4 lamb shanks
- sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- 1 small dried red chilli, or pinch crushed chillies
- 1 tbsp fresh rosemary
- 1 tsp dried marjoram or oregano
- 1 tbsp flour
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
- 1 carrot, quartered & finely sliced
- 6 sticks of celery, quartered & finely sliced
- 2 med/large onions, quartered & finely chopped
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 170 ml dry white wine
- 6 anchovy fillets
- 2 400g tins plum tomatoes
- 1 handful fresh basil, parsley or marjoram, roughly chopped
- Season the lamb with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Smash up the coriander seeds and dried chilli and mix with the chopped rosemary and dried marjoram. Roll the lamb in this mixture, pressing it in well. Dust the lamb with the flour.
- Heat a thick-bottomed casserole pan, add the oil, brown the meat on all sides and then remove from the pan. Add the garlic, carrot, celery, onions and a pinch of salt and sweat them until softened. Add the balsamic vinegar and allow it to reduce to a syrup. Pour in the white wine and allow to simmer for 2 minutes.
- Add the anchovies (these really seem to intensify the lamb flavour) and then add the tinned tomatoes, kept whole. Shake the pan and return the lamb to it.
- Bring to the boil, put on the lid and simmer in the oven at 180C for 1 1/2 hours, then remove the lid and cook for a further 1/2 hour. Skim off any fat and taste for seasoning.
- Finally, stir in a handful of roughly chopped fresh basil, marjoram or flat-leaf parsley.