In like a lamb: A warm and cosy dish to welcome the winter

Fran Sun / Photo

Fran Sun

Well, my fellow Rutlandians, I think we can all agree that after the last few days, winter has well and truly arrived. It took awhile, perhaps it got some bad directions, but now it’s here and I’m remembering again just how inconvenient it is to dress for winter in this arctic tundra.

The question I asked myself today is one that tends to echo through the next few months: how many layers do I need to put on in order to go outside and not die? And where are these layers?

Did they make it to storage in carefully labeled boxes, or are they still sitting at the bottom of the stairs, waiting patiently to go into hibernation? Do they still fit? Well, there’s always my maternity sizes, right? This winter, it’s not just me; my baby’s squishy rolls need to be coated in puffy jackets, fluffy mittens and furry hats. Adorable! Why aren’t these made in adult sizes?! So many questions.

But there’s one thing that doesn’t require any questioning for me, and that is what to cook. The moment I feel that sharp bite in the dry air, daydreams of warm, nourishing crock-pot meals start to drift through my mind. And my absolute favorite thing to make in the crock pot is lamb shanks.

I’ve canvassed a few friends in Rutland and they say that the general disinterest in lamb applies also to this staple Aussie winter dish. But I sincerely hope you will give this a try. I really think you’ll find it to be an excellent winter warmer.

The key with lamb shanks is to cook them for a long time over low heat. The shank of a sheep, like any animal really, is full of tendons and other connective tissue that’s just begging to be broken down into gelatinous, tasty goodness. And this recipe will not disappoint!

Do you have thyme that’s about to be done for the winter? Perhaps your rosemary, like mine, is being brought inside for the winter and needs a good prune before growth slows down in the colder months. Do you have a third of a bottle of red wine sitting around that isn’t going to be consumed anytime soon (wow, go you, by the way!)? Perhaps you bought a container of chicken or beef stock for a recipe, then only needed a tablespoon. If so, this one is for you, my friends.

Now I will admit something. Lamb shanks here are much pricier than they are in Australia. Just so you don’t think I arrived here on a private plane with designer luggage and butlers. What was a fairly economical meal in Australia is more of a treat here, I feel. I also sourced my lamb for this dish from the wonderful team at the Vermont Butcher Shop that has recently opened in Rutland (cue choirs of angels!), and though you may pay a little more, I think it’s thoroughly worth it to know your money goes back into local farmers’ pockets. The knowledge the team of skilled butchers there has, as well as the impeccable service, also has me handing over the well-worn credit card with absolutely no hesitation at all. If you haven’t been down there yet, I really think you should check it out.

Fran’s slow-cooked lamb shanks with red wine, garlic & herbs

  • 4-6 lamb shanks
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 large onion
  • 8-10 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 3 cups stock (any is fine, I used a combination of beef & chicken I had in the fridge)
  • 2-4 sprigs rosemary
  • 6-8 sprigs thyme
  • 1 bay leaf

Season the lamb shanks generously with salt and pepper. Using a heavy skillet or frying pan, brown the shanks all over, turning often, for 6-8 minutes total.

With your slow cooker on high, add the onions and garlic into the bottom of the slow-cooker pot, then add the browned shanks.

Add the wine, stock and herbs, then cook on high for 2 hours. Turn it down to low and continue to cook for another 3-4 hours, or until the meat is visibly falling off the bone.

Remove each shank gently and carefully from the crock pot with tongs, being sure to grip the whole shank, NOT just the bone, and place on top of a generous serving of mashed potato.

A note on the liquid ingredients: if you feel like this is too much liquid, feel free to bring each one down a little. I like mine to be quite soupy! You could reduce it and make a gravy if you wanted — just pour the liquid through a strainer into a saucepan, boil to reduce, and add cornstarch if necessary.

Fran Sun

Fran is a new stay at home mom who moved to Rutland from Australia in 2015.

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