Friday, 13 March 2015

Lamb shanks al Andaluz - Andalusian style lamb shanks

In case the swiftly approaching Easter (where does the time go - I've barely survived Christmas/ Hanukkah season!) has you sweating all over the Internet in the search of this year's Easter lamb recipe, look no further. Sigh with relief. Pour yourself a glass of wine and breathe. The search is over. Here it is. Though, why wait - these Andalusian style lamb shanks make a perfect weekend treat as well!

Lamb is something we definitely don't reserve just for Easter - it's a Middle Eastern staple and something The Boy Next Door can't get enough of. As it's often just the two of us, an entire leg of lamb is a rarely seen sight and instead we prefer chops (do check these Moroccan-style lamb cutlets out or spoil yourself rotten with this persillade encrusted rack of lamb with garlicky cashew sauce!) or shanks, which we have cooked for instance in red wine and turned into the pulled variety, too. 

Like any cut cooked on the bone, the shanks are packed with juicy flavour. Three hours in the oven turn this somewhat bland looking piece of meat into a pile of comfortingly meaty bliss that falls of the bone by just looking at it. 

This recipe pays an homage to my beloved Andalusia: the sauce is made with sherry that Jerez region is famous for, features almonds that Malaga is known for and its gentle warmth courtesy of the oriental spices brings back memories of the Arab conquerors' era, the legacy of which still lives on in the region, hundreds of years since them.

Lamb shanks al-Andaluz,  por favore!

Serves two

Andalusian style lamb shanks

2 lamb shanks
oil for frying

1 large onion
2 large cloves of garlic
1 tsp pimentón
0,5 tsp ground cumin
0,5 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp tomato concentrate
1,5 dl dryish sherry (Amontillado preferred, but Oloroso will work, too)
0,5 l game or beef stock

to serve: handful of toasted almond flakes, another handful of chopped fresh parsley

Sear the shanks in hot oil until nice and brown. Move aside while you prep the sauce.

Peel and finely chop the onion and garlic. Sauté in the same pan you used for lamb, adding more oil if needed. Keep the temperature low and continue cooking until they're soft and start to get a little bit colour on them (about 15 minutes). 

Then add the spices and continue cooking for a couple of minutes. Then add tomato concentrate and sherry. Stir well scraping any bits that might have stuck to the bottom of the pan. 

Return shanks into the pan/pot/casserole dish and add the stock. Bring to boil and then transfer into pre-heated oven (150º). After 2,5 hours remove the lid and continue cooking for another half an hour. Remove from the oven and lift out the shanks (carefully so they don't fall apart). Cover with foil and leave aside for a moment. 

Strain the cooking liquid (this makes peeling the fat off easier!) but don't discard the onions as they're packed with flavour. Using a spoon peel off the layer of fat and return the onions into the pot. Over high heat reduce until the sauce has reached the desired thickness. Check the taste (there shouldn't be much need for seasoning) and season if needed.

Pour the sauce over the shanks. scatter with toasted almond flakes and top with parsley.

Serve with boiled rice, mashed potatos, creamy root veggie hash, butter bean mash, Jerusalem artichoke puré or fruity couscous

Made with the traditional Solera method sherry is a lot more versatile a wine than people think and definitely warrants an audience beyond the elderly on Emmerdale.

Fino, the driest variety is also the lightest and is drunk on its own accompanying for instance tapas. Works with both jamòn and seafood.

Oloroso is dry, but richer and more full-bodied and has, on this blog, too, been used in variety of recipes. It has worked wonders with Spanish mussles, these baby octopi and with Iberico pork cheeks. Very versatile wine and works with seafood all the way to duck and geese and even game.

Amontillado that this recipe uses is, courtesy of the aging process, nuttier and a bit sweeter in flavour. I have heard it being recommended for oily fish but depending on the sweetness it could also be paired with fairly sturdy meat dishes. Try it with this lamb recipe! It wouldn't be out of place with mature cheeses either. Bear in mind its fortified nature though - it's rich and high in alcohol so you wouldn't probably even want to drink it in similar quantities to normal wine...!




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