These lamb shanks are perfect to rustle up on a lazy Sunday morning for a family lunch or to serve as a spectacular meal at a dinner party. They are really tender and full of flavour as they are marinated overnight in loads of herbs and spices and then cooked in the oven on a low heat for three hours. Lamb shanks are one of my favourite parts of meat, when slow cooked the meat falls off the bone and is full of flavour.
I also wanted to talk a little about salt. I don’t use any salt in my cooking and if I want a little salty seasoning I use seaweed flakes instead (try these). I never add salt to my food either, and the only time I eat it is when I go out. It’s common knowledge that excessive consumption of salt is bad for you (check out this website on the negative effects of salt on our health, such as water retention, high blood pressure and kidney problems), but I also avoid salt for other reasons. Firstly, I find that it makes me thirsty, which shows that salt causes an imbalance of water/salt levels that the body tries to fix, basically it is dehydrating. Secondly, I find that it makes food addictive: it stimulates the appetite and can lead to overeating. Take chips/fries for example, you start with one, then have one more, then another… and you can’t stop until you’ve eaten the whole pack! Finally, salt is a stimulant, and like sugar, I find that it ‘perks’ me up, but the quality of the energy burst is hyper and short-lived. So basically I have found that salt does more harm than good to my body, hence I chose to not use it. (Note: I am not super strict about salt though, I avoid where I can but I eat out at restaurants and eat in moderation salty foods like olives and smoked fish.
I decided to talk about salt because I made these lamb shanks without any salt and even my brother, who is used to salted food and sometimes finds my food too bland, said they were ‘delicious’, and that’s a huge compliment coming from him. Not using salt means I am more creative with flavours and get to the celebrate the amazing tastes of herbs and spices. Most chefs would be horrified by the idea of cooking without any salt, but these lamb shanks prove that you can make salt-free food taste delicious, so why not give them a go without any salt and see how you like them?
Slow cooked lamb shanks – Gluten, dairy, sugar and salt free.
- 5-6 lamb shanks
- 1 red onion, sliced
- 8 or so garlic cloves, peeled
- 6 or so rosemary sprigs
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 2 tsp fennel seeds
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- ½-1 tsp chilli flakes (or chilli powder, or 2 fresh chillis, finely chopped)
- Several grinds of black pepper
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tbsp olive oil + a little extra
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 fennel bulbs, sliced vertically into wedges
- 350ml vegetable stock (preferably no added salt, I use this one) or water*
- fresh mint, roughly chopped, to garnish
- Finely slice about half of the garlic cloves, leaving the other half whole and place in a large container/bowl along with the sliced onion. Place the lamb shanks on top. Scatter over the rosemary, spices and oregano. Add the tomato paste, olive oil and lemon juice then mix all the ingredients together and massage the lamb with the oil and spices. Cover, place in the fridge and leave to marinate for several hours or overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 160ºC and take out the lamb from the fridge.
- Heat a large casserole pan over medium heat with a drizzle of oil then place the lamb shanks in the pan and brown the meat all over. Remove from the heat then place all of the marinade ingredients in to the pan, spreading it out and moving the lamb on top of the onion. Scatter over the fennel.
- Pour over the stock and cover, then place in the oven. Bake for 2 hours, turning the shanks over in the stock halfway through, then remove the lid and bake uncovered for a further hour, again, basting and turning the shanks over in the stock halfway through.
- Once the lamb is cooked, remove the shanks and fennel pieces (unless they’ve disintegrated) and place on a large platter/plate. Keep warm in the oven while you prepare the sauce.
- Pour the remaining stock* and soft onions/garlic through a fine sieve into a large jug. The onions and garlic will have softened to the point that you can mash and push them through sieve into the sauce, scraping the underside of the sieve as you go along. Leave the sauce to stand for a few minutes until the oil separates to the surface of the sauce then use a large spoon to remove the excess the oil. Reheat the sauce if necessary, then transfer to a serving jug.
- Scatter the lamb with some fresh mint and serve with the sauce on the side.
*This amount of liquid works for well me, but if you oven gets hotter than mine or your shanks are particularly small or large, then you may need to adjust the amount of liquid. If the dish is too liquidy or the sauce too thin, cook it a little longer to let the sauce reduce, or if it’s too thick or reduced too much, add more liquid.
With Love, Spice and Smile,