Last week I was looking for a warming Friday night supper that could be prepared ahead, would give left-overs for supper on Monday and, ideally, could be cooked in a slow oven, as I fancied making a rice pudding too.
My first thought was Lindsay Bareham’s Slow-Braised Lamb with Flageolets from her wonderful book The Fish Store. However, a quick check of my store cupboard showed that I was out of flageolets, but had a large pack of borlotti beans that needed eating, so I ended up with a cross between Lindsay Bareham’s recipe and Delia’s Braised Lamb Shanks with Cannellini Beans, especially as lamb shanks were on offer. There were some nice-looking young turnips in the shop too, and I thought these would go well with the lamb. Two shanks provided enough for two meals for us, but two young men could probably polish the lot off in one!
150g dried borlotti beans (or 1 can)
1 large onion
3 large of 6 small shallots
2 tbsps olive oil
1 stick celery, chopped
1 carrot, diced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs rosemary or thyme, leaves stripped and chopped
1 can Italian tomatoes
300 ml red wine
250g small turnips
1 handful chopped parsley
Soak the borlotti beans in cold water overnight or – if you’re short of time, as I was – cover them with cold water, bring to the boil, skim off any scum, turn off the heat and leave them for as long as you have (about 4 hours in my case). Either way, then drain the beans, cover with fresh water, bring to the boil, and simmer for 30 minutes.
Heat the oven to 150ºC/Gas 2. Some recipes suggest cooking shanks for 3 hours at 140ºC/Gas 2, or at 160ºC/Gas 3 for 2 hours – I chose a temperature that suited the rice pudding and it seemed to work for the lamb too. Peel, halve and chop the onion. Peel and halve the shallots, leaving them attached at the root end. This is an idea from the Lindsay Bareham recipe and means that the chopped onions melt into and flavour the sauce while the shallots keep their shape – you could add the shallots at half time to emphasise this contrast in textures.
Choose a casserole with a lid into which the shanks will fit fairly snugly. Heat the oil in the casserole over medium-high heat and brown the lamb shanks on all sides. Put them aside on a plate and add the onions and shallots to the pan. Let them soften for a few minutes, before adding the garlic, celery and carrot. Stir the vegetables around until they start to brown.
Add the bay leaves and herbs, drained beans, tinned tomatoes (crushed a little) and wine, and season with salt and pepper. Put the lamb shanks back in, snuggling them down so they are among the vegetables and top the liquid up with a little water if necessary so that the shanks are covered. Bring to a simmer and put into the oven for 2 hours, turning the shanks at half time.
Trim the turnips and peel if necessary (really young ones just need a wash). Cut each into 6 or 8 wedges. Add them to the casserole, pushing them into the liquid and cook for a further ½ hour. The lamb shanks should be tender and coming off the bone by now.
Serve in deep plates. It doesn’t need any accompaniment, but a green salad before or after might be nice, and a chunk of sourdough would do a good job of soaking up the delicious juices.
Afterwards, we had rice pudding with quinces baked with maple syrup, an excellent Simon Hopkinson’s recipe, a dish that I had cooked earlier in the week.