So far, the summer has not been kind to us. It has been a lot of things; rain, lightning, thunder, howling winds, but not kind. I have been battling it, though; with salads, barbecues, glasses of rose wine and dinners under patio heaters and blankets. Last night, I gave up. The weather beat me.
It started in the supermarket yesterday afternoon. Standing at the meat counter, my eyes rested upon four beautiful lamb shanks, sourced from a local farm. The sight of them gave me an insatiable longing for autumnal food. The sort of food that matches the weather.
When I mapped out my food year (something I do on the train sometimes) 2012’s first slow-cooked meat dish appeared sometime around mid-October. Yet here I was, on July 22nd, scurrying from the supermarket with a four-pack of lamb shanks in my arms, like Gollum with his precious, muttering to myself about Le Creuset stewing pots and ovens set to 170C.
On my return home, the sky was darkening and the birds lay silent in their trees. As the first lamb shank hit the hot oil in the pan, the heavens opened and the rain came.
Ok, ok, I admit. It was actually rather a nice day yesterday, and the sun finally shone. But in my heart, it was raining.
That was before I tasted those lamb shanks, though. Oooh lordy they were good. I decided to drive the stake into summer’s heart even more by darkening them down with some Indian spices, and serving them with my version of a lentil daal, made from the cooking liquid. It was stupendously rich and tender, with the meat sliding off the bone like Bambi slides on ice and a thick, silky, spicy sauce. And I have never seen the kids eat so quickly, or in such large quantities.
When I awoke this morning, it was raining again. But somehow, I didn’t care. My summer has been lightened by our illicit foray into the dark side of November dining. Let it rain summer; bring it on. Tonight we will have salad and rose wine.
Indian Spiced Lamb Shanks
- 4 lovely little lamb shanks
- 1 onion, halved and thinly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 2 tsp paprika powder
- 3 small dried red chilies
- 1 liter of stock (lamb preferably, but veal or beef work)
- 1tsp garam masala powder
- 2 dl red lentils
Pre-heat you oven to 170C.
Grind the coriander, cumin and chili in a spice grinder (I use a coffee grinder) and stir in the paprika.
Over a high heat, quickly fry the shanks in a heavy-based casserole pan (the sort with a lid).
Remove the meat and reduce the heat to medium.
Gently fry the onion and garlic, without colour until soft.
Turn up the heat a wee bit then stir in the spice mix and fry for two minutes.
Pour in the stock and bring to a gentle simmer. Place the shanks lying down in the pot. You want the liquid to come about half way up the lamb. Add a little water if it falls short.
Put a lid on and put the pot in the oven. Go away and do something else for two hours.
After two hours remove the meat (gently or it will all fall off the bone) and keep it warm under foil.
Put the pot on the stovetop and bring to the boil. Add the lentils and the garam masala and simmer for 10-12 minutes, until the lentils start to break up a little. Serve.