Who doesn't love lamb shank? In winter it must rate as one of the best comfort dishes around. Plus, it's super easy to cook. I usually make mine the night before and let it cook on a low temperature through the night. Serving it on the bone with polenta, parmesan mash, saffron rice etc. is cool, but what I like to do is shred the meat. It opens up so many options and you can create phenomenal things with it. I've used it in the past in a risotto which was sensational. The dish was pretty heavy though and I needed something a bit lighter when we hosted The In-Laws on Sunday. Enter gnocchi.
Gnocchi is highly underrated. It is not overly difficult to make and when you use sweet-potato as I do it's a lot healthier than most starches. The other bonus is that you can always make extra dough and freeze it. In terms of exact amounts, it's a bit tricky. Just gauge as you go and add flour or water as necessary.
Stuff you'll need to feed four:
For the gnocchi:
- 3 - 4 sweet potatoes, peeled, cooked and mashed
- A pinch of nutmeg
- One free-range egg yolk
- About 2 cups of flour plus extra for dusting
For the sauce
- 4 lamb shanks
- A handful of finely chopped carrot
- A handful of finely chopped celery
- An onion, finely chopped
- Two tins of tomatoes
- About half a bottle of red wine. (Good wine. Wine that you would drink happily)
- A handful of hard herbs, chopped (Go for thyme, rosemary, oreganum or a combo)
- Flour, for dusting the meat
- A handful of parsley, roughly chopped
- 1 - 2 chillies, finely chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
Okay, what to do:
For the gnocchi
1. Make sure the sweet-potatoes are well mashed and while they are still warm add flour, egg and nutmeg. Season well with salt and pepper and knead to make a warm, soft dough. If you need to add some flour or water do so. Cover with a tea towel for 5 minutes.
2. Sprinkle your work surface with flour and roll out the dough to form a long, thin "sausage".
3. Using a sharp knife cut the dough into 1cm pieces. Use a fork and squash each piece to form ridges on one side. Place pieces on a floured baking tray.
4. Bring a pot of salted water to the boil and cook gnocchi pieces in batches. What's pretty cool is that the gnocchi tells you when they are ready by rising to the surface. When this happens, scoop them out gently and put aside.
For the shanks
1. Preheat your oven to 140 degrees celsius. Dust your shanks in flour and brown them in a deep pot. Remove and set aside.
2. Gently fry your onion, carrot and celery in the pot for a few minutes and add your herbs, garlic and chilli. Fry for a bit longer before adding the tinned tomatoes and wine. Place your shanks in the liquid. They should be covered so you might need to add a glass or two of water.
3. Bring to the boil before reducing heat to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes before placing in the oven.
4. Cook shanks for as long as you can (at least 2.5 hours but preferably 7 or 8!) Take the pot out and gently turn the shanks every now and then.
5. When the meat is falling off the bone, remove shanks and set aside to cool. Shred meat.
6. Add ladles of the sauce to a pan and reduce until desired consistency. Add the meat and heat through.
To serve, spoon sauce into bowls, top with some gnocchi pieces and garnish with chopped parsley.
Quite simply, an epic meal.