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Lamb shanks have come a long way, as have many foods traditionally seen as ‘cheaper cuts’. Things that benefit from hours of slow cooking, which includes lamb shanks and beef cheeks among others, have become extremely popular in recent years, and following the inverse relationship of supply and demand the price has become increasingly unpopular. On the other hand there’s a lot of recipe variety for ways to prepare them, and this lamb shank curry is but one of them.

I can’t really remember having lamb shanks as a kid, although as a relatively picky eater with little appetite for anything too much except sugar prior to my teenage years that’s not surprising. I probably just pushed it around a bit and picked out a few select bits. I do have a vivid recollection of going on holidays with my parents when I was 10 years old and travelling through sheep station country in the north of Western Australia. We arrived at one and Dad had asked if they minded if we camp nearby and the owner very kindly invited us in for dinner that evening. ‘We’re probably just having some old bones anyway’ was how it got enthusiastically talked up, which turned out to be exactly the case as we were served stewed ox tail. My parents always loved that sort of stuff but it wasn’t doing it for me at age 10 that’s for sure. Ox tail seems to have failed to hit the highlights in the intervening years in the same way that lamb shanks have, which is probably not too surprising.

lambshankcurry1 Brown the shanks in oil on all sides.

A dear friend of mine who, coincidentally, was partly responsible for getting me into this whole cooking business, has sent me a number of variants of lamb shank recipes. Easily the best shanks I ever had was in South Africa at a pub in Johannesburg about 20 years ago. I wasn’t paying so much attention to food back in those days so I can’t remember what they were cooked or served with, but they were excellent. From that dish I also learned the two general principles for cooking lamb shanks, which are:

  1. cook them for a long time; and
  2. see point 1.

lambshankcurry2 Add all the other stuff and bring it to the boil, then simmer gently for three hours.

They really do need to be cooked until they are falling off the bone whether you do them in the oven or in a casserole, or even reduce the time needed by doing them in a pressure cooker. Whichever way you do them cook them low and slow, either by simmering gently or if doing them in the oven keep the temperature down around 150°, and you’ll need about three hours.

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Lamb Shank Curry

Cooking: About 15 minutes
Serves: 4

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 lamb shanks
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons ginger paste
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 2 teaspoons chilli powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin and cumin
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 600ml coconut milk
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 400g can chickpeas, drained
  • 1 stalk broccoli, separated into florets
  • 1 bunch kale or 14 small cabbage, finely chopped
  • Heat the oil in a large heavy based pot over medium-high heat. Add the lamb shanks and brown on all sides. Remove the shanks from the pan and set aside on a plate.
  • Reduce heat to medium-low, add the onion and ginger, and cook for 5 minutes or until softened. Add the garlic and cook for a further 30 seconds to 1 minute.
  • Add all the spices to the pan and stir for 30 seconds until fragrant, then add the lamb and stir to coat. Add the coconut milk and stock and season to taste with salt and pepper, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer gently for 3 hours or until lamb is tender (alternatively bring to the boil then place in the oven at 150° for the same amount of time).
  • Add the broccoli, kale and chickpeas in the last 10 minutes and cook until just tender.
  • Serve and enjoy.