Life’s a Feast: Vietnamese lamb shanks

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This restorative and warming dish is a twist on classic Vietnamese flavours and cuisine. With its mixture of textures, aromatics and delicious, mixed fresh herbs, you can be transported to the streets of Ho Chi Minh or Hanoi in a single bite. Lamb is not usually a meat associated with Vietnamese cooking, however I decided to experiment to see if it could fuse them. I am pleased to say, and my friends agreed, it combined beautifully! The fusion of the succulent, delicate shank with the aromatic flavour of the sauce works a treat. Once eaten you will understand how the two were made for each other!

PREP TIME: 20mins
COOK TIME: 3.5 hours
SERVES: 4

Ingredients

4 lamb shanks
4 tablespoons cooking oil
2 medium onions, thinly-sliced
6 cloves garlic, finely-diced
2 tablespoons fresh grated ginger
2 stalks lemongrass, outer leaves removed then bruised (bashed with knife)
4-5 whole star anise
2 chillies, finely-sliced
3 cups lamb or beef stock
2 sweet potatoes, chopped into bite-sized pieces
3 to 4 tablespoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons lime or lemon juice
1 good handful fresh mint
1 good handful Thai basil

Method

  1. Pre-heat oven to 150degC/slow cooker on high.
  2. Pat the lamb shanks dry with paper towels. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Heat oil in a large fry pan to medium-high heat. Brown the shanks individually for best results, rolling them in the hot oil to brown as much of the surface as possible. Remove and move either to your slow cooker or oven-proof dish with lid.
  4. Lower heat to medium. In the remaining oil, saute the onion until softened, around 2-3 minutes, then add garlic and ginger and cook for a further 2 mins.
  5. Next add half the sliced chillies (saving other half for garnish), the star anise and the lemongrass. Thoroughly combine and cook for further 2 mins.
  6. Pour in stock, sugar and three tablespoons fish sauce and one tablespoon of lime juice. Bring back to the boil then pour mixture over shanks.
  7. Sprinkle chopped sweet potato to the mix and ensure as much of the meat as possible is covered with liquid.
  8. Pop lid on slow cooker or put shanks in oven. Cook for two hours then GENTLY turn meat.
  9. Cook for a further hour. If meat’s not falling off the bone, cook for a further 30 mins.
  10. Remove shanks gently and place on large warmed serving platter. Add more fish sauce, if necessary, and the remaining lime juice. You can also add a little sugar.
  11. Remove lemongrass from shanks and pour over sauce.
  12. If sauce doesn’t reduce in slow cooker, pop it in a pot and boil rapidly for about 10 mins. Worst-case scenario, mix a tablespoon of cornflour with a tablespoon of water and mix through sauce and boil again for 3-4 mins.
  13. Sprinkle over mint and Thai basil and serve immediately with some jasmine rice or Asian greens. Enjoy!