This dish ticks multiple boxes. Hearty and satisfying, it is sophisticated enough for a dinner party but also affordable if you get your lamb shanks from your friendly local Syrian butcher rather than from Waitrose. Once all the onions have been sliced, it also entails very little effort. The recipe is from the first River Café Cookbook, one of many in my collection from the mid-90s and has needed hardly a tweak since. Writing through gritted teeth and with growling stomach, at the start of Veganuary 2021, I predict that lamb shanks will make an early appearance on the table in February.
Serves 6 generously
6 small lamb shanks
plain flour for dusting
palt and pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
6 red onions, peeled and finely sliced
a handful of chopped rosemary leaves
4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
175 ml balsamic vinegar
300 ml red wine
Preheat the oven to 180 (fan) / 200C.
Dust the lamb shanks with seasoned flour. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan with a lid, heat the oil and brown the shanks on all sides, then remove. Lower the heat, add the onions and cook for about 10-15 minutes until light brown. Add the rosemary and garlic and cook for another couple of minutes. Raise the heat and add the balsamic vinegar and the wine. Reduce for a couple of minutes.
Return the shanks to the pan, reduce the heat and cover with a piece of moistened greaseproof paper and the lid. Cook in the oven for 2-2½ hours, or alternatively on top of the stove (slowly).
Check the shanks from time to time, basting with the juices, turning them over and adding more wine if they look too dry. Serve whole, with the juices. Mashed potatoes are a great accompaniment, along with something green.