Sunday, May 10, 2009

Braised lamb shanks with leeks and haricot beans

Serves 4

Another personalised request - again it's lamb, I'm seeing a worrying trend... mind you if I was churning out a plethora of snake soup recipes I'd be far more concerned. This dish, as all braises tend to be, gets even better when left overnight in the fridge. You could make it a day or two in advance for the ultimate development of flavour.

4 small lamb shanks
300g dried haricot beans
4 bay leaves
olive oil
4 large leeks, trimmed, halved lengthways and rinsed
about 60g butter
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely sliced
1 tblsp chopped thyme leaves
1 tblsp plain flour
650ml of light stock
juice and zest of a lemon
a handful of parsley, chopped
a handful of mint leaves

Soak the beans overnight in cold water. The next day, drain them, put them into a deep saucepan and cover with fresh water. Bring to the boil, skim off the froth, drop in two bay leaves and a drop or two of olive oil and simmer for 40 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave them in the cooking water.

Warm a splash of olive oil in a deep casserole. Season the shanks all over with salt and black pepper then lower them into the pan. They should sizzle when they hit the oil. Turn the meat from time to time until it has coloured nicely on all sides (a pale honey rather than deep brown). Remove the meat from the casserole and set aside on a plate to catch any escaping juices.

Set the oven at 160c/gas mark 4. Cut the leeks into chunks roughly the length of a wine cork; wash them thoroughly, and then put them together with the butter in the casserole, keeping the heat low. Cover with a piece of greaseproof paper then cover with a lid. Leave them to cook until they have started to soften - a good 20 minutes or so. You will need to give them an occasional stir.

Remove and discard the paper. Peel and thinly slice the garlic, and add it to the pot with the thyme and two bay leaves. Sprinkle the flour over the top and continue cooking for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, then pour in the water and the drained cooked beans.

Season with salt and pepper; return the shanks and any collected juices to the pan. Bring back to the boil. Cover the casserole with a lid and place in the oven for an hour and a half or until the lamb is completely tender - sometimes it takes two.

You should be able to remove it from the bone with little effort. (Then again, it shouldn't actually be falling apart.) Remove from the oven, stir in most of the lemon juice and zest, parsley and mint, then scatter the rest over as you serve.