Roast Lamb for One
The best lamb you'll taste...
It's now officially winter down here, and getting cold it is too. Getting a cold is also what I've been doing recently, and had the past two days home sick coughing up a lung and feeling generally blah.
It's the time of year when it's dark when you leave the office just after 5pm, and black by the time you get home wanting hearty stews and thick soups, like the lamb shank and barley broth I'm eating as I type this. I, like Nigella, share an affliction to cook entire meals just for myself, so her idea in 'Feast' for Roast Lamb for 1 using a lamb shank was such a brilliant idea I wondered why I hadn't heard of it before.
Concerned about the fat levels in a lamb shank as they taste so gelatinous and gooey when cooked I did some research. Yes, they're not the most lean meat around, but it seems all cuts of lamb are the same. If you're going to cook any meat, you're going to get fat unless you're only using fillet. And actually, my research revealed that the hind shank of a lamb is the leanest cut of lamb you can buy. All well and good if you're buying lamb shanks from the butcher, but the supermarkets sure don't specify if their shanks are fore or hind! Actually, after cooking these shanks I noted each time how little fat was left in the pan; virtually none. The fatty mouthfeel mainly comes from the high levels of gelatine in the bones which virtually baste the meat from the inside as it cooks. What a wonderful and convenient quirk of nature!
I made this meal twice with the two shanks we had, both times differently, and I couldn't say which I preferred. I do know that both times I took my first bite of burstingly bronzed meat I let cry with 'Faaarrrrrrrrrr** that's good!!!!' or something similar.
The idea is simplicity itself, to throw a few bits and pieces and some liquid in a bag and marinate the meat for a few hours. Transfer it all to a small tin, or a cast iron pan (Le Creuset frying pans are the perfect size) and cook it for about an hour. I used Nigella's recipe the first time (below), and my own using tomato paste, red wine and anchovies for the second (above).
I found my liquid boiled dry a couple of times, meaning I had to have an open bottle of red wine near the oven for occasional top ups. Throw a few vegetables in the pan at some stage - potatoes work extremely well, brussels sprouts not so much (if, like me, you don't particularly like brussels sprouts, you're certainly not going to change your opinion by roasting them. Yuck and yuck.) At the end, as the meat is resting, deglaze the pan with some more red wine and make a glorious sticky sauce bursting with flavour. The meat, after its long cooking is tender, sticky and soft and your lips may well stick together.
This is some seriously good food. Just perfect for eating on the couch on a cold night. It'd also work well cooking for 2, but not any more than that. Something about this meal suggests intimate eating...
Read on for the recipe:
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Roast Lamb for One
based on Nigella Lawson, 'Feast'
1 lamb shank
1 sprig rosemary
2 cloves garlic, bruised
juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
2 or more tablespoons port
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon Maldon salt (or 1/2 teaspoon table salt)
Put everything into a freezer bag, along with some pepper, tie securely and leave in the fridge to marinate overnight.
Preheat the oven to 200C and take the lamb in its package out of the fridge to come to room temperature.
Put the lamb shank along with the marinade into a roasting tin and cook for 1-1 1/2 hours, depending on the size of the shank. This is the perfect time to retire to the couch with a glass of red wine.
Turn the shank over halfway through cooking. You may need to top up the the small amount of liquid in the bottom of the tin with some more red wine. By the time it's done it should look bursting with bronzedness; let stand for 5-10 minutes beofre eating. While it's resting, put the tin on the stove and stir in a little water and some redcurrant jelly or just red wine to make a light sauce.