Sumptuously tender and worthy of its place at the feasting table. With its provocatively nuanced aromas, lamb announces occasion and captures the essence of celebration. For our Easter gathering this year, I’ll be making Red wine Lamb shanks with browned sage butter. Imbued with the distinctive taste of indigenous Karoo shrubs, it’s delicately sweet and utterly beautiful.
When it comes entertaining, slow roasting guarantees meltingly tender meat with hardly any fuss at all. There are essentially two steps to my Red wine lamb shanks. Marinating, then several lazy hours in the oven. When the meat releases its grip from the bone, it is spoon-tender and ready for the table.
Sundried tomatoes, garlic and fresh rosemary are the key ingredients for the marinade. It’s bright, herbaceous and especially good with the shrub-infused flavours of Karoo lamb. An overnight marination is best, allowing the flavours to deeply saturate the meat, although several hours will do if that’s all you can spare. The consistency and taste is of the marinade is similar to pesto and therefore good with most Italian style dishes – antipasti, tomato based pasta sauces or, stirred into soups and casseroles. Maybe double the marinade recipe and store half for easy midweek pastas.
Before roasting, bring the lamb up to room temperature. I create a bed of onions for the lamb to rest on, along with thyme, rosemary and sage sprigs. Then it’s into the oven for several hours of effortless, handsfree cooking. In keeping with the flavours of the Mediterranean, I’ve added Kalamata olives and caper berries to finish. The saltiness of the olives and astringency of capers contrast and cut the fattiness of the lamb perfectly. Both are optional but a delightful surprise. About the browned sage butter. Once again, I offer this as a suggestive addition, although the crisp, wooded sage may just be the making of the dish.
For these Red wine lamb shanks, I’ve partnered with ATKA meat using their free range, Karoo certified lamb. For more information and local orders, please visit the ATKA website. Currently delivering to Johannesburg and Pretoria.
Red wine Lamb Shanks
Rosemary & Tomato Pesto Marinade
45ml (3 tablespoons) olive oil
80g (1/3 cup) sundried tomatoes (preserved in oil)
2 garlic cloves
zest of 1 lemon
30ml (2 tablespoons) lemon juice
2 sprigs rosemary, leaves picked and finely chopped
a generous handful flat leaf parsley, leaves only
5ml (1 teaspoon) sea salt flakes
freshly ground black pepper
olive oil, for roasting
6 ATKA free-range, Karoo lamb shanks
2 red onions, peeled and cut into wedges
2 garlic cloves, bruised
several sprigs of each, thyme, rosemary and sage
200ml chicken stock
250ml (1 cup) red wine (Shiraz or Merlot)
180ml (3/4 cup) tomato passata
1/3 cup Kalamata olives
2 tablespoons caper berries, rinsed
45ml (3 tablespoons) butter
several sprigs fresh sage, leaves picked
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
For the pesto marinade, place all the ingredients in a processor and blitz until smooth. Cut several deep slits in each shank with a sharp knife. Rub the marinade over the shanks and into the slits. Cover and chill overnight.
Bring the lamb to room temperature before roasting. Preheat the oven to 180 C.
Arrange the onions and garlic in a deep roasting tin. Add the fresh herbs, then drizzle lightly with olive oil. Season the shanks lightly with salt and black pepper. Place the shanks on top of the onions and pour the stock in around the sides. Cover tightly with foil. Roast for 2 hours.
Add the red wine and tomato passata to the roasting tray. Turn the shanks over, cover and roast for a further 45-60 minutes until the lamb is completely tender. Remove the shanks carefully to a plate, cover and set aside. Place the roasting tin on the hob and reduce the sauce until thickened. Add the olives and caper berries. Return the shanks to the roasting tin and coat in the rich tomatoey sauce.
Place the butter in heavy based pan set over a medium heat. Once melted, swirl the butter until it turns a lovely golden brown colour and smells nutty. Add the sage and swirl through the hot butter until crisp, about a minute. Pour the sage butter over the lamb and serve immediately.
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