The long Easter weekend is normally such a wonderful shared experience with family and friends whose homes we can’t even go into right now and my restaurant should be full to the rafters and buzzing with atmosphere and people enjoying great food and wine.
In these strange and challenging times, I somehow feel more drawn to a few classic food traditions than ever.
There’s something hugely comforting about cooking a particular dish at a particular time to mark a particular occasion, and for this Easter; I’ve decided to cook a simple but delicious dish of braised lamb.
Among the popular Easter symbols, lamb is by far the most significant as it is said to symbolize Jesus and apparently it embodies purity and goodness.
It also represents sacrifice with the sacrificial lamb remembered in celebrations of both Passover and Easter.
Luckily early spring is also the best time to enjoy it. The taste is sweeter and more refined at this time of year, before the hot weather arrives and the lambs start to suffer, like the rest of us, and sweat in the intense heat.
The Spanish have a well-known saying that states: “Enero y febrero preparan el buen cordero”. It’s difficult to translate, but it basically states that the lambs born in January and February will provide the tastiest meat of the year in spring.
I truly believe roast lamb is a magnificent thing. The complex flavour is bold yet delicate, the texture is a study in contrasts between the crisp, flavourful exterior and the tender, juicy interior, and the heady aroma is tantalisingly good as you wait impatiently to tuck in whilst your joint is in the oven.
It never ceases to amaze me how something so simple can be so good….a leg of sweet spring lamb, a couple of garlic cloves, a sprig of fresh thyme, a splash of white wine and little drizzle of olive oil and seasoning.
Covered with foil, ninety minutes in the oven at 150 degrees and job done.
Because we can’t be together with family and friends right now, I’m choosing an individual cut of meat this year instead of roasting a large leg and for me, it doesn’t get any better than fall apart tender lamb shanks, braised in a luxurious sauce with red wine and rosemary!
The humble lamb shank may have fallen out of fashion, but it can be the heart and soul of any Easter feast and I really think its it’s the perfect comforting dish for these uncertain times.
I’m serving mine with these delicious Pomme Dauphinoise potatoes. Felices Pascuas!
Easter lamb shanks with Rosemary
Serves 4 Ingredients
4 lamb shanks
A handful of plain flour
120ml extra virgin olive oil
2 red onions, peeled and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
150ml red wine
2 bay leaves
A few sprigs of fresh rosemary
1tsp tomato puree
1 tin of chopped plum tomatoes
500ml lamb or beef stock
Heat oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6.
Heat the olive oil in a heavy-based, ovenproof pan that will hold the lamb shanks quite closely together. Season the shanks and lightly dust them with flour. Sear the shanks on all sides until golden brown.
Take the meat out and set aside. Fry the onions, carrots and garlic and cook for 5-10 minutes until starting to brown. Add the rosemary and bay leaves. Stir in the tomato purée, then pour over the wine and stock.
Add the tinned tomatoes and return the lamb shanks to the pan. Bring to a simmer, season with salt and pepper and cover with a lid or tightly with foil and cook in the oven, undisturbed, for 1½-2 hours until the lamb is tender. Remove the lamb from the sauce and set aside.
Put pan back over a high heat and bring the sauce to the boil. Remove the fat from the surface and cook the sauce down until rich and glossy.
Return the lamb shanks to the sauce and serve with pureed potatoes.
600g Large potatoes
350ml double cream
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 sprig of fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
120g Gruyere cheese, grated
Preheat the oven to 200 C, Gas 6
Peel the potatoes and slice them evenly into 1cm slices.
Bring the milk and cream to the boil in a large saucepan and add the garlic cloves, fresh thyme, bay leaf and seasoning.
Boil for a couple of minutes and add the sliced potatoes into the saucepan and stir gently. Simmer for about 6-8 minutes and add half the cheese.
Layer the potatoes & cream in a shallow Pyrex dish.
Sprinkle over the last of the cheese. Bake the potatoes for about 20-25 minutes until the cheese is beginning to bubble and turn golden brown.