Rosemary and Garlic Slow-Cooked Lamb Shanks with Mint Sauce

Slow-roasted lamb shank with new potatoes and spring vegetable stew
As my dad used to say (in a funny voice): “Spring has sprung, the grass has riz, I wonder where the birdies is.” Weird, I know. But it’s true and we’re making the most of it with adventures into the outdoors and seasonal cooking. Nothing says spring to me more than lamb with mint sauce, and our little kitchen window-sill mint plant was getting dangerously out of control, so last Sunday lamb and mint was what we had to have.
Mint plant
Usually we would always choose a leg of lamb to cook with, but with only two of us eating we decided that lamb shanks were much more economical and manageable. If you’re cooking for more, then the recipe will easily double, triple, or more. Of course if you’re treating yourself then you can also halve the quantities. The same goes for the mint sauce: make as much as you need. The measures below are a generous amount for two, as I like to drown my lamb and potatoes in the stuff.

We decided to use our new tagine again (last time we did BBQ pulled pork) and were once more amazed with the results. There is something magical about a tagine that transforms meat into the most delicate, moist dish after just a few hours in the oven. We have also discovered that sliced onions cooked in a tagine soak up all the surrounding juices and end up sweet, caramelised and melt in the mouth. Our new rule of thumb? Onions in every tagine dish. However, don’t worry if you don’t have a tagine to cook in. This recipe will work well in any heavy-based pot that has a lid and can go in the oven, or you could simply use a roasting tin well-covered in tin foil.

Lamb Shanks
Ingredients (serves 2)
Ingredients for slow-cooked rosemary and garlic lamb shanks
4 sprigs rosemary
2 small onions
4-5 garlic cloves
1 chicken stock cube
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 lamb shanks

1. Preheat the oven to 150C fan/ 170C/Gas Mark 3.
2. Remove the thin rosemary leaves from the woody stalks and roughly chop. Thinly slice the onions and crush the garlic cloves. Place in the tagine and sprinkle with the stock cube.
Onions with garlic and rosemary in the bottom of the tagine
3. Generously season the lamb shanks and heat the olive oil in a frying pan. Quickly brown the lamb on all sides over a high heat.
Browning the seasoned lamb shanks
4. Nestle the shanks amongst the onion layer and fill the tagine to roughly ¼ of the way up with boiling water. Pop the tagine’s hat on and cook for 3 hours.
Lamb shank tagine ready to go in the oven
Covered tagine ready to go in the oven

Mint Sauce
Ingredients for homemade mint sauce
Bunch of mint (about 10 sprigs)
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp sugar
5 tbsp hot water (e.g. from a recently boiled kettle)

1. Remove the mint leaves from the stalks and finely chop.
Finely chopped mint for homemade mint sauce
2. Put the chopped leaves in a small jug or bowl and mix with the vinegar, sugar and water. Adjust the balance of vinegar, sugar and water to suit your own taste.
Jug of homemade mint sauce

After three hours in the oven, the lamb shanks will be ridiculously tender and the meat will fall effortlessly from the bone.
Lamb shanks after cooking for 3 hours
Melt in the mouth slow-cooked rosemary and garlic lamb shanks
Serve with the soft onions, the mint sauce, steamed new potatoes and spring vegetables. We had a stunning vegetable side dish which I will give you the recipe for next time – it was a real treat! I don’t think this dish needs an additional gravy: the meat is so moist, the onions come swathed in a thick gravy-like liquid and the mint sauce is an added bonus.
Sunday dinner of slow-cooked roseamry and garlic lamb and homemade mint sauceEating this meal, with the windows thrown open and the evening sun sinking over the neighbouring buildings, made me so happy and excited for the months ahead. Spring really has sprung.