Welcome to the 2nd post in our ‘Date Night’ series, inspiring you to take time out from your busy schedule to spend with your sweetie. Today we’re pleased to introduce guest chef Christen from twirling betty. Christen designs and makes fabric accessories by hand from her home business in Melbourne and lives with her two little girls and a remarkably supportive husband.
As chilly Winter weather finally starts to bite, I can think of nothing for better on a date night than these slow-cooked lamb shanks on wet polenta with sautéed fennel. They are relatively simple to make and the smell that will permeate your kitchen as they cook is utterly divine.
Although I’m aware there are unlikely to be any more than you and your beloved around the table on date night, I’m giving quantities here for around 5-6 because this is just as good re-heated the next day and served on mash or couscous. Alternatively, pull the leftover meat from the shanks and shred it then toss with some of the leftover sauce through fresh fettuccine.
For dessert I’ve chosen a very simple Italian desert; Affogato. Affogato means “drowned” in Italian and this dessert is so-called because you drown vanilla ice-cream in hot coffee and liqueur. It’s really, really delicious. Non-coffee drinkers could use decaf but you have to use “real” espresso for this dessert – either made with a machine or a stove-top pot. Instant coffee just won’t cut it here.
For the shanks
6 lamb shanks. Veal works equally well. The shanks look prettier if they’re “Frenched” so just go ahead and kiss them passionately. Just kidding. “Frenched” simply means some excess meat and sinew have been trimmed from the top of the shank so there is a neat little bit of bone sticking up above. Butchers are usually happy to do this for you if you ask. As your shanks slow cook, the meat will pull itself even further down the bone. This makes a cute little handle if you propose to eat yours with your hands, cave-woman style.
- 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
- 12 pickling size onions (the really little ones)
- 2×6 cm long fresh rosemary branches
- 1 cup beef stock
- 2 cups red wine
- Freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ cup redcurrant jelly
- 2 teaspoons wholegrain mustard
- 24g button mushrooms
- Finely chopped parsley, for garnish
For the polenta
- Instant polenta (available at supermarkets)
For the fennel
- 2 bulbs fennel
- Olive oil and butter
- Parmesan cheese
For the affogato
- Good quality vanilla bean ice cream.
- 60ml per person of hot espresso coffee.
- 60 ml per person of an Italian liqueur such as Amaretto (an almond flavoured Italian liqueur).
Cooking the lamb shanks
- Preheat oven to 160 degrees celsius.
- Peel onions but leave them as whole as possible (unless they’re on the big side in which case you might halve them). Wash rosemary.
- Heat oil over medium to high heat in an oven proof dish and brown the shanks for a few minutes on each side until they have some nice colour. Do this in batches of 2 or 3 each so you don’t crowd the pan.
- Remove the shanks from the dish and set aside.
- Drain excess fat and then return dish to medium heat. Add onions and sauté for a moment to take some colour. Then add rosemary, stock, wine, salt and pepper to taste, redcurrant jelly and mustard to the dish and stir to combine.
- Return shanks to the dish and cook in oven for 2 hours or until meat is pulling away from the bone.
- Wipe mushrooms and add whole (or halved if they’re on the big side) to the pan 20 minutes before the end of cooking time.
- Service on wet polenta garnished with a little chopped parsley.
Cooking the polenta
If you want to cook “real” polenta then you need to be aware that it takes around 20 minutes of standing over the pan and stirring constantly. Nothing tastes better, though. However, I think slaving over the stove defeats the purpose of a date night somewhat so I really recommend the quicker option: instant polenta. Just follow the directions on the packet. Very quick and easy. Promise.
Cooking the fennel
Cut bulbs into slices about 1 cm thick. Saute over medium heat in a little olive oil and butter until browned and tender. Serve with shavings of parmesan cheese.
Preparing the affogato
Serve a scoop or two of ice-cream per person and serve at the table with a shot of 60 ml shot espresso and a 60 ml shot of liqueur. Pour coffee and liqueur over ice cream. Eat!
Note from editor: I cooked this recipe myself over the weekend and it was absolutely delicious. It was the first time I’ve ever cooked lamb shanks, but they turned out perfectly. I’m delighted to have a new recipe to add to my gradually expanding list of favourites and would like to send a big thank you to Christen for her delicious recipe. I’d like to leave you today with a couple of new additions to Christen’s store, twirling betty…
This is Christen’s gorgeous daughter modelling two of her new Autumn Sun Visors. They are both available from the twirling betty Madeit store.