SLOW-BRAISED LAMB SHANKS ON CREAMY POLENTA | Alida Ryder, Freelance Sylist, Photographer & Writer
Cooking for a crowd intimidates a lot of people because they assume that it immediately means more work. I'm here to tell you that if you are clever about the dishes you choose, you won't have to work any harder than you would if you cooked for two. The key to making sure that you don't have a nervous breakdown just thinking about what you need to cook, is to choose ingredients that take care of themselves. With that I mean ingredients that you can give no more than 20 minutes of TLC to, before leaving them to finish cooking without you. Slow roasts, soups, stews and braises all fall into that category. The other option is to get your guests to do the assembly themselves. Here I'm talking about things like tacos, wraps or tapas-style eating.
In summer, my go-to meal for serving a crowd is tons of prawns fried in butter with garlic, chilli and lemon. Serve with fresh bread to mop up the juices and you'll have your guests coming back for more. But as the seasons quickly turn, I crave food that will comfort and warm me from the inside out. These lamb shanks do just that. They are left to braise in the oven for 2-3 hours in a rich tomato sauce and served on top of creamy polenta flavoured with butter and Parmesan cheese. It's good to remember that if your lamb shanks are very big (which they tend to be), you can easily feed two people on one shank, but if you'd like to serve each guest their own shank, ask your butcher to cut them specifically to your taste.
I like to serve the lamb shanks and polenta with a simple side of steamed green beans (add some toasted hazelnuts if you want to add some flair) and a few bottles of deep and rich Merlot.
4 lamb shanks
2 tins chopped tomatoes
2 tins water (I use the
chopped tomato tins)
1 small tin tomato paste
1 bay leaf
6 fresh thyme sprigs
2 t salt
1 t cracked black pepper
For the polenta:
2 t salt
75g salted butter, cut
50g Parmesan cheese, grated
steamed green beans
Pre-heat the oven to 180°c.
Place the lamb shanks in a oven-proof roasting dish.
In a bowl, combine the chopped tomatoes, water, tomato paste, salt and pepper and pour over the lamb shanks.
Add the bay leaf, thyme and garlic and cover the dish with a lid or foil.
Place in the oven and allow to braise for 2-3 hours until the lamb shanks are cooked through and fall-off-the-bone tender.
To make the polenta, bring the water and salt to a boil in a large pot.
Slowly stir in the polenta until the mixture is lump free. Turn the heat down and allow the polenta to cook for 15-20 minutes stirring frequently until the polenta is thick and cooked through.
Remove from the heat and beat in the butter and the cheese.
Serve the polenta topped with the lamb shanks with some of the tomato sauce spooned over with the green beans.