recipe 1

Lamb Shanks with Mushroom Bolognese
In Italian, osso bucco means veal shank. For me, the real beauty is the style in which it is made: searing and braising which will suit any shank --lamb, beef, ham hock, turkey --until it's so tender, you can pull it right off the bone. Margaret River produces excellent fat lambs, so for our inaugural recipe, why look any further for an ingredient to complement our red wines. My recommendation for this dish is Boomerang Corner Shiraz.

(Serves 4)
4 lamb shanks
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
3/4 pound mixed fresh mushrooms roughly chopped.
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced carrot
1/2 cup diced celery
2 cups dry red wine
1 bay leaf
3 cups chicken stock
3 cups of chopped tomatoes (fresh or canned, depending on season)
1/2 pound dried orecchiette
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit Heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large, deep, ovenproof pot over medium heat until hot. Season the shanks with salt and pepper and brown on all sides, about 5-10 minutes. Remove to a plate.

Raise the heat to medium-high, add the mushrooms, and do not move them until they begin to brown, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper and sauté?until brown all over, about 5 minutes. Remove to another plate and put aside.

Reduce the heat to medium, add the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil to the pot, and heat until hot. Add the onion, carrot, and celery, season with salt and pepper, and sauté?until light brown, about 6 minutes. Add garlic and cook for one minute.

Add the wine and bay leaf, bring to a boil over high heat, and cook until reduced by half. Add the stock and tomatoes and bring to a boil again. Season with salt and pepper. Return the meat to the pot, cover, and place in the oven to braise until fork tender. Test at 2 hours, but the shanks may take as long as 4 hours.

Let the meat cool in the liquid to room temperature. Remove from the braising liquid and reserve separately. Skim off and discard the fat from the braising liquids. (The recipe may be made to this point a day ahead, covered, and refrigerated.)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt and the pasta and cook until al dente. *See notes about the pasta at the end of recipe. Usually around 10-12 minutes. Drain. Meanwhile, pour the defatted braising liquids into a saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add the basil and oregano.

Return the shanks to the sauce and simmer gently just until heated through, then remove and keep warm. Add the mushrooms and pasta to the sauce and heat gently until warm through. Pour onto a large, deep platter or divide among serving bowls and top with the shanks. Serve immediately.

It is acceptable and even preferable to do this dish a day ahead. It is much easier to defat the braising liquid after it has been refrigerated. You can also cook the whole dish in a covered pot on the stovetop. There is a caramelisation of flavors in oven braising that stovetop cooking does not replicate. If the shanks are cracked --cut through the bone at the top (ankle) --they will cook through to tenderness more rapidly, closer to 2 hours than 4 hours. This also allows the meat to "shrink" up the bone avoiding stretching and accordingly becoming a little tough.

Do not serve cheese with this pasta. The subtle gaminess of the cheese emphasizes the gaminess of the lamb.

*This tip to cook perfect 'al dente' pasta was given to me by an Italian friend living here in Hong Kong.

Use dried pasta not fresh. You will see why. Stop cooking when three quarters finished. You should feel a little "bite" still uncooked. Drain immediately and, as soon as possible, add the pasta to whatever sauce you have prepared to finish cooking. It helps if the sauce is hot. The secret is that, because the pasta hasn;t fully completed cooking, it will "drag" moisture and accordingly the flavours from the sauce it has been added to. It is thus possible, given a strongly concentrated stock, to fully flavour the pasta itself without any more accompaniment than, maybe, a good cheese.


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