Sunday, November 30, 2008


Braised Lamb Shanks on Bulgur

Even as the humidity rises and the sun gets closer, I am happy to braise meat. The benefit of braising in warm climes is that there is not much preparation time required, so one can still have cooked meat without having to sweat over a hot stove - most people I know all but abandon cooking during summer. And whilst the inside of a cooking vessel can look gloomy when one is braising dark meat, the meat itself, succulent and flavourful, can be served with any light, summery options you desire. Braising meat in summer is perfect for people who do not care to throw everything on the barbecue (cleaning the grates/grills is not a fun way to end a summer evening).

One of my favourite partners for braised meat is bulgur - cracked wheat that is a staple in Turkey and in the Arabic-speaking world (where it is called burghul). It is generally available in three textures - coarse (great for pilafs), medium (for salads, such as the summer necessity tabbouleh, and to stuff vegetables), and fine (for pastes and purees). It absorbs liquid wonderfully, thereby enhancing its naturally nutty flavors with the broth of your choice. For braised dishes, one can steep bulgur in hot water with a blend of spices and some of the braising liquid.

Braised Lamb Shanks on Bulgur

For the lamb shanks:

2 tablespoons flour
1/4 tablespoon salt
1/4 tablespoon pepper, ground (I used both Szechuan peppercorns and black pepper)
4 lamb shanks
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon thyme
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 leek, sliced
2 carrots, diced
300mls/10 fl. oz white wine (just under half a standard bottle of wine)
2 cups beef broth
4 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped

1) Pre-heat oven to 150 C/300 F.
2) Create seasoned flour by combining flour, salt and pepper in a small shallow vessel.
3) Dredge the shanks in the seasoned flour, shake off the excess.
4) In a dutch oven, heat oil over a medium heat and brown the lamb shanks on all sides.
5) Remove lamb shanks, then add thyme, onion, leek and carrots until softened. Stir garlic through to cook, but do not let it brown.
6) Raise heat, add wine and broth. Allow the liquid bubble furiously for a couple of minutes, then return lamb shanks to the dutch oven.
7) Place a layer of baking paper snuggly over the lamb shank, cover with a lid, then put in oven until lamb is meltingly tender, approximately 2-2 1/2 hours.

For the bulgur:

1/2 cup bulgur, medium grind
2 teaspoons ground coriander seeds
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground Szechuan peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1/2 cup beef broth
1 cup boiling water

1) In a bowl, combine bulgur, ground spices and a couple of pinches of salt.
2) Add beef broth and water. Stir quickly, then cover with cling-film.
3) Do not remove cling-film until liquid has been absorbed by the bulghur wheat, approximately 20 minutes.

I mixed some of the vegetables from the braise with the bulgur in order to form a nice, nutty bed for the lamb shanks. Be sure to spoon some of the braising liquid over the shanks and bulgur. A touch of zingy freshness can be added with gremolata (minced garlic, lemon zest and parsley).

Even though it takes a while for the lamb shanks to become so tender that the meat practically falls of the bone, this is an exercise in effortless cooking.

Here's to summer!

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You make me long to have lamb :)
Cynthia ~ Loads of spring lamb available now. I prefer mutton - older and more flavoursome. This braised dish is a breeze and is substantial.
Did Eric tell you that we got a pressure cooker? I think would be perfect for this dish!! I am going to try that ~
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