A delicious one-pot autumn meal: meltingly tender lamb shanks cooked with sliced potatoes, sweet cherry tomatoes, rosemary and garlic.
Usually I cook lamb shanks in a richly flavoured tomato or wine sauce, and roast the potatoes separately. But after my Pork Neck Casserole with Potatoes turned out so well, I thought I'd try the same method, this time using some lovely Karoo lamb.
Don't be tempted to add extra liquid - say wine or water - to this dish: it will form its own delicious juices. Use the sweetest, ripest cherry tomatoes you can find.
This is really easy to prepare, and, like the pork casserole, can be made many hours in advance and then forgotten about. Ask the butcher to slice through narrow end of the shanks a few times so that the shanks can be curled into the pot. It's not essential to brown the shanks before they go into the oven, but it does add extra depth of flavour.
Slow-cooked Lamb Shanks with Potatoes and Tomatoes
1/2 cup (125 ml) good olive oil
4 large lamb shanks, bone cut through
8 big potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-cm-thick slices
1 large onion, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
500 g (1 punnet) of ripe, plump cherry tomatoes (I used Rosa variety)
8 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and finely sliced
a sprig of fresh rosemary
juice of 1 lemon
salt and freshly ground black pepper
a knob of butter
Preheat the oven to 180° C. Heat a large cast-iron casserole dish, or an ovenproof dish, on your hob or hot plate, add a little oil and, over a fierce heat, quickly brown the lamb shanks on all sides (in batches if necessary). Remove dish from the heat, set the shanks aside on a plate, and pour away any lamb fat that's accumulated in the pot.
Arrange a single layer of sliced potatoes in the bottom of the dish and top with half the sliced onion and cherry tomatoes. Add half the sliced garlic and a few rosemary needles and sprinkle with 3 or so tablespoons of olive oil. Season generously with salt and pepper.
Place the lamb shanks on top of this layer and squeeze half a lemon directly over the shanks.
Tuck the remaining onion slices, cherry tomatoes and garlic between the shanks. Sprinkle with rosemary needles and a little more olive oil, and season again.
Now cover the entire dish with a solid layer of overlapping potato slices. Squeeze over the remaining lemon juice, sprinkle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Scatter with a few rosemary needles.
Cut a circle of tin foil to the same size as the dish, butter it generously, and place it, butter side down, directly on the top layer of potatoes. Place a heavy plate or dish on top of the foil, so that the contents of the casserole are are weighed down. Place in the oven and cook at 180°C for one hour. Now reduce the heat to 120°C and cook for another three to four hours, or until the lamb is so tender that it is falling off the bone. Do not stir or mix the dish.
Remove the plate and tin foil. Brush the top layer of potato with a little melted butter. Turn the oven up to 180°C and cook for three-quarters of an hour, or until the potato topping is golden and crispy.
Serve hot, with plenty of bread for mopping up the juices.
Serves 6 or more