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Water. Air. Food. Sex. The essentials in life. The first two? Leave them in their natural state and they'll look after you just fine.. The later two? Fun to play with. Get a little creative with. And if the mood strikes you, mix the two... Food and sex have been linked throughout history. Think about it. I mean really think about it. Is there anything more sexy than good food? Chances are others think the same thing. These recipes are not just about seducing that special someone (or someones) but seducing yourself. Its easy to forget what a pleasure food can be. So take a knife, some nice ingredients, and get Seductive in the Kitchen.

Monday, May 24, 2010

All night long - Slow Braised Lamb Shanks with Soft Polenta, Broccolini and Shitake Mushroom Sauce

In this day and age every cookbook and its mum is about quick food, food in minutes, week night cooking... And dont get me wrong, I love quick effortless food.
But just as quickly prepared, quickly eaten is satisfying, there is something quite indulgent about taking some time to put love and effort into your food.
Cooking for the sensual pleasure of the preparation of the food, rather than just the satisfaction of the eating.
The slow food movement is sweeping the globe.
I would love to see giant billboards displaying the scintillating words, 'WANT LONGER LASTING DINNER?' or 'MAKING DINNER? DO IT... LONGER.'
Given the way many of us live these days it is not possible every night to spend hours preparing our meals, or that we will even want to.
But sometimes you want to just get in the kitchen and lose yourself in there for an age. Put on some sexy salsa music, pour yourself a glass of whatever you fancy and create something fantastic.
Make a thing of it, if you want. Invite some people round for dinner. Or don't.
In her Nigella Lawson's fantastic book How To Eat she fabulously quotes Woody Allen in relation to making food just for yourself - 'Don't knock masturbation.' He once said. 'Its making love to someone I love.'

On that note lets slip off our shoes and get in the kitchen...

For the shanks;
12 lamb shanks
1 large brown onion, roughly chopped
1 carrot, roughly chopped
2-3 bay leaves
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and smushed with the side of your knife
vegetable oil
2-3 stalks of celery, roughly chopped
Enough stock to cover - 1-2 litres
200 ml red wine
Sprig of rosemary, torn off the stem
4-5 stalk of fresh thyme, torn of the stem

For the Polenta;

1200ml of Chicken or Vegetable stock
1200ml Milk
400gm Polenta
100 gm Butter, cubed
Your favorite whisk
Your nicest pan, preferably with a thick base
200 gm grated cheese of your choice - I prefer Parmesan here

For the Shitake Mushroom Sauce;

15-20 dried shitake mushrooms
hot water
1 Brown or spanish onion, finely diced
3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1tbls oil
1tbls butter
splash of white wine, if desired
1-2tsp corn flour
smoked paprika, if desired
Broccolini, to serve

To cook the shanks;
Preheat your oven to 140c - 150c.
Give the shanks a good season all over - nobody likes a bland shank. Now is the chance to use your pepper grinder. Get carried away, I won't mind.
Heat a little oil in a couple of large pans till quite hot then carefully place your meat into the sizzling pans and cook, turning occasionally until they are well browned all over. Don't be tempted to turn them too often as color equals flavor. And flavor equals wonder.
Remove with tongs to a deep sided baking tray.
Fry your vegetables (onion, garlic, carrot, celery) in the same pan; they will soak up any lamby flavor left in the pan. Fry them till they are quite golden...
Tumble the vege over the shanks and return the pans to the heat. Pour in your wine if you're using or a little stock if you are going nonalcoholic and stir with your wooden spoon till all the delicious bits that have stuck to the bottom of the pan release their hold and become one with the wine/stock.
This is called deglazing.
Add this damn fine liquid to the shanks.
Heat stock in a pan till it comes to the boil. Pour it over the shanks until it covers it by a centimetre or so. Place in your herbs, peppercorns and bayleaves.
Cover tightly with foil and bake for 3-5 hours.
I did mine for 5 hours and they were literally melting off the bone.
Give them a check after 3 and see how they are doing.
Go occupy yourself for a few hours.

You can make the sauce in advance to make your life easier and
simply reheat it when your ready to go.

For The Shitake Mushroom Sauce;

Place the mushrooms in a bowl and cover with 500ml of boiling water. Leave to sit for a good half an hour to plump and infuse the water with their wonderfully unique taste...

Heat oil and butter gently in a pan. Add onion and garlic and fry till translucent and caramelized.
The more flavor you achieve now, the more flavor it will add to the sauce. Don't let the garlic color as it will change the flavor..
Season and add the smoked paprika if you are using.
Fry a little longer.
Chop shitake mushrooms into thick slices and add to the pan. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Add a splash of white wine if desired. Pour in 300ml of the shitake soaking liquid and 200ml of either some shank braising liquid or some chicken or vegetable stock.
Simmer until reduced by half and the flavor is rich and aromatic.

Mix corn flour in a small bowl with 4 tbls water to make a smooth paste. Trickle into your sauce, stirring constantly as you go to avoid lumps.
cook until velvety and no longer tastes of raw flour.
Serve or put aside to heat later.

Note - this sauce is also beautiful if you replace the corn flour with cream and reduce a further 10 minutes to make a lush shitake cream sauce.
About 30 minutes before they are ready make the polenta.

To Make the Polenta;

Heat the stock and milk with some seasoning until simmering.
Get your parmesan grated, your butter cubed and your whisk ready.
Rain in the polenta, whisking as you go. It will seem like a lot of liquid. Trust me - it will come good.
Turn down the heat and keep whisking until it starts to thicken. You want to cook it out for a good 15 minutes or so for it to become beautifully velvety. Add your butter as you stir gently. There is no need to tired out your arm once the heat is turned down. Just stay with it and whisk gently. Add your parmesan (or cheese of your cheese) and adjust seasoning to taste.

Whisk a little more. Add butter as needed and a little cream if desired.
Remove from heat and cover with foil to keep warm.

To Serve;

Steam broccolini until just cooked and still beautifully green. Season.
Spoon soft polenta onto plate.
Top with two shanks, on or off the bone. Garnish with steamed broccoli and drizzle generously with sauce.
Taste and remember why sometimes going the extra miles is worth the effort...

Meltingly soft polenta...

Uniquely rich shitake mushroom sauce...

And Lamb so tender it literally falls off the bone...

Careful... It may be too tender to stay on your fork...

1 comment:

  1. Oh, that looks so good! My mouth was watering as I read it and I just finished my dinner! I will be attempting this soon!