About us

We are two friends, one living in town and one in the country, who love to cook and entertain at home. We share a passion for our gardens and for the easy-going lifestyle of sub-tropical eastern Australia. And, yes, we both have garden ponds teaming with frogs.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Lamb shanks... with an Aussie twist

The are as many recipes for lamb shanks as there are sheep in a paddock. But when two frogs talked we decided we wanted a taste that was Australian, not Irish or Italian or Turkish, lovely though these are with Guinness or olives and rosemary. So, no rosemary in this one; no foamy dark stout either. Just fresh local fruit and veggies, and a pinch of Australian history.

Lamb shanks with onion and sweet potato
Once upon a time every country kitchen had a wood-fired stove, which burned from dawn until bedtime, and a big iron cooking pot would have been used to slow-simmer stews made of beef shin and from shank or hock - the rich gelatinous cuts from between the hoof and knee of mutton or pork. Now that our stoves do not burn all day, and the cook works outside the home, we rarely eat mutton and instead use the more tender meat from lamb for the old-style shank stew. 

Serves 4 hearty eaters, but when calculating amounts, allow at least 1 shank per person - they look large, but there is little meat on the skinny end, and it would be sad to disappoint anyone who wanted a second helping.
When buying the meat, if the shank bone is not cut through halfway along, ask the butcher to do so. Flavour is all about the marrow, and a cut bone gives you twice as much.
Easy, but fiddly. If making sauce or gravy the fat needs to be lifted from the cooked pan juices. There are easier ways to prepare this dish, but at the risk of not developing the deep flavour you expect from slow-cooked meat.

You will need: Large deep stovetop pan with lid; cutting boards, grater, juicer.

5 - 6 bone-cut lamb shanks
1 mango, to yield 1 cup of diced pulp (or crushed pineapple, fresh or canned)
4 - 6 tomatoes, to give 2 cups pulp (or 400gm can good quality crushed tomato)
2 medium onions
4cm piece young fresh root ginger (use less older ginger as it is hotter)
1 lime (or ½ lemon), juice and rind
1 small red chilli
1 teaspoon fresh cracker pepper
¼ - ½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon 5-spice or cinnamon
Optional: 2 lemon myrtle leaves (or lime or curry leaves)
½ cup plain flour to thicken sauce.
Vegetables (as shown in top photo): 4 medium onions to caramelise; 4 medium washed potatoes, 4 thick slices golden sweet potato

Easy Method 1: (without caramelised onion). Place lamb, 2 chopped onions and chopped tomato in large oven dish. Puree all other ingredients and tip over lamb. Cook with lid on in oven at 180 C for 1 hour then place prepared potatoes and thick cut sweet potato in the dish on top of the lamb. Turn oven back to 150 and continue to cook 30 - 45 minutes. Test for tenderness.

Easy Method 2: For slow cooker (without caramelised onion). As for Easy Method 1, but cook in bench-top slow cooker (per instruction book). Place potatoes in with lamb and pour sauce over.

Easy Method 3: For pressure cooker (without caramelised onion). Cook lamb and sauce 40 min. Allow to cool to reduce pressure then add vegetables; cook further 10 minutes.

FROGBLOG TIP: Add 40 ml light soy or 60 ml tomato sauce to compensate for the lesser flavour generated by these cooking methods.

Best Method: As with anything, the more love you give, the better the outcome. By taking a little extra time, lamb shanks finished with caramelised onion are sure to impress family and friends.

1. To serve the lamb dressed with caramelised onion, start by quartering 4 unpeeled medium onions leaving part of the baseplate on each quarter so onion won’t fall apart. Then pull the skin down and tear off at the base. Place flat side down in the heated pan with a little oil; put the lid on and cook until well browned on the down side - about 5 minutes. One side is enough as they will have steam-cooked all the way through. Remove and set aside on a plate.

2. While onion cooks, trim obvious fat from lamb. Place shanks in hot onion pan to brown (one side is enough for flavour, but brown both sides if you wish).

3. Meanwhile, roughly chop 2 onions; add to pan and fry in the releasing fat. 

4. Roughly dice tomato and put on top of lamb and onion.

4. Place chopped mango, lime, ginger and other ingredients except lime/curry leaves in blender and puree. Pour into the pan and give the pot a bit of a shake around. Place the leaves on top, poking them into the juice. Put the lid on; simmer slowly 2 hours or until meat lifts easily from the bone.

5. Lift cooked lamb into a serving dish.


To skim off unwanted fat: Scoop fat from the pan juices by pushing a soup ladle carefully down into the stock and letting the surface liquid and fat run in. Or drop 6 ice cubes into the pot and fat will immediately solidify onto the ice. Remove quickly before the ice melts. 

To cook potatoes, dress the dish and serve: Cut washed potatoes into smallish pieces and place into the meat juice with sweet potato. Simmer until soft but still firm, and arrange around the lamb with the quartered caramelised onion. Use the hot unthickened pan juices to pour over the meat, or make a gravy with ½ cup plain flour mixed to a sloppy paste with cold water. Stir into juices and continue to stir while pot comes to the boil again. Pour hot sauce over the meat and vegetables, and take to the table.

Prepare ahead: Cook everything the day before (or two days ahead). Re-heat in moderate oven under foil, or microwave. Add a side dish of flash-fried greens such as bok choy or long beans.

Next: More meat, as we continue to track down traditional Australian food. Apologies to the vegetarians out there. We recommend you slip back to posts on chickpeas and curry.

Written and compiled by two frogs.

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