It's been a while since I gave the good word to my friends at Wai-Ora, but that time has rolled around again.
I would have loved to have posted more lovely lamb deliciousness this winter, but it has not been the case. Mostly, this is because when we cook lamb we generally keep it very simple, and so there's not much to say about it, really.
The other thing is this: We are big fans of Lamb Shanks. Knuckles, Shanks, whatever you call them, there was a time, not so long ago, when they were a cheap and delicious meal that we would have at least every couple of weeks.
But something changed. The twin-packs of knuckles we used to get from the supermarket for $5 have crept up to $7 or $8, or even more. For two people (and given the long cooking time) that's not such a great deal anymore. You could pretty much buy steak for that price, and cook it in 10 minutes.
What happened to push up the price of a joint that used to be considered little more than offal?
I tell you, it's those damned Celebrity Chefs again. That, and possibly the severe shortages of lamb due to last year's weather, the declining market, the shift from lamb farming to dairy in New Zealand, and whatever else. But I'm going to blame Oliver and Ramsay. By doing the right thing and championing delicious cuts of meat like the Lamb Shank, they've pushed up demand and therefore market value for something that really should be an affordable family meal. Now it's almost a luxury.
With this small travesty simmering in my viscera I went to the market, and drooled over the selection in the Wai-Ora lamb fridge like I always do. When I saw two Lamb Shanks for $7, I was equally outraged, but then I did the math.
It was the same price as you'd pay for the ones in the supermarket, and they were slightly smaller, but, as we well know, of a much superior quality (I kid you not, and I have the pictures to prove it). Reluctantly accepting that if Lamb Shanks were now to be a treat they might as well be a delicious treat, I bought them.
But it does seem a shame that Lamb Shanks might now be a rarity in our diet, rather than a reasonably frequent staple. There's nothing quite like having that bone on the plate, all melting meat and oily juices. Very primal. For the sake of preserving these memories for future generations, I took the liberty of recording in great detail the cooking and even eating of these most delicious joints.
Because that's what I do.
Crockpot Herbed Lamb Shanks
2 Lamb Knuckles
Fresh Mint, chopped
Fresh Thyme, chopped
Freshly Ground Pepper and Salt
Zest of 1 Lemon
2T Flour or Potato Flour for Gluten-Free
4 Cloves of Garlic, minced
1 Cup Beef or Lamb Stock
1 Onion, chopped
2T Sour Cream
Grind up the herbs, lemon zest, garlic, flour and seasoning with a mortar and pestle, adding enough olive oil to loosen it. Coat the knuckles thoroughly.
Place the knuckles in the slow cooker, push the onion in around the meat, and pour the stock in around the edges of the dish. Be careful not to rinse the herbs off the shanks with the stock.
Cook on High for 1 hour, then switch to low for a further 3 1/2 - 4 hours.
When the shanks are done, blend the remains in the crockpot into gravy.
Add the sour cream to the gravy, mix well and spoon onto plates.Lay the shanks on top of the gravy. Serve with couscous cooked in beef stock and fresh steamed vegetables. As promised, this is the depth of colour you'll get in the middle of one of these lamb shanks. That, my friends, is flavour, and that is why we have to do so little to get Wai-Ora lamb tasting amazing. It already is.
In case you missed it before, you can find the Wai-Ora truck at various markets around Wellington on the weekend, or you order direct from their site. And as I've said before, Wai-Ora don't pay me anything to promote their product. I'd just hate to see them disappear from my market, so get out there and support them, or I'll be cross.