There is a fairly famous and excellent Greek restaurant in downtown Vancouver called Stepho’s. Fame brought with it large crowds, and if you expect to eat around the normal meal time, forget it – you’ll often be waiting in line for an hour or more. But then again, the lamb at Stepho’s is amazingly tender, and the sides are almost equally delicious – baked vegetables, rice and tzatziki. Thankfully, the owners have kept their prices as low as can be, with a huge lamb shank plate costing around $10. But, if you don’t live in Vancouver or don’t dare brave the crowds, how about trying to cook up some lamb at home?
I had promised Maya a nice romantic birthday dinner at home, and she loves lamb, so this seemed like the perfect occasion. The only problem: I had never cooked lamb, and was shooting for the top, expecting a result as close to Stepho’s as possible. Well, I think I came pretty close, thanks to Jamie Oliver, but judge for yourselves. It’s easy.
Baked Lamb Shanks
Adapted from a recipe by Jamie Oliver
4 lamb shanks
6 sprigs of fresh rosemary
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
15 fresh sage leaves
4 tablespoons of butter
12 garlic cloves (unpeeled)
1 onion, finely sliced
2 carrots, sliced
a few pieces of celery or leek, finely sliced
any other vegetables you’d like to add, such as nugget potatoes or peas
Heat your oven to 180°C (350°F). Mix or whiz the butter with most of the rosemary, thyme and sage and some salt and pepper. Take each shank and cut between the bone and the meat, creating a small pocket. Divide the flavored butter between the shanks, pushing it into the pockets.
Tear four large pieces of aluminum foil, one for each shank, and divide the garlic and vegetables between them, making a pile in the center of each one. Rub the lamb shanks with some olive oil and salt and pepper, place on top of the piles of vegetables, and add the rest of the herbs. Pull up the side of the aluminum foil, pour a swig of wine into each one, and wrap tightly with the ends of the foil, making four parcels. Place these on the baking pan and bake for 2.5 hours or until the meat is tender enough to fall off the bone. Serve on mashed potatoes or rice (to soak up the yummy juices), and a salad or corn.