Slow-cooked lamb shank shepherd’s pie with rosti topping

Recipe from delicious. Magazine, February 2019

The recipe hasn’t been made available online. If this changes I will post a link here.

This evening I decided to make this recipe for a lamb shank shepherd’s pie as it seemed to be perfect for an indulgent Sunday dinner and my husband absolutely loves slow cooked meat, so I thought it might bank me some extra brownie points next time I need a favour from him (the politics of home cooking!)

I’m generally a big fan of recipes from delicious. Magazine, they’re not categorised by difficulty as the recipes in some of the other popular food magazines are, so do rely on you knowing your own limitations and probably wouldn’t be great for absolute beginners, but I don’t think I’ve made a disappointing recipe from them in the five years I’ve been buying the magazine, so I’m going into this with high expectations.

Difficulty rating- 2/5, time consuming but simple.

Necessary equipment-

1x large frying pan

1x flameproof casserole or oven-proof stockpot large enough to fit four lamb shanks- I used our Circulon Ultimum Stockpot as none of our casseroles are large enough.

1x chopping board

1x chef’s knife

1x mixing bowl

1x large shallow baking dish (the recipe specifies 2.5l, if you’re organised enough to know the capacity of the baking dishes you already have in your cupboard. I am not.)

For how many people? 6

Timings

Total time taken (according to the recipe)- 3-3.5 hours

Total time taken by me- 5 hours

Hands-on time (according to the recipe)- 30 mins

Hands-on time taken by me (including ingredients prep)- 85 minutes: 45 minutes before the first oven stint & 40 minutes between the first and second oven stints.

Oven time (according to the recipe)- 2.5-3 hours

Oven time taken by me- 3.5 hours (the magazine seems to have forgotten the second oven stint when it gave its timings!)

The making

All the instructions are in clear bullet points and really easy to follow. There are a couple of “meanwhiles” so it’s definitely worth reading through the recipe a couple of times before you begin.

I actually only used half the olive oil the recipe specified for browning the lamb shanks before they went in the dish. Because I was browning them two at a time I put half the amount in the pan before browning the first two, intending to put the rest in before browning the last two. This was fine as we have good, new-ish non-stock pans but not necessarily something I’d recommend unless you’re confident about the quality of your frying pan- if you are it’s a great way to trim some calories from the recipe though!

After the lamb shanks had been in the oven for 2 hours 40 minutes, the meat was falling off the bones. I regretted not rendering the fat down more thoroughly when browning the shanks earlier on in the recipe and had a few bits of fat which I discarded with the bones.

I reduced the sauce on the hob for a further ten minutes as suggested in the recipe as an option if it seemed necessary but it was still very liquid at the end of this. When I put the grated potato mix on top, I instantly wished I had reduced it for much longer as they instantly started to disappear into the sauce. The recipe did not specify what consistency the sauce should be. Mine was about the consistency of gravy and it certainly needed to be thicker than that, probably somewhere between double cream & custard- coating the back of the spoon etc.

Any cheats or changes?

I wasn’t feeling amazing today so instead of chopping two onions I used frozen chopped onions from the freezer. This meant that softening the onions, carrots & celery at the start of the recipe took a little bit longer as the frozen onions brought down the temperature of the pan, but I don’t think it affected the recipe in any other way (and it saved me crying over a chopping board!) If you decide to do this, I always use 140g for every onion the recipe calls for- I read that amount somewhere once and it always seems to work!

Any extra tips?

Half the leek lengthways before you slice it to avoid having slightly strange looking rings of leek in the rosti on the top of the pie.

Anything you’d change for next time?

When browning the lamb shanks, focus on rendering down the fat, not just colouring the meat, to avoid having too many inedible bits of fat that need discarding when separating the meat from the bones.

After taking the lamb out of the casserole, I would reduce the sauce until it’s really thick- set aside at least an extra twenty minutes for this.

I don’t know if the rosti just didn’t work because the sauce wasn’t reduced enough or because it just didn’t work, but there’d be plenty of time to make a mash during the time the lamb is in the oven and that might not be a bad alternative, although I would stir some sautéed leeks through if you do decide to do this as they really added to the flavours & texture of the dish.

Serving Size- quite generous- I was able to finish my sixth of the dish, but was definitely full afterwards.

The eating-

My House now smells of slow cooked lamb which is never a bad thing as far as I’m concerned. The lamb tasted amazing and the gravy/sauce was delicious, the rosemary was subtle but definitely present and there was a fantastic depth of flavour. I didn’t need to add any seasoning while I was eating. Sadly, by the time the dish was served, there was no evidence there had ever been any potatoes on top of it. This also means I can’t say whether or not the rosti topping was a positive change from the traditional mash- if anybody else makes this dish with more success I would be interested to know their opinions on rosti v mash! The leeks tasted absolutely fantastic with the other flavours of the dish. I would definitely make the lamb shank casserole as a base for a shepherd’s pie again, it gets a big thumbs up from me, but I’ll have to do another test run with the relevant changes to give my opinions on the rosti topping! It was kind of like eating a stew with no potatoes or bread to mop up the sauce.

Any comments from other people?

My husband wanted to know where the potatoes were.

Verdict– 3/5 – the flavours were fantastic but there was too much room for error in the writing of the recipe and the timings given at the top weren’t accurate.

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