Stormy hill

Often when the weather combination dials up cold + rain + wind, I seek out lamb shanks. If you live in Sydney, that’s pretty well been your weather forecast this week, so you may require some lamb shanks to go with it. This is the second lamb shank recipe posted on my site, and it’s very different in style and taste from the first recipe. This one is a spicy, hearty soup, adapted from a beautiful Karen Martini recipe – Lamb Shanks with pearl barley and lentils, from her book, Where the heart is.

Soupy shanks

Half-way through the cooking process here, and looking good.

There’s a lot of herbs and spices in this dish – and they make for a rich, totally warming, complex taste. I have fallen in love with this recipe, and will definitely be making it again.

You can also serve it in different ways. For example – my bloke is a lamb shank on the bone kind of man. So his serving was on a plate (a big sucker) with a Flintstone size shank, a small amount of soup poured over, and some mash. My serving was quite the opposite – I had a few pieces of lamb pulled off the bone, no mash, and a massive bowl of the soup. I just needed an open fire and I’d be in heaven. Instead I had Dr Who on TV in front of me – which isn’t really the same is it.


Celariac. Slightly rooty and agro looking, but beautiful to taste.


Prep time – it took me about 45 minutes to get it all sorted, then 3 – 4 hours in the pot, cooking away in the oven (can also be cooked on the stove-top), working it’s magic smells throughout the house. Great for weekend cooking, or a rainy weekday at home. Serves 4. Can be frozen. It’s got a great chilli hit to it – so take that out if you want kids to eat it. If I could get my kids to eat this I would be so happy – as there is a whole garden load of vegies in it, along with the beautiful lamb. Sigh.


70ml extra virgin olive oil
2 lamb shanks (Karen’s recipe specifies cutting the shanks into 3cm pieces – which you can ask your butcher to do. I kept the shanks whole, but if you were cooking for more people, you may need to get them chopped, or add more whole shanks.)
Sea salt
2 brown onions, finely sliced
3 cloves finely chopped garlic
2 small red chillies split (I used 1 long one, split and most seeds removed)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
Pinch saffron threads
150g celeriac, peeled & chopped
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
3 sticks celery, sliced
1 x 400g can tomatoes
8 cups (2 litres) water
1 beef stock cube
50g lentils
50g canned chickpeas, drained
30g fresh or frozen peas (I actually forgot to put these in)
1/2 bunch mint leaves
1/2 bunch coriander leaves
1/2 bunch flat leaf parsley leaves
Natural yoghurt (optional – to serve)
1/2 lemon, squeezed (to serve)

What to do

Getting underway: Heat the olive oil over medium heat in your heaviest, bestest ovenproof saucepan/deep casserole pot. You want something you can add a lid to – or foil it. Add the lamb, and a good sprinkling of sea salt. Get them nice and brown all over.

Vegie & spice patrol: Then add the onion, garlic, chillies and spices, and stir it all up. Cook for a few minutes – keep a close eye on it and don’t let it burn. Then add all the fresh vegetables in, and cook it up for about 5 minutes. Add the tinned tomatoes (the whole tin – toms and juice), the water, crumbled stock cube, lentils and chickpeas. The original recipe used pearl barley, which I’ve removed. I thought the soup was lovely and thick, but if I’d wanted it thicker, I would have added some brown rice. Personally I thought it was great without any additional thickening.

Cooking: Put the lid on the pot and bring to a slow simmer. Once it’s come to the boil, then you can do one of two things – either cook on the stove-top or in the oven. Stove-top option: reduce the heat to very low and leave on the stove-top with the lid on for about 2.5 – 3 hours. Oven option: or bake in the oven at 140 degrees for 2 – 3 hours. Either way you cook it until the meat is mega tender and falling off the bone. I did mine in the oven, and left it for about 3.5 hours. The meat was amazingly tender by that stage.

Finishing: Then stir in the peas (which I forgot), and taste for seasoning. Serve ‘er up, with a blob of natural, unsweetened yoghurt if you like, a squeeze of lemon juice, and the fresh herbs.

Lamb shank soup