Have you tried cooking lamb shanks over the fire yet? Somehow, long, slow cooking in a cast-iron pot over a fire yields the most wonderful, flavoursome lamb shanks, with meat so tender that it falls off the bone. Absolutely delicious!
This month I’m sharing my lamb shank recipe with you. It’s full of the classic flavours which go so well with this cut of meat: bacon, tomatoes, fresh herbs and lots of smoke. To make this dish, you’ll need a steady fire, a pot big enough to hold however many lamb shanks you’re cooking, and a long, peaceful afternoon sitting by the fireside to cook them. This recipe makes enough for two hungry adults.
Fire-cooked lamb shanks
• 2 lamb shanks
• oil for frying
• 2 large onions, sliced
• 1 packet streaky bacon, sliced
• 3 cloves garlic, chopped
• 1 tin cherry or chopped tomatoes, with juice
• 1 cup (200-250 ml) dry red wine
• 4-5 Tbsp (60-75 ml) chopped fresh rosemary (pack
several sprigs before you leave, or buy fresh from the supermarket)
• salt and pepper
• ½ tsp (2.5 ml) sugar
• water, preferably hot from your kettle
Heat the oil in the pot over the flames and fry the shanks until well browned. Take your time doing this: you want to get crispy, brown outer meat. Remove the meat from the pot and set aside on a plate. Add the onions to the pot and fry until soft, then add the bacon and garlic and cook until browned. Add the wine and water, and deglaze the pot. This means you bring everything to the boil and scrape away with a spoon to get all those crispy bits of deliciousness off the sides and bottom of the pot and into the sauce.
Add the tin of tomatoes and the rosemary. (You can substitute about a Tbsp dried rosemary, if you absolutely must.) Bring to the boil again, then place the shanks into the sauce. Add enough water to cover the shanks, cover with the lid and cook until very tender, about four hours. The goal is meat that comes away from the bone when pulled at with a fork, and a thick, rich tomato sauce.
Taste the sauce to check the seasoning, it may need more salt or sugar, so adjust to your taste. Serve over mushy veggies. Enjoy!
Mushy veggies In a cast-iron pot over the fire, boil together onions, potatoes, pumpkin and whatever other vegetables you have to hand. Even a pack of frozen vegetables or a tin of mixed vegetables will work, but add them last, just before everything is done. When the vegetables are cooked soft enough to mash – about 20-30 minutes – drain very well. Then, placing the pot back on the fire, stir in plenty of butter, salt and freshly ground pepper, mashing and mixing with the back of the spoon – a very tasty allin- one camping vegetable dish.
And for dessert, a South African classic: malva pudding. This is a staple in South African homes and a regular on most of our restaurant menus. I assure you that once you’ve tasted it made over coals, you’ll never want to make it any other way! And I strongly suspect that this was how our trekking forebears baked this much-loved pudding originally.
You’ll need a small cast-iron pot. I’ve invested in one with a flat lid that has a rim to hold coals nicely – and I keep this pot exclusively for baking sweet recipes. The fire will need to have a bed of moderately hot coals and no flames. Make this about an hour or so before you expect your lamb shanks to be ready.
• ½ cup (125 ml) white sugar
• 1 egg
• 1½ Tbsp (22.5 ml) apricot jam (any jam will work, or even syrup)
• 1 cup (250 ml) cake flour
• 1 tsp (5 ml) baking powder
• pinch of salt
• 1 tsp (5 ml) bicarbonate of soda
• 1 cup (250 ml) milk
With a wire whisk or egg beater – please make sure your caravan has one or the other permanently packed! – beat together the sugar and eggs. You want the mixture to be creamy and pale, so be patient and strong and beat it for as long as it takes. This step ensures a light, fluffy pudding and is well worth the effort! Add the jam, flour, baking powder and salt, stir in until blended. Then pour in the milk, sprinkle over the bicarb, and quickly whisk it all together.
Pour the batter into your small cast-iron baking pot, cover and place over moderate coals, piling some hot coals onto the lid of the pot as well. Bake for about an hour, until the pudding is golden brown and a sharp knife or skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
While the pudding is baking, make the syrup. Remove the pudding from the heat and poke holes in it with a fork. Then slowly pour over the syrup, allowing enough time for all the syrup to be absorbed. It will seem like too much syrup, but trust me, it isn’t, so stick to the recipe; it works and is delicious!
• ¼ cup (62.5 ml) butter
• 1 cup (250 ml) sugar
• ½ cup (125 ml) boiling water
• 1 tsp (5 ml) vanilla essence or brandy
• 1 cup (250 ml) full-cream milk
• pinch of salt
Melt the butter in a pot over the fire, then stir in all the other ingredients. Heat thoroughly, but don’t boil. Pour slowly over the pudding, allowing it to soak in thoroughly.
Finally, serve with ready-made custard or whipped cream. Enjoy!
(PS. If you’d like a boozier pudding, substitute the milk in the syrup with any cream liqueur: Amarula is especially good.) Until next time, happy camping!
This recipe appeared in the April 2012 issue.