Monday, October 16, 2006

Shanks for solitude

Take a pair of shanks. Roll them in a fresh mash of garlic, rosemary and salt. Throw in a birdseye chilli for the craic, and leave in the fridge all day. Then get to work on taking your kitchen a nanometre closer to the End while having your head done-in by a screaming infant whose demands you are helpless to meet. A window sill goes from am innocuous reclaimed plank to a three hour project involving three power tools; a lick of paint still licking me 2 hours later. But at ten to six, just in time to pick the eldest up from nursery, I threw together what was to become a tender, tender shank supper and what would hopefully rescue the day from the pointlessness of incremental home improvement. A slow, warming stew. The flavour of this particular stew was spot-on, and I didn’t use any stock at all. I began by taking my trimmed, marinated shanks and placing them in a hot casserole with oil to brown up. Meanwhile I roughly chopped a leek, two large carrots, an onion and some celery and threw them in with the meat, along with a small handful of fennel seeds and some bay. After a few turns over a fierce heat I poured in a good couple of glasses of dry white wine, let it bubble down for a minute, added a bit of cold water, added a generous teaspoon of Dijon and threw the whole thing into the oven with the lid on and a leaving-the-house safety temperature of about 160 degrees. An hour and a half later, once the baths and bottles and piss and shit and videos and protests and other normal bedtime activities were complete, I threw a handful of thick-cut slices of tattie in, wetted it a bit with some more water, and slammed it back in for another hour. Which gave me time to knock up something unexpectedly special: a salad of finely sliced leeks, the rest of the firm and ripe cherry tomatoes grown in the poly tunnel behind the Shop, some well rinsed capers, olive oil and salt. I left it for a good half an hour there, in an attempt to soften the leeks. Then I tossed in a small bunch of roughly chopped herbs from the garden, all sorts really but mostly oregano. And although it sat somewhat uncomfortably next to our deep plates of perfectly cooked potatoes and shanks in a liquor that was beefed up by the birdseye to great effect. The fennel, chilli and fatty lamb flavour was awesome, and the fact that I hadn’t passed it to make a more sophisticated gravy only enhanced its simplicity. And the salad surprised with its unplaceable taste somewhere between onion and parsley, lemon and salt. Take a pair of shanks, I tell you.

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