• Lamb Shanks on Mint & Pea Risotto

    Contributed by

    Justin Bonello


    Cook, traveller, father, husband, filmmaker, gardener... and not particularly in that order. Filmmaker, veteran presenter, author and Head of Production at Cooked in Africa Films, Justin Bonello has worked in the film industry since he was 14 years old and is the co-founder of one of South Africa's leading film production companies. To date he and managing partner, Executive Producer, Peter Gird have produced more than 23 television series broadcast in over 100 countries around the world and they have no plans to stop any time soon. Justin has done the very thing that we all dream of - taking the things he cares most deeply about and making his world revolve around them. His passion for the outdoors and South Africa's untamed beauty is rooted in his childhood where he spent weekends on the Breede River and holidays on the Wild Coast in the Eastern Cape. As he grew up, so too did his appetite for good, wholesome, down-to-earth food.
    Published with permission from COOKED IN THE KAROO by Justin Bonello, www.justinbonello.com. Photography Louis Hiemstra and Cooked in Africa films. All rights reserved.

    These will feed about 10 of your friends, with lots of leftovers for you to enjoy in the in the morning.

    You'll need:

    Preheat your oven to 110°C. Toss the shanks around in the seasoned flour until evenly dusted. Melt the butter in a large pot, add a splash of olive oil, and then seal the shanks in batches. Once browned, take off the heat and set aside. Put the pot back on the heat and deglaze by pouring in about a glass of the red wine, stirring with a wooden spoon to get all those lekker bits of the bottom. Now, take the pot off the heat again and stack the shanks (fat-sides down, bones facing up) and pour in about three cups of vegetable stock. Next add the rest of the wine, the whole garlic, the rosemary, salt and pepper. If your pot has an oven friendly lid, pop it on, otherwise cover with foil. Let the shanks slow roast in the oven for about 7 hours or until tender and just about falling off the bones. To be on the safe side, check if they're cooked after about 6 hours. Word of advice: the lamb will have its own natural flavour, but taste the sauce to make sure it suits your palate and adjust if needed. Most of the taste should come from those delicious shanks.

    Mint and Pea Risotto

    About 30 minutes before the lamb shanks are almost ready, start cooking the risotto. The worst thing you can do to risotto is overcook it - it's got to be al dente which means the grains shouldn't stick together and disappear into a gooey mush - this isn't porridge! Melt the butter in a pan over a low heat and then add a splash of olive oil. Once the butter has melted, add the onions and fry until just soft, then stir in the garlic and cook for about another 30 seconds - be careful not to burn the garlic. Next add the risotto rice, and stir around until the grains are all properly coated with all that buttery garlicky goodness. If you're not happy with the butter / rice ratio, go ahead - add more butter. Risotto can never have too much butter ... or Parmesan! Stir in about a cup of white wine then once the liquid has almost completely absorbed, add a ladle of stock and keep stirring. Continue this process of adding stock and cooking it off until the risotto is al dente then add the peas, a big chunk of butter and a hearty handful of grated Parmesan. Give it one good stir around, season with salt and take it off the heat.

    Minty Cream

    You can make the minty cream while you're cooking the risotto. All you have to do is pour the cream into a saucepan, then add the fresh mint. Bring to a simmer and let it cook until the cream has reduced by half, stirring it every now and then to stop it from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Strain the cream through a sieve; otherwise you'll be chewing on mint stalks later.

    To Serve:

    Scoop a big spoonful of the creamy risotto onto a plate, put one lamb shank on top, drizzle with some of the delicious gravy and finish it off with a generous dollop of mint cream on top. This isn't the kind of meal you eat while trying to balance a plate on your knees. This meal is a little celebration, so be a bit fancy, set a table outside on your lawn, with loads of candles, good wine and great friends and enjoy every morsel under a star-filled sky.

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