2 tbsps. olive oil
2 medium lamb shanks, about 425g. each
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 leek, trimmed, halved lengthways and chopped
2 medium parsnips, about 250g., chopped into 1cm. cubes
250g. peeled celeriac, chopped into 1cm. cubes
350g. carrots, chopped into 1cm. cubes
2 bay leaves
3 tbsps. thyme leaves
100g. pearl barley, rinsed
2 tbsps. tomato puree
1 x 500ml. bottle of ale
1.5ltr. vegetable, chicken or lamb stock
150g. shredded kale
For the cheddar puffs:
1 x 320g. sheet ready rolled puff pastry
100g. mature cheddar, grated
3 tbsps. milk
- Preheat the oven to 150C / fan 130C / gas mark 2. Heat 1 tbsp. of the oil in a large, heavy based casserole. Season the lamb shanks, brown them all over on a high heat and remove to a plate.
- Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pan with the onion and leek and cook for 4 – 5 minutes until starting to soften. Tip in the parsnips, celeriac, carrots, bay leaves and thyme with some seasoning and cook for 2 – 3 minutes.
- Add the pearl barley and tomato puree and cook for 1 minute, stirring. Pour in the ale and the stock and return the lamb to the pan, The pearl barley will absorb a lot of the liquid. Bring to the boil, then cover and cook in the oven for 2 hours. The vegetables, barley and lamb should all be tender, with the meat coming off the bone easily. Cook for another 15 – 30 minutes if necessary. Remove the bay leaves, check the seasoning and add the kale and stir through. Return to the oven for another 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, unroll the pastry sheet and give it another roll with a rolling pin until it is quite thin. Cut the pastry in half, scatter most of the cheese over one piece, and put the other piece on top. Roll together to seal in the cheese and using a 6cm. cutter stamp out 18 or so rounds and place on a lined baking tray. Brush with the milk and sprinkle the tops with the rest of the cheese.
- Remove the casserole from the oven and increase the temperature to 200C / fan 180C / gas mark 6. Bake the puffs for 12 – 15 minutes until crisp and golden.
- Lift the lamb shanks out on to a board and use 2 forks to pull the meat apart into large shreds. Stir back through the casserole. Ladle into bowls and serve topped with the cheddar puffs.
You can vary the vegetables used e.g. use swede instead of celeriac if preferred. Portions can be adjusted if cooking for less than 6. I would just use one lamb shank if I was feeding 4 but probably stick to the same number of vegetables, stock etc . as it could always be eaten the following day as a hearty soup.