Two red glistening slabs hit the hot metal with a sizzle. The primal smell of cooking flesh fills the small kitchen with a satisfying nourishing fug. I turn from the pan, nose twitching, remembering the taste of grilled meat, my mouth waters: perfectly-medium porterhouse with buttery mushroom sauce; spicy mince patties coated in tangy tomato relish sandwiched in fluffy white buns; prosciutto wrapped chicken breasts oozing melted brie. I pick up a can opener and reach for my protein instead: chickpeas. The salty, ferric taste of flesh has not passed over my tastebuds in nearly three years.
I am a vegetarian: once my decision to be a herbivore was made I was sworn to it for life. Plant-fuelled since August 13, 2010.
Still, I love meat. I love its versatility. I love the smile a perfectly crisp slice of bacon elicits on my boyfriend’s face when I slide a full Sunday breakfast in front of his barely-opened eyes. I love the moans that rise unbidden from a table of otherwise professional people when they lift pork ribs to their mouths: the flesh so tender from four hours in the oven that angels and demons weep together.
I am a vegetarian. I am a vegetarian who loves meat.
I love meat because I love to feed the people I love. And those people eat meat. Cooking for them nourishes me in ways that no food group can. Placing a dish on the table for my loved ones to share is the balm to a rushed day, a thank you without words, and the very least I can do when they help me so much.
Last night was cold and damp – the perfect weather for Slow-Braised Lamb Shanks with Bacon and Lentils in a Mushroom and Onion Gravy.
Make it for the ones you love.
Slow-Braised Lamb Shanks with Bacon and Lentils in a Mushroom and Onion Gravy
This can sit in the oven on low heat for hours, which makes it perfect for a lazy Sunday dinner. Just chop everything at lunch time and then allow the meal to braise slowly in the oven all afternoon until you feel like gathering the family to the table.
I served this meal with rice and steamed green beans, but it would be perfectly at home atop a billowing cloud of buttery mashed potatoes or some cheesy polenta, or served more simply with thick wedges of fresh-baked bread to sop up the gravy.
- 4 medium-large lamb shanks
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 purple onion, diced finely
- 1 1/2 cups mushrooms, sliced into chunks
- 3 pieces short-cut bacon
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 tablespoon plain flour
- 6 shallots, peeled
- 400g tin crushed tomatoes
- 1 1/2 cups salt-reduced beef stock
- 1/4 cup port (or red wine)
- 1/2 cup puy lentils
- Preheat oven to 150ºC (300ºF) and make sure you have all your vegetables prepared as per the ingredients list.
- Heat olive oil in a large stovetop safe casserole dish. Brown lamb shanks all over, then remove to a plate.
- Add onion, mushrooms, bacon, oregano and thyme and sauté until bacon starts to crisp. Add flour and stir until you can feel the flour start to thicken slightly.
- Add shallots, crushed tomatoes, beef stock, and port. Replace lamb shanks in the pot and bring to a boil.
- Turn off the heat, cover casserole dish with lid, and place in the preheated oven.
- Cook for two hours (or more if desired) until the meat is falling off the bone. Half an hour before you wish to serve the casserole add the puy lentils and stir well.
- Place lamb shanks onto plate and spoon over the lentil, bacon, and mushroom gravy.
- Serve with rice, mashed potatoes, or thick wedges of bread. Enjoy.
“In fact, people who posses not magic at all can instil their home-cooked meals with love and security and health, transforming ingredients and bringing disparate people together as family and friends. There’s a reason that when opening one’s home to guests, the first thing you do is offer food and drink. Cooking is a kind of everyday magic.”
― Juliet Blackwell