Hubby’s Slow Cooker Lamb Shanks (croc-pot)

A tasty, mildly spiced Indian inspired slow cooker lamb shanks for all the family to enjoy for all seasons! Serve on a bed of steamed white, brown or Low GI white rice. Equally delicious with mashed potatoes or soft polenta!

Hubby's Slow Cooker Lamb Shanks

This is a Slow Cooker Lamb Shanks dish that tastes rich and indulgent, while at the same time being simple and grand. It's a delicious all in one pot meal perfect not only for a winter's night but for all seasons.

Autumn is a perfect time to bring out the slow cookers that have been put back into storage after the winter and spring months of slow cooking. As the days get shorter and colder, we all like to spend more time indoors preparing and enjoying hot meals.

Here is my Hubby's Slow Cooker Lamb Shanks. He has been preparing these lamb shanks for our family for many years and it's our most favourite family meal. He is not a chef - He is a home cook who is absolutely passionate about capturing the Mangalorean of food.

The spices used are pantry staples that his mother would have used and no surprises to an Indian pantry. You can adapt the spices to your taste but ensure you aim for a good balanced dish.

As you can see from the image above, these slow cooker lamb shanks are a beautiful, rustic main course that's perfect for a week day family meal or a hearty family celebration.

And why are they perfect for a week day? The answer is, all you have to do is sear, slice, chop, glaze and pop the ingredients in the croc-pot, but remember - no peeking unless really required!!

If it makes easy, chop your vegetables and weigh your spices on the earlier day. Place your vegetables in a container and pop them in the fridge. Set aside your spices on the bench top along with your slow cooker and bingo you are almost there!

Once you sear the lamb shanks (make sure you open some windows and put your exhaust on), you place them in the slow cooker, dump your vegetables and spices and I can guarantee you will enjoy this hearty comfort meal in winter, spring, summer or autumn!!

Ready when you get back from work for the family to enjoy either with steamed rice, roti or on a bed of mashed potatoes. Also perfect on a bed of soft polenta or pureed cauliflower!

If you love lamb, then you must try Lamb/Mutton Polov, a coconut based lamb curry.

There is also a delicious One Pot Lamb Pulao which is also great for a week day or a weekend family dinner.

how to sear - video

why TO sear

  • Searing browns the meat and creates the distinctive flavour for a dish.
  • Searing creates a well browned crust which gives the food a beautiful appearance.
  • Searing creates a texture between the crust and the interior and this contrast makes the food more interesting.

the INGREDIENTS

Lamb shanks look like little legs and are the trimmed ends of the legs. They are a very popular cut of lamb and make perfect individual servings. They look fabulous on the dinner table, if presented well.

With its tough connective tissues, lamb shanks are ideal for long slow cooking, however, it is important to brown the meat before adding them to the cooker. Browning the meat adds depth and a nice caramelised layer of flavour to the finished dish. Watch the above video, if in doubt!

  • Lamb shanks - Trim excess fat and sinew. We want to reduce as much fat as possible. Available: in your local supermarket in their freezer section with other meats. If you cannot find them in your supermarket, check your local butchers. The supermarkets sell them in a pack of two priced at around $12.00 - $15.00 per pack.
  • Oil - I cannot imagine cooking anything without a drizzle of oil and that goes the same with lamb shanks. Use any oil of your choice.
  • Spanish onions/red onions - Added for sweetness, flavour and volume. Cut them into chunks and sauté them until soft as called for in the recipe. Onions stand up to slow cooking and enhance the flavour of everything cooked with them, giving volume to the sauce. Alternative: Add white or brown onions.
  • Garlic - This recipe calls for fresh sliced garlic and for good reason. It balances the strong and distinctive flavour of the lamb.
  • Red wine - Use a dry red wine that you would drink yourself. Red wine dissolves fat and makes the meat tender, while building flavour. It blends beautifully into the sauce and gives it a good depth.
  • Corn flour - As the heat in the slow cooker builds during cooking, it creates a lot of liquid so, corn flour is used as a thickening agent. It is also flavourless and it will not alter the taste of the final dish. Combine with ¼ cup water and stir into the chunky sauce, as a last step, for that silky look!

for the rub

My hubby has an addiction to barbecuing lamb cutlets and beef steaks. As soon as he gets home from the supermarket or the butcher, he goes to the pantry and gathers some spice powders. He is not recipe oriented and does not refer to books to come up with a marinade idea.

However, he has a unique ability to build a flavour profile in his mind and as long as he is left undisturbed, comes up with a perfect marinade for any meat that he decides to make on the night. By the way, I am not welcome in the kitchen when he has his marinade hats on!! But I try peeking anyway!

Here, he grabs some chilli powder and salt from the pantry. I am hovering around him, as he does not weigh the ingredients. I just watch over his shoulder and see him sprinkling a teaspoon of Kashmiri chilli powder and a couple of teaspoons of salt over the lamb cutlets. Bingo! I am off to a great start for writing this recipe!

The first thing you must do is to trim excess fat and sinew from the lamb shanks, then season them with salt and Kashmiri chilli powder. Drizzle oil in a large frying pan and place on medium heat. Brown all sides as shown in the How to Sear video above. Do not overdo with chilli powder at this stage, as you will lose some of the seasoning while you sear. If you need the dish to be spicy, add a little more Kashmiri chilli powder directly to the slow cooker along with other ingredients.

  • Kashmiri chilli powder - Great for colour without the bite. It adds a little spiciness which balances the gamey taste of the shanks. Just add only what is called for in the recipe.
  • Salt - Don't forget the salt, as my Grandma would remind my mum constantly. Seasoning the meat makes a huge difference to taste!

INGREDIENTS INTO TO THE CROC-POT

If you have never used a slow cooker before, think of it as an electric casserole. It cooks the meat gently with a steady, low, moist heat.

Once the lamb shanks are browned, add them one by one to the slow cooker, add the vegetables and the spices as called for in the recipe on the top of the lamb shanks before heading to work. Then return to a piping hot ready to eat dinner.

  • Ginger - Fresh ginger is a staple in Indian cuisine. Here I have chopped and added it along with the other ingredients directly into the slow cooker. The pungency of ginger gives the lamb shanks a very distinctive flavour. Alternative: add 2 tbsp. bottled ginger paste, if you could not be bothered to chop fresh ginger.
  • Canned crushed tomatoes - They make the body of the chunky sauce, while adding some acidity and colour. Use the entire can of diced or crushed, with the juice and all. There are a few brands available in the supermarket but my favourite brand is 'Mutti".
  • Mixed vegetables - Use your favourite vegetables but cut them chunky so the sauce is chunky. I have added some celery leaves for added flavour.
  • Fresh rosemary - It's a natural accompaniment to lamb, it's refreshing flavour a perfect match for the inherent gaminess of the lamb. Use in moderation, as we do not want to overpower the lamb with the flavour of rosemary. Substitute: 2 tsp. of dried rosemary. I have also thrown in some freshly chopped coriander leaves as I had them handy.
  • Vegetable stock powder (optional) - I throw a teaspoon or two for added flavour into the sauce. Feel free to omit, if its not your pantry ingredient.
  • Kashmiri chilli powder - An Indian pantry staple that goes into almost all meats and I cannot think of cooking without it. Adds colour, a mild spiciness and enhances the taste of meats. Increase or decrease as per taste. Do not be disappointed if you do not get a vibrant red hue in the finished dish, as the chilli powder combines with other ingredients in the slow cooker, such as the red wine and vegetables to produce a well rounded colour to the sauce.
  • Cumin powder - An essential basic Indian spice and its earthy flavour does not add heat. It pairs well with other spices in this recipe. Use cumin powder and not seeds, as its flavour disperses well into the sauce. Cumin seeds and powder are available in small bottles in the spice shelf of your local supermarket or in packets at your local Indian grocery store. Substitute: If you do not have cumin powder, crush the cumin seeds in a small plastic bag and add to the croc-pot.
  • Black mustard powder - Added for a kick of heat and depth of flavour. Available: in your local Indian grocery store. If you do not have this at hand, just omit it. Adding too much will result in a bitter sauce, so, add only what is called for in the recipe!!
  • Turmeric powder - An important ingredient in most Indian cooking, here the turmeric is added more for flavour than its warming colour, as the colour blends in with other spices. Available: in your local Woolworths supermarket in small bottles. Again, little is more as overuse can result in a bitter sauce!
  • Garam masala powder - This is a South Asian spice blend containing mustard seeds, coriander seeds, pepper corns and some aromatics such as cinnamon, cloves, mace and nutmeg, with different regional variations. Look for it in large supermarkets or your local Indian grocery store. Little is more with garam masala so, add only what's called for in the recipe.
  • Sugar - I add it for a hint of sweetness to bring out the flavours in combination with honey. The ratio of sugar to salt is important, as we do not want a sauce to be overly sweet. My ratio is 1:2½ tsp. ie 1 tsp. of sugar: 2½ tsp. of salt. You can increase or decrease the proportions as per taste.
  • Honey - The sweetness of the honey counteracts with the spiciness of the chillies and spices and adds a subtle flavour to the sauce. It enriches the sauce as honey caramelises during the slow cooking.
  • Salt - Although we have already seasoned the lamb shanks, the sauce needs to be seasoned to bring out the flavours of the vegetables. Add salt of your choice and as per your taste.
  • Parsley - Adds beautiful depth of flavour if added during cooking, however, always add a little that is freshly chopped to enhance the flavour and brighten the colour on the plate just before serving. My parsley of choice is the continental parsley but curly parsley works well too. Note: As I ran out of parsley, I have added some coriander leaves into the croc-pot, leaving aside 2 tablespoons for the garnish.

tips and tricks

  • Clean your croc-pot - Chances are that your croc-pot has been put away and gathering dust for 12 months, so ensure you give it a good clean - including the lid and the bowl. Also, remove the bowl and use a damp cloth to clean the inside of the appliance.
  • Browning/searing the meat - Browning the meat adds depth and a nice caramelised layer of flavour to the finished dish. Do not skip this step!
  • Keep the lid closed unless you really have to open it - You will need a lot of will power to do this but it is very important because each time you open the lid, the heat that has been building up in the bowl will escape and you will need to add another 20 minutes to the cooking time. In this recipe, it is necessary to open it once, for a quick stir, for the flavours to disperse. Resist the urge, unless it is really required!
  • Watch the liquid - You really do not need too much liquid when slow cooking in an appliance. It may appear that there is little liquid at the beginning and you are dying to add more. The heat in the bowl builds up a lot of liquid during slow cooking, therefore, I would recommend you stick to the liquid stated in the recipe or you will end up with excess liquid at the end of the cooking process.
  • Cook and freeze - If you are faced with a situation that you are cooking only for two people, please do not halve the recipe. Go ahead and make the full batch, as slow cooked food freezes perfectly to enjoy at a later date. Make the most of it, as you have already used the electricity for 6-8 hours. Plus, the best thing is, you will have a delicious dinner for two (if you are using 4 lamb shanks like I have) on hand on those nights when you cannot be bothered cooking. Or perhaps, you could surprise your parents or friends with a home cooked dinner. Share the love!!
  • Prep ahead - To make it easier on the day, prepare the ingredients that require peeling, chopping or dicing and put into containers. Pop the containers in the fridge. The same goes with the spices - weigh the spices and set aside ready for use. Gather the pantry staples and the croc-pot and have them ready on the bench ready to begin cooking when you get up in the morning. Now that's so easy!!

step-by-step instructions

This is a convenient week day or weekend lamb shanks recipe. Once you use your slow cooker, you will get hooked on to it, as all you have to do is seer, chop, glaze and pop the ingredients into the croc-pot. Wait for 6 or 8 hours depending on the time setting you choose and oh so delicious dinner is ready!

The only thing is, if you are working and you want dinner when you return, you will need to prepare the vegetables and spices on the earlier day ready to add to the croc-pot. Then all that is left for the morning is to seer the lamb shanks!

Let me walk you through the steps to make it easy for you!

Trim excess fat and sinew from lamb shanks

Rub well with Kashmiri chilli powder and salt

Set aside for 20 minutes

While the lamb is resting, chop the vegetables and weigh the spices under the heading 'Into the slow cook pot'.

Get your slow cooker and place it on the benchtop

Drizzle oil in a large non-stick frying pan and brown the lamb shanks for 2-3 minutes on medium, rotating from time to time for even browning. Jump to 'How to Sear Video'

Remove the lamb shanks one by one and place them neatly into the slow cooker as shown in the image

Sear in two batches, if necessary

Add onion to the same frying pan and cook until translucent (approx. 4 mins.).

Add sliced garlic and cook until lightly brown

Spoon contents on top of the lamb shanks, including the oil

Return pan back to heat and reduce heat to low

Add red wine and deglaze the pan and cook for a couple of minutes

Pour over the lamb shanks

Add all the ingredients except the parsley/coriander under the heading 'Into the croc pot', including the spices, on the top of the prepared lamb shanks

Looks like an edible rainbow already!!

Close lid and cook on High for 6 hours or on Low for 8 hours

Important: I like my lamb shanks very tender however, I do not like the meat to separate from the bone. After several attempts, I felt that the meat would be intact, if I removed the lamb shanks a few minutes before its cooking time. This way, the lamb meat is juicy and tender but it will still be attached to the bone. This makes it aesthetically pleasing and for plating up on a bed of mashed potatoes or rice, or soft polenta.

If you are like me, and like your meat on the bone, then do the following:

  • If you are cooking on 'High', open the lid after 5½ to 5¾ hours. Skim as much fat as you can. Remove lamb shanks and place them on a clean platter. Spoon some of the chunky sauce on top of lamb shanks to keep them moist.
  • On the other hand, if you are cooking on 'Low', then remove the lamb shanks after 7½ to 7¾ hours of cooking. Always keep the lamb shanks moist by spooning a little chunky sauce over the lamb shanks.
  • If you could not be bothered to do this, then eat them straight from the cooker to your plate. Its just as nice but part of the meat could be separated from the bone, making a little disappointing for those teenagers who love to eat the lamb shank with all the meat intact!

Remove lamb shanks and place them on a platter. Spoon over some chunky sauce over the lamb shanks

Pour the chunky sauce into a deep heavy based saucepan and place on medium heat. Simmer for 20-25 minutes or until thickened to your liking

Add the cornflour slurry and simmer for 3-5 minutes or until gravy looks thick and glossy

The chunky sauce is ready!

HOW TO SERVE

  • If you are watching your carb intake, serve on its own - Place one lamb shank on a plate, spoon some chunky sauce on the top and around. Serve with steamed vegetables such as carrots, broccoli, beans and corn.
  • If you love your carbs, then serve on a bed of mashed potatoes. Spoon some chunky sauce on the top and around. Garnish with chopped parsley/coriander and serve with steamed vegetables of your choice.
  • Serve on a bed of hot steamed white, brown or Sun Rice Doongara Clever Low GI white rice (available in your local Woolworths supermarket in the rice shelf).
  • I have tried these shanks on a bed of soft polenta and it tastes delicious too.

If you have tried this recipe, I would love to hear your feedback. Please be sure to rate the recipe and/or leave a comment below. If you want to see more recipe inspirations, you can follow me on Instagram @lavina_mendonsa.

Hubby's Slow Cooker Lamb Shanks

Hubby’s Slow Cooker Lamb Shanks (croc-pot)

Catherine Lavina Mendonsa
A tasty, mildly spiced Indian inspired slow cooker lamb shanks dish for all the family to enjoy for all seasons! Serve on a bed of hot steamed white, brown or Low GI white rice. Equally delicious with mashed potatoes or soft polenta!
Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 8 hours
Total Time 8 hours 40 minutes