Slow-cooked lamb shank in Madeira


  • Flour
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 8 x 3/4 lb lamb shanks
  • 24 or so banana shallots
  • 2 bottles of Madeira wine
  • About 1/2 gallon lamb or chicken stock
  • 1 to 1 1/2 lbs butter
  • 7-8 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 7-8 Tbsp honey
  • 3 1/2 cups fresh thyme
  • 2 lbs large potatoes
  • About 4 cups cream
  • 2 1/2 cups spinach


I start by preparing the flour with which to dust the shanks. This helps to seal in all the lovely caramelized meaty juices when browning, and the flour will help to thicken the liquor during the cooking process. Toss a couple of cups of flour into a roasting pan and season with salt and a fair bit of cracked black pepper. Not too much, though, as when the liquid is later reduced one doesn’t want it to be too spicy.

Coat the shanks in flour and sear (brown) in a well-oiled hot pan. Remove and place upright, thick section down, thin section up, in a deep roasting dish or Bain Marie.

Into the same pan toss a little of the wine and deglaze using a wooden spoon (basically means to clean) by loosening all those lovely caramelized bits left behind by the meat. Toss this liquor over the shanks, along with the rest of the ingredients, the butter, vinegar, honey and fresh thyme, and top up with equal quantities of wine and stock so that the shanks are almost covered. Cover with tin foil and roast in an oven at 320˚F for 3-4 hours – to my mind, the longer the better, because you virtually can’t overcook this.

Before serving: oven roast the whole shallots in a little olive oil with a little fresh thyme until they’re nice and brown on the outside and nice and soft on the inside. Make mashed potatoes, adding butter and cream as well as salt and pepper to taste. Blanch the fresh spinach (fancy French word for momentarily boiling something in salted water), add fresh cream and salt and pepper to taste. Put in a blender and purée into a smooth liquid. Reduce the sauce in which the shanks were cooked into a nice concentrated liquor.

To plate:

Place the shank on the mash and top with the reduced liquor in which it was cooked. Drizzle the spinach purée around the edge. Place two or three shallots on top and serve to smiling patrons.

Encore guaranteed.

By the end of the evening’s "performance" we’ve received a number of curtain calls and our fair share of standing ovations . . . and I haven’t broken a single leg, but I’ve cracked it in this kitchen.


About the Show

Cooked in Africa

Based in Cape Town, South Africa, Cooked in Africa producer and host Justin Bonello describes himself as a “cook, traveler, father, husband, filmmaker, gardener... and not particularly in that order.” Bonello works on projects that bridge his love of travel and food. The self-taught bush cook is a fan of the slow food movement, and in his work on the show has covered over 5,000 miles. As Bonello himself puts it, “Cooking, travelling and filming is all in a day’s work.

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