Hunter gatherer lamb shank braise

Delicious served with mashed potatoes or soft polenta, and some garlicky, buttery greens such as Brussel sprouts.

2 rashers nitrate free bacon, rind removed, finely sliced 4 lamb, hogget or mutton shanks 2 onions, cut in half and finely sliced (or if you are using shallots, just peel them and leave whole) 3 - 4 carrots, sliced on the diagonal 1cm thick (or if small, well scrubbed and left whole) 3 celery stalks, sliced on the diagonal 1cm thick 6 garlic cloves, left whole 1 cup best quality red wine 1/2 - 1 cup stock 1/2 - 1 teaspoon molasses sugar or rapadura 3 bay leaves 1 generous sprig fresh rosemary, approx 12cm long 1 spring fresh thyme Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste 2 - 4 sprigs fresh flat leaf parsley

PRE HEAT THE OVEN TO 120 - 140C FAN FORCED. IF YOUR OVEN IS CONVENTIONAL, INCREASE HEAT TO 135 - 150C.

Heat the bacon in a large flameproof casserole dish (a cast iron baking dish is perfect for this), until it just begins to crisp and release fat. Remove the crisped bacon and set aside, leaving the fat in the dish. Add the shanks, and continue to cook over a low-medium heat for 15 - 20 minutes or until lightly browned - this will render some of the lamb fat into the dish. You can add the onions at this point, but there's no reason to not add them earlier either - they can brown away in the fat with the shanks.

Add the carrots, celery, garlic (but sometimes I add them a little earlier also) and cook over that same moderate heat for 5 minutes. Increase the heat and add the wine, letting it sizzle. Add the tomatoes, stock (use enough to barely cover the shanks), 1 teaspoon of sugar and stir through. Turn down the heat, add the herbs and return the bacon to the dish. Season to taste.

Cover with a lid, or with foil and place in the oven for 3 1/2 hours, or until tender.

Remove from the oven and skim as much fat as desired from the sauce. Return the dish to the stovetop and cook over a medium heat without a lid for 15 - 20 minutes over a good heat, until the sauce is thick, stirring from time to time. Taste, and add more sugar if required and season as required.

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