When the weather turns chilly, you’ll find me waxing lyrical about the merits of slow food. There is definite hygge to be found in the preparation of the kind of dish where all the magic happens either within the oven or on top of the stove. Even more so when one considers the anticipation felt as the house slowly starts to fill with the delectable smell of something that needed no more expertise than a quick brown in a hot pan to create.

I recently had the opportunity to attend one of the cooking classes at Ginger and Lime Food Studio in Cape Town to experience for myself the art of slow food. Enticingly titled “Winter Warmers”, this class celebrated the simple ways in which anyone could put together a delicious meal for anything from a midweek dinner to a Sunday lunch. While seated alongside fellow foodies in her comprehensive kitchen, owner Denise Levy took us through a selection of courses that all celebrated what it meant to enjoy warming foods in winter. Physical warmth was provided by the spice-rich theme of the evening (think fiery Thai beef Rendang curry, a curried tomato soup and pulled Moroccan lamb shanks) while Denise’s intense love for cooking and the sense of community that comes from creating food together supplied the emotional warmth. But my favourite kind of warmth arrived in the form of Rooiberg Winery‘s extensive range of locally-produced wines.

Hailing from the venerated Robertson Wine Valley, winemaker André Scriven introduced chefs and wannabe chefs alike to The Game Reserve wine range. Although this collection of wine was originally produced by Graham Beck and still holds the name, it’s new custodianship under Rooiberg Winery means that the wine will soon be receiving a facelift.  What won’t be changing is the same unparalleled quality that oenophiles have come to expect from both wineries (although Graham Beck is now focussing exclusively on it’s MCC). The Game Reserve selection is comprised of seven varietal wines – Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinotage. Even better than their extensive collection is their collaboration with the Wilderness Foundation where for each bottle sold, R3.00 is donated to the Foundation’s education and conservation programme. Wine that gives back? Even more of a reason to procure a few bottles of my preferred reds, take them home and pair them with a slow food dish of my own.

Inspired by my mother’s favoured form of slow food come mid-July (deep Winter for those of us living below the equator) I’ve opted to make my version of the lamb shanks I sampled in the Ginger and Lime kitchen. Although spice is nice, I’m an anglophile both at heart and passport and thus I stuck firmly with the classic combination of buttery onions, meltingly tender lamb shanks and of course, copious amounts of red wine. My only nod to the alternative was a few heads of garlic, left whole and gently broiled to yield up their caramelised contents to be used in my rustic mash and that ultimate Italian compliment to any roast – gremolata.

Slow-roasted Lamb Shanks in Red Wine 

Prep time: 1 hour / Cook time: 3.5 hours / Serves: 4 to 6

You will need:

  • 4 to 6 free-range lamb shanks
  • 50ml olive oil, for browning
  • coarse ground sea salt and black pepper
  • a bottle of the Game Reserve Pinotage
  • 10 to 20 small shallots, peeled and left whole
  • about 5 sprigs of fresh rosemary, left whole
  • a head of garlic, separated, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 to 2 beef stock cubes (optional)

Find yourself a large pot that is able to go from stove to oven. I swear by my Le Creuset buffet casserole. Remember that all the shanks need to fit into it.

Pour the olive oil into the pot and heat on top of the stove until small bubbles form. One by one, fry each lamb shank in the oil until their exterior has browned and crisped up slightly. Set the browned shanks aside, reduce the heat to low and place the shallots, rosemary and garlic into the oil, allowing the shallots to brown gently and the herbs and garlic to infuse into the oil. Return the shanks to the pot, season generously with salt and pepper and add in the bottle of red wine. Using a wooden spoon, rub off any bits that are sticking to the bottom of the pot. At this point you can add in the beef stock cube, give the shanks a stir and replace the pot’s lid. Remove from the stove and place the pot into a preheated 220°C oven.

Roast on high heat for about 20 minutes then reduce the oven’s temperature to 150°C and roast for a further 2 hours. Remove the pot from the oven, give it a stir and if there is too little liquid then add in about a cup of water and leave the lid on. If there much liquid, leave the lid off. In either case, return the pot to the oven, reducing the temperature to 110°C and leaving to roast for another hour or until the liquid has reduced into a smooth, rich sauce and the shanks are fork-tender.

Carefully remove the shanks from the sauce and set aside on a warm plate. Using tongs, fish out the rosemary stalks and discard. Place the pot on the stove over a low heat and if needed, further reduce the sauce. Season to taste if required.

Roasted Allium Vegetables

You will need:

  • 4 heads of garlic, left intact in their skins
  • 4 to 6 brown onions, unpeeled
  • 50ml extra virgin olive oil
  • coarse ground sea salt and black pepper
  • a few sprigs of fresh sage or thyme

Preheat your oven to 190°C. Slice off the stalk part of each head of garlic, exposing the cloves inside. Slice off the root part of each onion, then cut down through the top in a cross pattern. The key is to cook the allium vegetables in their peels to retain moisture and ensure a tender roast with a caramelised flavour. Arrange the garlic and onions in a baking dish, drizzle over the olive oil and season. Push the herbs into the onions and garlic. Bake for about 45 minutes to an hour or until the alliums are soft and the garlic simply squeezes out of it’s skin.

Rustic Mash

You will need:

  • x2 410g tins of butter or cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 700g of organic baby potatoes, washed
  • one head of roasted garlic (see previous recipe)
  • 100ml fresh cream
  • 50ml salted butter
  • course ground sea salt and black pepper

Place the unpeeled baby potatoes in a pot and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil and allow to cook until a knife just runs through. Drain and return to the pot, adding in the beans, butter and cream. Squeeze the roasted garlic out of their skins and add to the potatoes. Mash the mixture until combined, being careful not to over-mash as this will give you gluey potatoes. Remember that the skins of the beans and potatoes will give the mash a rustic, chunky appearance. Season to taste and keep warm until serving time.

Simple Gremolata

You will need:

  • a decent-sized bunch of fresh flatleaf parsley, washed
  • a large lemon, zested and juiced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 small anchovy fillets, finely mashed
  • 150ml extra virgin olive oil
  • coarse ground sea salt and black pepper

Finely chop the parsley leaves and stalks and place in a mixing bowl. Add in the lemon juice, zest, chopped garlic, mashed anchovy fillets and olive oil. Combine and season to taste. You may need to add in a little extra olive oil if your gremolata is too thick. Allow to stand at room temperature for an hour to let the flavours develop.

Serve the shanks alongside the roasted Allium vegetables on the rustic mash with the red wine sauce spooned over and finished off with a tablespoon or two of gremolata. Here I paired my Slow-Roasted Lamb Shanks with Rooiberg Wine’s 2015 Pinotage to match the bottle I added to the recipe.

Double the wine, double the pleasure.

SLOW-ROASTED LAMB SHANK WITH ROOIBERG WINES

SLOW-ROASTED LAMB SHANK WITH ROOIBERG WINES

SLOW-ROASTED LAMB SHANK WITH ROOIBERG WINES

SLOW-ROASTED LAMB SHANK WITH ROOIBERG WINES

SLOW-ROASTED LAMB SHANK WITH ROOIBERG WINES

SLOW-ROASTED LAMB SHANK WITH ROOIBERG WINES

SLOW-ROASTED LAMB SHANK WITH ROOIBERG WINES

SLOW-ROASTED LAMB SHANK WITH ROOIBERG WINES

SLOW-ROASTED LAMB SHANK WITH ROOIBERG WINES

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