This recipe is the perfect Spring Sunday lunch, a great Italian alternative to a classic roast, using new season lamb shanks and that incredible wild garlic. The pearl barley makes a beautiful creamy risotto, with an earthy nutty flavour and less filling than rice. The lamb is slow cooked on the hob here, reaching that meltingly tender perfection over 5 hours, finished with a rich port and red wine jus.
For the Lamb and Jus:
4 baby lamb shanks
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 sprig of thyme
1 sprig of rosemary
300ml red wine
100ml port wine
100ml olive oil
For the Risotto:
300g pearl barley
1 celery stick
900ml veg stock
For the Wild Garlic Pesto:
30g wild garlic leaves
15g mint leaves
1 garlic clove
20g parmesan, grated
50ml olive oil
For the Gremolata:
1 orange zested, finely grated
1 lemon, zested, finely grated
15g mint leaves, finely chopped
15g pine nuts, toasted and finely chopped
1. Roughly chop the carrot and celery into 2cm chunks. Peel and slice the onion into quarters and bash the garlic cloves. Heat a drizzle of oil in a frying pan over a medium-high heat and brown the veg until caramelised all over. Transfer the veg to the base of a deep saucepan.
2. Lightly salt the lamb shanks and brown them in the same pan, turning occasionally to caramelise all over. Place the shanks on top of the veg and pour the wines and olive oil all around.
3. Add the peppercorns and herbs, cover the pan and bring to a simmer. Braise the lamb for 4-5 hours over a low heat, just simmering, until cooked through and tender, the meat should be falling away from the bone.
4. For the pearl barley, chop the shallot in half and roughly chop 1 carrot into chunks. In a separate saucepan, heat a drizzle of oil and brown the veg until caramelised. Add the pearl barley and fry for 2 minutes, stirring to coat in the oil. Add the veg stock and bring to a boil. Turn down and simmer for 30 minutes or until the pearly barley is only just cooked with a slight bite. Spread on a baking tray to cool, ready to reheat for serving.
5. While the lamb is cooking, prepare the gremolata by finely chopping the herbs, pine nuts and zest. Set aside. Finely dice the carrot and celery stick for the risotto and set aside.
6. In a food processor, blitz the pesto herbs and garlic and slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Taste and season.
7. When the lamb is cooked, take out the shanks and place in a roasting tray and cover with foil. Place in a low oven to keep warm. Strain the remaining juices back into a wide pan, discarding the vegetables and herbs.
8. Reduce the cooking liquid by 2/3 or until thick and syrupy. Taste and season to correct the jus to the right flavour and concentration. Keep warm over a low heat.
9. When ready to serve, warm the pearl barley in a pan, stirring through the diced carrot and celery. Be careful not to overcook the pearl barley or the veg, it should still have a slight bite to it.
10. Take the risotto off the heat and stir through the butter, parmesan and the wild garlic pesto. Taste and season with salt and black pepper.
11. Spoon the risotto on a plate with the lamb shank and scatter over the gremolata. Drizzle over the jus to serve.