Braised lamb shanks with barley and rosemary

This is wonderful for cold days and perfect for serving when you want to relax and enjoy your company with no last-minute hurdles.

When buying lamb shanks, ask your butcher to trim off any excess fat and remove the knuckles – it will save a difficult job. They are extremely good value for money, so it's well worth seeking them out.

SERVES 6

  • 1 tsp rapeseed oil
  • 6 lamb shanks, well trimmed and knuckles removed
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 200g (7oz) carrots, cut into wedges
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 50g (2oz) pearl barley, washed
  • 1 fresh thyme sprig
  • 1 fresh rosemary sprig, plus extra to garnish
  • 2 litres (3½ pints) lamb or beef stock
  • 600ml (1 pint) red wine
  • 12 pearl onions or small shallots, peeled
  • 1 tbsp cornflour sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • champ, to serve

Method

1 Preheat the oven to 170°C (325°F/gas mark 3).

2 Heat the oil in a large casserole with a lid over a high heat. Add the lamb shanks and fry until lightly browned on all sides, turning regularly. Transfer to a plate. Add the onion, carrots and garlic to the pan and sauté for 5 minutes, until lightly golden. Tip into a bowl.

3 Return the lamb shanks to the casserole with the barley and herbs. Pour over the stock and wine to cover. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then cover tightly with foil and then the lid. Bake for 1½ hours. Remove the casserole from the oven, add the reserved vegetables with the pearl onions or shallots and cook for another hour, until the lamb is very tender and almost falling off the bone.

4 Strain the cooking liquid into a separate pan, then put the lid back on the casserole to keep the lamb shanks warm. Bring the cooking liquid back to a simmer. Mix the cornflour with a little water in a small bowl, then whisk this into the cooking liquid. Cook over a medium heat until it has reduced to a sauce consistency, stirring occasionally. Season to taste.

5 Spoon the champ into warmed wide-rimmed bowls and arrange a lamb shank on top of each one. Spoon the vegetables to the side and drizzle around the reduced sauce. Garnish with the rosemary sprigs.

Apple and almond tart

SERVES 6

The best way to arrange the apples in the tin is to start at the perimeter, in a pinwheel fashion, filling the middle after a full circle of slices is in place. This would also be delicious made with pears, depending on what you fancy.

  • 125g (4½oz) butter, softened
  • 100g (4oz) icing sugar, sifted
  • 100g (4oz) ground almonds
  • 25g (1oz) plain flour
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 vanilla pod, split in half lengthways and seeds scraped out
  • large pinch of ground cinnamon
  • 450g (1lb) cooking apples
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • 2–3 tbsp apricot jam
  • softly whipped cream, to serve
  • caramel ice cream), to serve (optional)
  • FOR THE PASTRY:
  • 175g (6oz) plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 100g (4oz) butter, chilled and diced
  • 50g (2oz) caster sugar
  • 1 Egg yoke
  • half teaspoon of cream


    Method

1 To make the pastry, place the flour in a food processor with the butter and sugar and pulse until just blended. Add the egg yolk and cream and blend again briefly. Wrap with cling film and chill for 1 hour to rest.

2 To make the filling, place 100g (4oz) of the butter in a large bowl with the icing sugar and beat until light and fluffy using an electric hand beater. Beat in the ground almonds and flour, then gradually beat in the eggs, vanilla seeds and cinnamon. Continue to beat for 5 minutes, until light and fluffy.

3 Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface and use to line a 23cm (9in) loose-bottomed flan tin. Chill again for 15 minutes to allow the pastry to rest.

4 Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F/gas mark 5).

5 Peel the apples and cut into quarters to remove the cores, then cut into thin wedges. Tip into a bowl and toss in the lemon juice to prevent them from browning. Spread the almond filling in the pastry case and carefully arrange the apple slices on top in a fan shape, then gently press the apples down into the filling. Dot with the remaining 25g (1oz) of the butter.

6 Bake the tart for 25–30 minutes, until the pastry is cooked through and the apples are golden brown. Remove from the flan tin and transfer to a plate. Melt the apricot jam in a pan or in the microwave and brush it over the tart.

7 To serve, cut the tart into wedges and serve warm or cold on serving plates with a good dollop of whipped cream and a scoop of caramel ice cream, if liked.