Portuguese Lamb Shank Stew

Punchy stew tingling with the flavours of Portuguese piri piri. Lamb is cooked slowly on the bone, for a Gluten-free sauce naturally thickened by collagen.

Portuguese Lamb Shank Stew

Lamb shank is the cut of meat taken from the lower leg of the animal, below the knee joint. Because it is from a weight-bearing part of the animal, it is a lean cut that requires long, slow cooking to render it tender enough to fall off the bone. As the shank cooks down, the tough connective tissue that holds the meat to the bone gets broken down into silky soft gelatine. Shank is usually served on the bone, where one shank serves as a generous portion of meat for one person.

Traditionally, stews are made the day before they are to be eaten. This is because aromatic foods such as stews and curries actually improve in flavour the next day, as the spices release into the oil, melding together and marinating the meat. Rather than one or two flavour notes dominating, you get a much more rounded and complex taste. So any meal that contains aromatic ingredients such as garlic, ginger, onion, spices and herbs will continue to develop flavour in the refrigerator. You don’t have to make this meal the day before, but I find that slow-cooked meals are particularly well suited to making in advance.

cooking time
Portuguese Lamb Shank Stew


for the marinade:

  • 4 lamb shanks, on the bone
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 scotch bonnet chilli (or 1/4 teaspoon cayenne chilli powder)
  • 4 anchovy fillets, rinsed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley leaves
  • 2 tablespoons tomato purée
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) olive oil
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) white wine vinegar

for the sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil (I used lard)
  • 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 pints (850ml) homemade stock (I used lamb stock, but chicken stock works well too)
  • 400g (1 can) tinned chopped tomatoes
  • 2 bay leaves


  1. Marinade the lamb. The day before, make the marinade. Put the garlic, scotch bonnet chilli, anchovy fillets and salt in a pestle and mortar, and grind to a smooth paste.
  2. Scrape into a non-reactive container such as a glass or ceramic dish, and add the remaining marinade ingredients (oregano, black pepper, paprika, parsley, tomato purée, lemon juice, olive oil and white wine vinegar). Use a hand whisk to mix until fully blended.
  3. Add the lamb shanks and rub all over with the marinade. Cover, and leave to marinade in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight.
  4. Brown the lamb. The next day, remove the lamb from the refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking, so the meat has time to come up to room temperature. Remove from the marinade, scraping off any excess marinade with a spatula. Reserve this for later.
  5. Heat the cooking oil in a heavy-based casserole over a medium-high heat. When a few drops of water sizzle and evaporate upon contact with the pan, add the lamb. Sear the lamb in 4 batches, turning regularly, until browned all over with a caramelised crust – about 6 minutes a batch. Add more cooking oil if necessary. Do not overcrowd the pan. Transfer the browned meat to a bowl.
  6. Saute the onion. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the onion and fry for about 5 minutes, until translucent but not brown.
  7. Deglaze the pan. Add a little of the stock, and scrape off all the tasty browned bits from the bottom of the pan with a spatula.
  8. Simmer the stew. Return the lamb to the casserole. Add the reserved marinade and the remaining stew ingredients (stock, tomatoes and bay leaves). The lamb shanks should be more-or-less submerged in liquid. Top up with a bit of extra stock / water if this is not the case. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low. Cover, and leave to simmer gently for 2 hours. Uncover, and cook for 1 hour more, or until tender and starting to fall off the bone.
  9. Traditionally, stews are made the day before they are to be eaten. This improves the flavour by allowing the spices to develop and meld together.
    • If eating another day: leave to cool overnight in the refrigerator. After several hours chilling, the fat will rise to the top and congeal to form a solid layer on top. When you want to eat the stew, gently scrape off the fat with a metal spoon and discard. Bring to the boil, then follow the instructions below to reduce the sauce.
    • if eating straight away: take the pan off the heat, and remove the meat using a slotted spoon. Wait for the oil to separate out and rise to the top. Tilt the pan, then lower in a metal spoon or ladle and scoop up the oil from the sides.
  10. Reduce the sauce. Remove the lamb from the pan using a slotted spoon, and keep warm by covering in a double layer of tin foil. Turn the heat up to high and boil rapidly to reduce the cooking liquid to a thick sauce – about 20-30 minutes. Stir frequently towards the end to stop it from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  11. Transfer the lamb shank onto a plate, and spoon over the thickened sauce.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *