Recipe video above. Epic combination - fall apart lamb shanks in a rich massaman curry sauce, a wildy popular dish at upscale Thai restaurants! The coconut and spice infused flavour of the curry sauce is a dead set perfect match with the flavour of lamb meat. Don't be fooled by the simplicty of this recipe - hours in the oven works magic. (Read in post if you are dubious!)SPICINESS - mild! Massaman curry is one of the mildest curries in Thai cuisine.
Mix curry paste, coconut milk and stock in a 22 x 33cm / 9 x 13" baking dish, preferably glass or ceramic (Note 5). Add onion, potato, star anise, cinnamon and lamb.
Turn shanks to coat in sauce, then cover with foil.
Bake in oven for 2 hours. Remove foil, bake for a further 1 hour (small shanks) or 1.5 hrs (medium to large shanks), turning lamb twice to brown evenly, until meat is so tender it can easily be teased apart with 2 forks.
Remove lamb onto plate. Carefully skim off excess fat off the surface (tilt dish, it's easier) - I get about 1/3 cup. Mix sauce in baking dish - it should be reduced down to a syrupy thickness (Note 6).
Serve lamb with sauce over jasmine rice, garnished with chilli and coriander. For a larger banquet, put the curry out on a platter to share!
Note on cooking method: This recipe is not suited to slow cooker, pressure cooker or stove. Achieving the intended flavour with such little effort requires the oven to caramelise the surface of the lamb and sauce (as well as reducing the sauce). 1. Lamb Shanks cook times for different sizes:
Small shanks 300g/10oz each x 5 = 2 hr covered, 1 hr uncovered
Medium shanks 350 - 400g/12 - 14 oz each x 4 = 2 hrs covered, 1.5 hrs uncovered
Large hind shanks 600 - 750g / 1.2 - 1.5 lb each x 2 = 2 hrs covered, 1.5 hrs uncovered, USE SMALLER BAKING DISH so liquid covers ~ 1/2 to 2/3 of meat
Small and medium shanks are foreshanks (front legs of lamb). Large are from the rear, called hind shanks.Even though large hind shanks are twice the weight of medium shanks, they will cook to fall apart tender in the same time if they are mostly submerged in liquid as heat transference is efficient (as opposed to roasting exposed without liquid - larger size takes proportionally longer to cook).Other lamb cuts - the only other one I'd recommend is shoulder, very forgiving, similar flavour and meat fibres. Slow cook whole, upside down (so most of meat is submerged), cook times per recipe (it should be around 3.5 hrs total cook time). You'll need to scoop off more fat because shoulder is fattier. It will be sensational - essentially a Thai pot roast!!Other meat - recipe should work as written with beef cheeks, beef ribs (short ribs or long ribs) or beef osso bucco as they have similar fibres, good beef flavour and similar cook times. Use about 1.2kg/2.4lb cheeks, or 1.5kg/3lb ribs or osso bucco, cook times will be around the same (in anycase, all these cuts are very forgiving).Don't use chuck beef - I tried, and found the sauce lacking. The meat itself doesn't have enough beef flavour to work using this method, use the traditional stovetop Beef Massaman recipe.Chicken won't hold up to the required cook time for sufficient flavour to develop in the sauce, and while slow cooking pork cuts should work, I'm not convinced about how it will suit the curry sauce!2. Massaman curry paste - best is Maesri brand, sold at most Woolworths & Coles in Australia, as well as Harris Farms and Asian stores. Also happens to be the cheapest at ~$1.50 a can. Online - Australia, US, UK, Canada.Keeps 5 days in the fridge in a super airtight container, or freeze for 3 months (but note that this recipe calls for a whole can).Otherwise, use whatever brand you can find (my preferences: Ayam, Five Tastes and lastly Volcom).3. Coconut milk - the quality/flavour comes down to the % of the liquid that is actually coconut milk. Ayam is the highest at 89%, cheap ones can be as low as 45%.4. Low sodium chicken stock - important to get low sodium because it cooks right down and concentrates the saltiness. If you don't have low sodium reduce by 3/4 cup and add 3/4 cup water instead.5. Pan - clean up easiest with glass or ceramic because it will require a bit of scrubbing with a brush (it comes off easily after a brief soak). Metal would need to be soaked longer and scrubbed gently.6. Sauce - if it's still a bit thin once meat is fall apart tender, just pop it back into oven without the lamb. Will reduce quickly. Keep lamb covered to keep it warm - lasts like that for ages.If it's reduced down too much (eg if your dish was large and there's lots of sauce surface area exposed), just add boiling water to thin it out. Should have close to 3 cups (750ml) sauce (give or take - there's so much flavour in it, it won't matter if it's slightly thinner or thicker).7. Storage / make ahead - as with all stews, this just gets better with time! Keeps for 4 to 5 days in the fridge, freezes for 3 months (thaw then reheat). Best way to reheat lamb shanks is to cover and reheat in oven at 180C/350F for 30 minutes or so, or microwave on low (high heat will cause large pieces of meat have a tendency to pop - don't do it!). Loosen sauce with more water if needed.8. Nutrition per lamb shank, assuming 1/3 cup fat is scooped off and all curry sauce is used.