Crunchy Bottoms

Striking the caloric balance. Barely.

Lamb Shank Cassoulet

Lamb Shank Cassoulet

Say hello to my first night-time photos. 

If I could keep the sun up all the time, or better yet, summon it whenever I need it present for a proper shot, I’d be happy. Which is why I only ever bother with photos during the day (which all happen to be desserts D:). Shots of otherwise vibrant hues of Chicken Paprikash under sickly, stark, hospital-flourescent lighting? I’d rather eat my food while it’s still warm than bother ransacking drawers for daylight-balanced bulbs or a pocket-sized sun. 

But Mother’s Day dinner couldn’t simply be left uncaptured at all. Especially since I want to look back half a decade later and laugh and cry and remember how I bound myself to the kitchen for 4 concrete hours and how I burned a toe (Yes, a toe. The big toe on my left foot to be exact) when a splotch of molten white chocolate decided my foot to be a more desirable destination than the frickin’ bowl. 

Such are the joys of the kitchen. 

I planned a Main, a Side and Dessert. 

Nowhere did I bother to insert Taking Photos as part of the menu, short of risking dropping the Nikon into the pressure cooker while accidently getting spattered with scalding, popping bacon fat and impaling my palm with the jagged edge of the opened can of beans as I blindly reach for a towel amidst the spray of blood. I was this close to turning the night into something out of an episode of Happy Tree Friends, so if I only cared long enough to drag my room lamp downstairs and grab that black vanguard board for a picture, I’m glad the end product even looked like food. Although perhaps if you looked closely you’d be able to spot a severed fingertip among the chorizo sausages and beans… 

I’m known for my morbid sense of humour. Excuse me.  

Rest assured that I’m completely intact to type out a blog post. 


The shank is a cut of meat usually available for lamb and veal, looks like a giant drumstick once cooked and is the portion of meat below the knee – lamb calves, if you will (ignoring the unintended paradox). And, according to wikipedia because I’m not a butcher let alone a chef, shanks are best cooked long and slow such that the meat falls off the bone with barely any resistance since shank meat is tough and lean. You can expect a thick, full-bodied sauce once you’re done simmering the shanks for a few hours – hours of which I failed to plan well and ended up pressure-cooking the cassoulet (a bean-based casserole) into oblivion so that it’ll cook by dinner time. Therefore my advice is, if you’re willing to pay for lovely, prime cuts of meat, make sure you set aside sufficient time to baby, coddle and tenderly cook them with oodles and oodles of love. 

And do pair the cassoulet with a side of mashed potato or a light salad. My Roasted Garlic mash wasn’t photogenic enough for a picture and the molten chocolate cake wasn’t gushy enough. That’ll teach be to be overly ambitious. 

So what did you do for Mother’s Day? 


Lamb Shank Cassoulet recipe adapted from Delicious 

There is the potential for this cassoulet to be a little too salty, but if your chicken stock and beans didn’t come with salt already, you should be fine. Otherwise, add more water to the cassoulet and you’ll have an amazingly meaty and robust sauce perfect on its own or wiped clean with freshly baked bread. 

Serves 4 generously (One shank per person) or 6 people with side dishes. 


  • 4 lamb shanks
  • 4 rashers back bacon
  • 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tsp rosemary leaves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 thyme sprigs, plus 1 tsp chopped leaves
  • 2 tbs tomato paste
  • 2 tbs smoked paprika (optional)
  • 2 tsp smoked chipotle tabasco sauce (optional)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (I didn’t have any so I used sake.)
  • 4 cups chicken stock (preferably with less sodium and fat)
  • 2 chorizo sausages or any strongly herbed and smoked sausages.
  • 1 400g can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed.
  • 1 cup fresh bread crumbs
  • Parsley to garnish (optional)


1. Heat about 1 tbs of oil in a large pot and brown the lamb shanks on all sides, seasoning with salt and pepper. Set aside. 

2. Add the bacon to the pan and fry on medium heat till brown and lightly crisped. About 3-4 minutes. Add the onion, garlic, rosemary and season, cooking for another 3-4 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, bay leaves, thyme sprigs, smoked paprika and cook for 1 minute before adding in the wine. Once the wine is reduced, add the stock and the lamb shanks. Cover surface closely with a sheet of baking paper and simmer for 2-3 hours till the lamb is tender OR pressure cook for half an hour. 

3. In a pan, brown the sausages on all sides, remove and slice them about 1cm  in thickness and set aside. Add the breadcrumbs and chopped thyme leaves to the pan and fry till golden brown. Set aside. 

4. Remove the lamb from the pot and skim off excess fat from the surface and allow the cassoulet to boil for 3-4 minutes until the liquid is reduced into a rather thick sauce. Reduce heat to medium-low and add the beans and sausages, simmer for 10 minutes till sauce is thick. Return lamb to pot and keep warm. 

5. Serve cassoulet with a sprinkle of bread crumbs, a drizzle of chipotle tabasco and chopped parley to garnish. 


3 responses to “Lamb Shank Cassoulet

  1. Oliver May 12, 2010 at 7:19 pm

    Lighting’s not very shabby for a night shoot. Seems to be sufficient lighting at the moment though the first looks slightly darker with the shadows

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