Yesterday I made Lamb Shanks with Beans from Nigella Express (p117). Having followed the recipe to the T, my Mum & I were disapointed. The beans & sauce were gorgeous but my lamb shanks were tough (didn't fall off the bone & sinew etc still left on entire bone) and very little meat on it. My Shanks did not resemble the photo in the book. It was really a bit if hard work eating it! My questions are: 1) Is there a particular season for Lamb Shank? 2) Should I have done something to the shank before marinating it eg: cleaned it, trimmed? 3) Was I just unfortunate that I didn't get a Lamb shank with meat on it? I would love to do this recipe again for when my sister comes home on holidays in two weeks time so any suggestions on how I can get it right would be great. Thank you.
Nowadays there is not really a season for lamb shanks, though traditionally most lamb was produced in the Autumn once the lambs had been brought down from hill grazing. You will find that lamb shanks from the rear legs will be meatier and fatter than ones from the fore legs so if you are buying from a butcher see if he can give you shanks from the rear legs, otherwise you may have to examine the supermarket packages to look for the fatter shanks.
The bones of the shanks should become exposed as the meat cooks and shrinks back, but you can also run a sharp knife around the top of each one to make sure that there isn't anything attached to the bone that could inhibit this. Lamb shanks, like other slow-cooking cuts, can vary in toughness and you may find that you need a cooking time of 1 1/2-2 hours. It may also be helpful to cover the roasting pan with foil for the first hour and then uncover it for the remaining cooking time, basting the shanks a couple of times with any juices that have collected in the pan.