Spring vegetable & lamb shank soup
The beginning of spring is probably the most exciting time of the year. After months of earthy root vegetables and hearty brassicas, the freshness and variety of produce that heralds winter's end is incredible.
Broad beans, peas and baby vegetables are all at their peak, new potatoes appear in all colours and sizes, and even humble onions and garlic are at their freshest and most fragrant. Another product that is coming into its prime is lamb. Following the traditional breeding cycle, lambs are born in early winter and sold in spring while they are young and tender. Shanks are perfect to make the base for a great soup. They are loaded with flavour and their high collagen content lends body to the broth.
This simple recipe is perfect for the early weeks of spring when these ingredients are beautiful and vibrant, but the weather is still cool enough to warrant the need for a hearty, warming dish. It is also open to as much interpretation as the cook desires – substitute the garnish vegetables according to taste and availability.
1 onion, peeled & roughly chopped
4 cloves peeled garlic
3 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
1 tsp black peppercorns
½ bunch black cabbage
1kg broad beans, podded & peeled
400g peas, shelled
1 bunch baby carrots, thickly sliced
1 bunch baby turnips, cleaned & quartered
2 heads baby fennel, cut into large dice
½ cup of small soup pasta
½ cup of chopped fresh herbs (parsley, tarragon, chives & chervil would all work well
30 MIN PREP
Bring a large pot to a high heat. Rub the lamb shanks with a little olive oil, & season generously with salt. Add a few tablespoons of olive oil to the pot. Add the lamb shanks & brown on all sides until well coloured. Remove from the pot.
Still over a high heat, add the onion, cooking for a few minutes until caramelised. Add the water (it may seem like a lot, but it will reduce as the stock cooks).
Return the shanks to the pot, along with the garlic, thyme, bay leaves, peppercorns & a generous pinch of salt. Add any other bits you may have laying around- tomatoes, mushrooms & parmesan rind are all high in umami and will bring depth of flavour to the stock.
Bring to the boil, skim any scum that rises to the surface, then reduce the heat to a low simmer. Cook for 2.5-3 hours until the lamb is tender, topping up with water if required. Lift the shanks out with tongs, & transfer to a plate to cool. Pass the stock through a fine sieve, discarding the solids . Give the pot a quick clean, return the stock to the pot, & bring it back to a gentle simmer.
Meanwhile, once the lamb is cool enough to handle, shred the meat from the bones.
At this point, start adding the garnishes to the soup. Start with the pasta, fennel, turnips & carrots. Cook these for around 5 minutes, until the vegetables are just becoming tender. Add the black cabbage, pea, broad beans & shredded lamb. Cook for a further 3-4 minutes until all the vegetables are tender & the pasta is cooked.
Adjust the seasoning with salt, and a generous amount of coarsely cracked pepper according to taste. Ladle into serving bowls, and top with a few drops of olive oil. Serve with crusty bread lashed with butter.