Father’s Day Special: Spirali with Slow-Cooked Lamb Shank Ragù

Prep time 20 mins | Cooking time 1 hour | Serves 4-6

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Spoil Dad this Father’s Day with my rich, saucy lamb shank ragù.


In Australia we like to do things a little different from the rest of the world. So unlike the Northern hemisphere, we celebrate Father’s Day on the first weekend of September. This is probably because it’s also the first weekend of Spring which is the perfect excuse to put together a delicious picnic lunch to celebrate Father’s Day in a park around Sydney.

One of my favourite weekend escapes is the Iron Cove Bay Run that loops between the suburbs of Drummoyne, Leichhardt and Rozelle. We’ll start the forty-minute drive from Plumpton, in Sydney’s Western suburbs, with the radio blasting George Ezra and Mum will instinctively cut in with, “Let’s say the Rosary.” We’ve all agreed that this is probably the best time to do so since we are all in the one space together. It’s not that we spend much time apart, but rather we’re often doing something else. 5 decades later (as in the decades of the Rosary) I’ll insist on Coldplay’s X&Y,  which I picked up for two dollars from a Vinnie’s in Leichardt one summer afternoon while driving back from the Bay Walk. It’s since become synonymous with the trip and I enjoy drifting off to the soothing sounds of Square One, Swallowed in the Sea and Till Kingdom Come, while the setting sun paints warm salmon and lavender rays over the afternoon clouds.

Different park but more-or-less our typical picnic fare.
Different park but more-or-less our typical picnic fare.

We park the car on Henley Marine Drive, near South Street, and grab our regular bench on the hills, scan for spiders, then pull boxes of homemade beef seekh kebabs, a garden salad and cutlery from our blue folding esky. We tuck into our feast watching cars fly over the Iron Cove Bridge and the sapphire water below.

This Father’s Day I’m thinking I’m going to celebrate with an Aussie icon that’s also the symbol of Spring – Lamb. In Australia, we love our lamb. So much so that we’ve developed huge campaigns around celebrating this iconic ingredient – my favourite is this parody of traditional perfume ads. Only in Australia of course.

I’m using lamb shanks which do take a while to cook but melt down into glorious, tender morsels that fall off the bone. To beat the clock I use a pressure cooker but you can achieve the same results in a saucepan on the stove top – just cook the sauce on a low heat for 2-3 hours or until the meat starts to fall off the bone. I base my sauce on a standard Italian sugo (which translates to sauce) recipe featuring tomato passata, onions, garlic and herbs but my secret is a little pinch of cumin and some chilli to give it a little kick and bring out some Moroccan and Middle-Eastern flavours (I can’t help it, spice is in my blood). I’ve suggested amounts of garlic, herbs and spices but as a general rule please feel free to adjust the flavours to your preference. If you like it hot add some more chilli. Can’t handle the aroma of garlic? Leave it out. In all honesty I would probably use double the amounts of aromatic ingredients I’ve listed below as I’m a sucker for bold flavours, especially in a dish like this.

What The Food? The tradition of feasting on lamb at Springtime came about through the Christian celebration of Easter. Christ is often depicted as the Lamb of God in traditional iconography. The lamb represents new life in the Risen Christ.

for the ragù
  • 2kg lamb shanks, cut into small pieces (see Brendon’s Tips below)
  • 2tbsp sunflower oil
  • 2 large brown onions, sliced
  • 2-6 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1tsp chilli powder
  • Handful fresh thyme and rosemary sprigs
  • 100mL red wine (such as Cabernet Sauvignon)
  • 500mL lamb stock (or beef, chicken or vegetable)
To serve
  • 25g unsalted butter, cubed
  • 500g spirali pasta

Brown the shanks. Season the lamb shanks with salt and pepper and set aside. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat and fry the lamb shanks in batches until golden brown.

Prepare the base. Place the browned lamb shanks, sliced onions, chopped garlic, cumin and chilli into a 4L pressure cooker or saucepan and stir to combine. Tie the rosemary and thyme sprigs into a bouquet garni using kitchen twine and add to the pan with the red wine and stock. Season with a pinch of salt.

Cook the sauce. Place the pressure cooker or saucepan uncovered over a medium heat and bring the liquid to the boil. Once boiling you can cover the pressure cooker with the lid and cook according to the manufacturer’s instructions for 1-2 hours or until the meat falls of the bone. If you are using a saucepan cover with a lid and cook for 2-3 hours or until the meat falls of the bone – just make sure to check every few minutes to make sure the liquid doesn’t boil over.

Shred the meat. You can start to cook the pasta according to the packet directions. Allow the sauce to cool slightly before opening the lid of the pressure cooker, according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Carefully remove the bones from the sauce. Shred the meat using forks. Stir the butter through the sauce. Serve with the pasta.

Browning the shanks add colour and flavour to the finished dish.
Browning the shanks add colour and flavour to the finished dish.
After cooking the meat will be so tender it will just fall off the bone.
After cooking, the lamb will be so tender it will just fall off the bone.
Perfectly saucy.
Perfectly saucy.
Photos done. Time to eat!
Photos done. Time to eat!

Brendon’s Tips:

  • You butcher will be more than happy to chop the shanks into smaller pieces for you. It helps them to cook faster, makes shredding the meat much easier, and also helps to release the delicious marrow from the bone which will add great flavour to the sauce. 
  • If using a saucepan you may need to add some more liquid to the pan as the shanks cook. Simply add some more stock or even water and you’ll be in business.
  • For a delicious vegan alternative swap the lamb for a 500g crumbled firm tofu and 500g finely diced zucchini. You won’t need to cook this in a pressure cooker, just on a stove top for 1 hour.

What are you cooking or eating today? Share your recipes and food photos by tagging #brendonthesmilingchef and #whatsbrendoncooking on Instagram or Tweeting to @bthesmilingchef.

To all the Dad’s out their I’d like to wish you all a very Happy Father’s Day this weekend. To my own Dad thank you for being a constant source of inspiration and support, and for always encouraging me to keep trying.

Happy Cooking and Keep Smiling,

Brendon 🙂
View my food journey on Zomato!


2 Comments Add yours

  1. That looks delicious

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for your lovely comment AppetiteDeluxe. I really appreciate your kind words and am glad you liked the recipe. Hace a lovely day and keep smiling 🙂


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