Lambo in camo (Lamb shanks and pesto)
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Braai – Reuben on Fire

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Braai – Reuben on Fire


Lambo in camo (Lamb shanks and pesto)

Recipe By Reuben Riffel
Photographs By Craig Fraser


4 medium lamb shanks
8 tsp sea salt
4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 sprigs thyme
150g butter
Lemon wedges
For the pesto:
75ml extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves
50g pine nuts
50g Parmesan
2 bunches fresh basil
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley
2 tbsp wholegrain mustard
2 tbsp honey

Our love for lamb borders on obsession. I reckon that because our Karoo lamb has that specific flavour from eating wild mint and dry rosemary-like bushes, we have the best-tasting lamb in the world.

Don’t overcomplicate the ingredients. While at first the straightforward approach of doing simple lamb shanks with a nice pesto wouldn’t have occurred to me, I have realised the beauty of the food chain and to appreciate why established combinations work.

I thought I’d try it on the braai to give it a bit of that incredible smoky
flavour. If you cook it slowly, the fat starts to crisp. With lamb, when you taste it for what it is – especially on the shank because it’s so close to the bone – you get that incredible lamb flavour better than on other cuts. Rich lamb goes very well with something fresh and herbal so when braaied and served with a green sauce, it’s the perfect marriage – whether that sauce is pesto, salsa verde or even mint sauce. I also include something sweet by adding in wholegrain mustard.

Try make the onion and garlic surround the shank. It’s best if it’s not too tightly wrapped in foil – there needs to be some distance between the foil and the shank, to allow for better steaming and prevent hard roasting that will toughen the meat.

Cooking Instructions

  1. To make the pesto, blend the olive oil, garlic and pine nuts in a blender until fine. Add the Parmesan, basil and parsley and blend until chunky
    (you still want some texture in the sauce). Mix in the mustard and honey
    until well combined.
  2. Rub the shanks with one teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Cut four
    70cm-long heavy-duty foil pieces. Evenly divide the onion, garlic and thyme onto the middle of each foil sheet. Then place a shank on each piece. Wrap tightly and evenly.
  3. Cook over medium-high heat for two hours, ensuring there are no flames. Remove from the heat and unwrap.
  4. Melt the butter in a pot until it starts to turn brown. Season each shank with one teaspoon salt and, with a pastry brush, brush on the brown butter.
  5. Place the shanks over medium-high heat. Keep basting with the butter until they’re a delicious dark brown on the outside.
  6. To serve, place the shanks on a platter with a dollop of pesto on each. Serve family-style with the lemon wedges.

About the Author

There can be no doubt about the fact that Reuben Riffel is one of South Africa’s most well-known and acclaimed chefs. With no less than five restaurants in his stable (Reuben’s in Franschhoek, Reuben’s at the Robertson Small Hotel, Reuben’s at the One & Only in Cape Town, Reuben’s at Abalone House in Paternoster and finally Racine in Franschhoek), Reuben has also become a household name as the face of Robertsons Herbs & Spices and his recent role as a MasterChef South Africa judge. This award-winning chef is also father to four cookbooks: Reuben Cooks: Food is Time Travel, Reuben Cooks Local (also published by Quivertree and winner of Best Chef’s Cookbook and photography respectively at the World Gourmand Awards in 2009 and 2012), Braai: Reuben on Fire (published by Quivertree and second-place winner of the Sunday Times Cook Book of the Year award 2014) and finally Reuben at Home. Key to Reuben’s success is his unsurpassed ability to marry South African and international cuisines via an eclectic but unpretentious approach, using only the best seasonal ingredients.

More About The Author

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