The thinking behind this was to make Lancashire hotpot – which is served with pickled red cabbage – into a pie, but I think it has ended up being more like Irish stew in a pie! Lamb shanks aren’t cheap but they produce a fantastic filling as the meat is so sticky and intensely flavoured. Got the thumbs up in my house. Make the pickled cabbage a couple of days before. You can also cook the lamb shanks the day before.
Prep time: 45 minutes, plus salting, cooling and chilling time
Cook time: 3 hours 45 minutes
For the cabbage
- ½ red cabbage, core removed, finely shredded
- 35g salt
- 165ml cider vinegar
- 65ml white balsamic vinegar
- 250ml red wine
- 165g granulated sugar
- 2 dried red chillies
- ½ tsp black peppercorns
- 10 juniper berries, crushed
- ½ cinnamon stick
For the pie
- 4 lamb shanks, about 350g each
- 35g seasoned flour, plus flour for dusting
- 2 tbsp rapeseed or groundnut oil
- 2 large onions, cut into slim crescent-moon-shaped slices (0.5cm at the thickest part)
- 4 very large carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
- small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, leaves chopped and stalks tied in a bundle
- 6 sprigs of thyme
- 1.2 litres lamb stock (or chicken stock, or water)
- 3 Maris Piper potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
- 320g puff pastry
- 1 whole egg and 1 yolk, beaten
- Layer the cabbage in a colander set on a plate, sprinkling with the salt as you go. Leave for 4 hours. Wash and drain the cabbage and pat it dry.
- Meanwhile, put the vinegars, wine and sugar in a pan and heat, stirring a little to help dissolve the sugar.
- Bring to the boil and reduce by half.
- Add the spices and leave off the heat for 30 minutes, then heat to boiling again.
- Put the cabbage in a bowl and pour the hot vinegar over it through a nylon sieve. Cover and put in the fridge until you want to serve it.
- Coat the lamb shanks in seasoned flour, shaking off the excess.
- Heat the oil in a big pan (I use a cast-iron one that has a lid). Brown the shanks in two batches, moving them around to get a good colour. Season. Transfer the meat to a bowl.
- Put the onion and carrot in the pan, stir them around in the fat then add any leftover seasoned flour.
- Put the shanks back in, adding the parsley stalks and 3 sprigs of thyme.
- Add the stock or water and bring to just under the boil.
- Turn the heat right down, cover with a lid – leave a little gap at the side – and cook really gently for 1½-2 hours, or until the meat is falling off the bone.
- Remove the lamb and strain the vegetables, keeping both the vegetables and the stock (get rid of the herbs).
- Add the potatoes to the stock and cook until just tender – they will cook more so they don’t need to be soft right through. Scoop out the potatoes and add them to the vegetables.
- Boil the stock to reduce it to about 800ml (though do taste it – you want to intensify the flavour but not so much that it becomes too salty), then let it cool.
- Cut the lamb into chunks, getting rid of bits of excess fat. Scrape any marrow out of the bones and add it to the meat – it adds to the flavour of the pie.
- Layer the elements in a pie dish, alternating the vegetables and the lamb, and putting chopped parsley, the leaves from the rest of the thyme and seasoning between each layer. Pour the reduced stock, at room temperature, into the pie dish.
- Roll out the pastry to 3mm thick on a lightly floured piece of greaseproof paper, to fit the top of your pie (my pie dish holds 2.5 litres and is oval-shaped, 29 5cm). Brush the rim of the dish with water and put the pastry firmly on top, pressing it down. Trim off the excess.
- Press the tines of a fork into the pastry rim. Make 4 small slits or 1 hole in the middle. Score with a lattice pattern or decorate with leftover pastry, securing each piece with water or a little of the egg wash.
- Chill the pie in the fridge for 30 minutes – this will help stop the pastry from shrinking.
- Heat the oven to 200C/190C fan/gas mark 6.
- Holding a sharp knife horizontally, tap around the edges of the pastry to knock it up. Carefully paint the pie with the egg mixture.
- Bake for 45 minutes, or until golden.
- Let the pie settle for 10 minutes – the juices thicken a bit more.
- Serve with the red cabbage on the side.