SOUL-WARMING WINTER SHANK SOUP

24th July 2019

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This is the kind of soup I imagine in years gone by would quietly bubble away on a slow-burning range.

Cooked gently through the day, it would start with a single shank and browned onion for flavour, followed by a layering of ingredients at precise timing resulting in a soup that is hearty and soul-warming. This large pot of soup would last days with a little extra this and that added each day to extend it.

The stick-to-your-ribs foundation of this soup is a simple mix. A combination of legumes and grains that can be bought pre-made from supermarkets and bulk stores or, if you’re like me, you can make your own.

And it is easy to make your own soup base. In a jar combine equal parts brown lentils, barley and quinoa (for gluten-free replace the barley with brown rice). Shake to combine in the jar and store in the pantry.

Use the soup mix to add body to winter soups and stews. Any lentils can be used although green or black will taint the overall colour of the soup. Split peas also make a great addition.

Soul-Warming Winter Shank Soup

On cold winter days when I have the fire slowly burning away, I sit this simmering soup on the hot plate surface (though not all fires have this option). I use a trivet to control the heat if the fire is too hot.
On a sunny day (and for those without the fire option) I use a slow-cooker, adding the ingredients a little at a time as they surrender to the heat. I used a wild goat shank gifted from a successful hunt, but a large lamb shank works just as well.
Prep Time 30 minutes
Slow-Cooking Time 4 hours

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp  oil
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 good-sized lamb or goat's shank (about 500g, or 2 smaller shanks
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2½  litres hot water (10 cups)
  • 1 cup soup mix, pre-soaked (see directions above)
  • About 3 cups winter vegetables cut into bite-sized pieces – I used carrots, leeks, swede, and celery
  • Cavolo nero or silverbeet, about 150g, roughly chopped
  • Salt and pepper to season
  • Chopped fresh parsley and celery leaves to serve

Instructions

  • Heat the oil in a large lidded pot. Add the onions and saute for several minutes. Prepare the shank by using a sharp knife to make three deep cuts down to the bone along the length of the shank. Sprinkle salt into each cut and place the shank into the hot pan. Brown on both sides then add the bay leaves and hot water.
  • Transfer to a slow-cooker, if using, at this stage. Bring to a gentle simmer, cover with a lid slightly askew, and leave to cook slowly for two to three hours.
  • At this stage, I like to pre-soak the soup mix so it cooks faster when added to the soup. Place into a bowl and cover with two cups of boiling water. Cover and set aside.
  • Once the meat is falling off the shank bone, remove the bone from the pot and use two forks to shred the meat. At the same time, skim any fat from the surface of the soup.
  • Drain and rinse the soup mix (if pre-soaked) and add to the pot. I also like to put the bone minus the meat back into the broth to extract all the goodness. Simmer for 30 minutes.
  • Prepare the vegetables and add to the pot once the legumes and grains have softened. Cook for another 30 minutes until tender. Add the shredded meat and season to taste. Add a little boiling water to thin if the soup is too thick.
  • Serve soup in warmed bowls scattered with chopped parsley and celery leaves, with sourdough bread.

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