As the fire crackles and the sun dips lower in the sky, dinner starts to become the hot topic of conversation. Tonight on the menu is lamb shanks. Many have their own spin on this favourite - from Mum's secret ingredient to their own special improvisations.
Cooking for me is the most relaxing part of the day. Having guided groups in the outdoors for many years, meal time was a small slice of the day where I was able to slightly switch off from the outside world and be focussed on the task at hand. It requires mindfulness and inspires creativity.
These days with no groups to oversee, there's nothing I enjoy more in the outdoors than cooking over an open fire in a beautiful and remote location.
INGREDIENTS FOR TWO
2 x Lamb Shanks
1 x Large onion
4 x Cloves of garlic
1 x Tin of chopped tomatoes
1 x Sachet of tomato paste
2 x Bay leaves
1 x Vegetable stock cube
250ml of Hot water
1 x Bunch of broccolini
1 x Large sweet potato
1 x Dash of milk
1 x Knob of butter
Salt and Pepper
The key to any camp oven cooking is roasting hot coals and plenty of them. We like to use our above ground fire-pit to avoid scarring the ground, but this can also be done straight in the coals on an open ground fire. These shanks can easily be cooked on a gas stove too, just make sure the camp oven (or heavy based pot) gets nice and hot before getting started.
Add onion and garlic to an oiled and heated camp oven, allow to brown and add in the lamb shanks. You'll want some heat here to allow the onions to brown and the shanks to sear. Add salt and pepper to season to taste and rotate the shanks to allow even searing.
Lower your heat source (move coals aside or raise the grill) and add the tin of chopped tomatoes. I then like to use this tin to mix the stock cube and the 250ml of hot water and the sachet of tomato paste. This maximises flavour and saves on dishes. Add in the bay leaves and cover with the camp oven lid. Now moving to a much lower, simmering heat from the base, allow the shanks to slowly cook for 30 - 45 minutes checking periodically. Be aware of your heat source by not letting it dissipate or get too hot and burn them.
Whilst the shanks are cooking away its time to prep the accompaniments. Peel and cube the sweet potato and boil in hot water until soft. Once cooked the water can be drained, add a dash of milk, a knob of butter and salt and pepper. Mash with any utensil you see fit and remember this is bush cooking, its rustic and some chunks of potato just add texture.
Trim up the broccolini as you see fit and allow to soak in hot water. Once all other elements are close to being ready put the broccolini can straight on the grill and cook to your liking.
The broccolini can easily be substituted for any veggies, and steaming or stir frying works well too.
Serve the shanks on a bed of the mashed sweet potato, cover them with some of the sauce that has been created in the camp oven, a side of broccolini and enjoy with your favourite beverage.