Braise Lamb Shanks with Aromatic Vegetables and Mixed Grains

Chef Ian Lai from the Terra Nova Schoolyard Society demonstrated a simple Braise Lamb Shanks with Aromatic Vegetables and Mixed Grains in the Eating Together cooking class organised by the Touchstone Family Association in the celebration of Family Day in Richmond in the month of February. Ian’s philosophy on eating together is to introduce simple recipes with a few ingredients to encourage cooking at home.

Ian shared some lights on grains during the cooking class. We should eat more grains and stay away from refine food and processed food. Ian has shared about grains in a basic food skill workshop which I had attended.  Here is more information about grains which Ian shared during the cooking class. I’m passing along the tips I learned here so that more can benefit from it.


Bulgur is a form of whole wheat that has been cleaned, steamed or parboiled, dried, and then ground into grains of several distinct sizes. Bulgur may be made from any variety of wheat, but durum is the most common.

Although the term bulgur is often used to mean cracked wheat, the two products differ in one important way; bulgur is precooked and hence requires only minimal preparation before eating. Unlike cracked wheat bulgur is ready to eat after just ten minutes of boiling.

Bulgur has a delicious, mildly nutty flavour. It is a good source of protein, iron, magnesium, and B vitamins. It is packed with fiber i.e. one cup (182 grams) serving of cooked bulgur has 8 grams of fiber and contains very little fat.


Couscous is a coarsely ground semolina pasta that is a dietary staple in North African countries. It is also widely used in Middle Eastern countries and has become popular in American dishes. It is made of semolina, flour, salt, and water. Similar to rice in shape, color, and texture, it is used in many dishes as rice would be.

Couscous is available in a pre-steamed version in many grocery stores. To prepare this type of dried couscous, pour boiling water or broth over the pasta and then seal the bowl with plastic wrap. After a few minutes, the grain swells and can be fluffed with a fork. When correctly prepared, it has tender, moist taste and a light, fluffy texture. It is faster to prepare thena most types of rice.


Buckwheat is a plant cultivated for its triangular grains. Unlike most other grains, it’s not a grass but a plant crop. That means it has broad, spreading leaves; it also has lacy white flowers. Buckwheat cultivation is on the decline in the United States, where other grains have supplanted it in popularity. The grain continues to be produced in a number of countries including japan and Canada.

Most commonly sold as a dark flour, buckwheat gets its color from husks that are left behind during the milling process. this grain is usually included in a variety of types of flour mixes, like pancake and waffle mix. Plain buckwheat, perhaps for baking bread, is also available. Buckwheat is also sold in whole or cracked from for use in breakfast cereals or to add texture to breads and other baked products. It has a distinctive nutty flavor that can be quite pleasing to the palate, especially when contrasted with other, more mild flours.


Though not technically a grain, quinoa can substitute for nearly any grain in cooking. Actually the seed of a leafy plant, quinoa’s relatives include spinach, beets and Swiss chard. Due to its delicate taste and rich amounts of protein, iron, potassium and other vitamins and minerals, it is quite popular. It is also a good source of dietary fiber and is easily digested.

A quinoa grain is flat and has a pointed oval shape. The grains exist in several colorations, including yellow, red, brown and black. When cooked, quinoa expands to about three or four times its size. It also has a unique texture; the grain itself is smooth and creamy, but the tail of the grain has a crunchy texture.


Barley’s been feeding humans for millennia, though it fell out of favor during the last one as people came to see it as low-brow peasant fare. It’s most often used in soups and stews, where it serves as both a puffy grain and a thickener, but it also makes a nice side dish or salad. At most markets, you”ll have to choose between two types of barley. Hulled barley is the most nutritious, since only the tough outer hulls are polished off. Pearl barley is polished some more, so that the outer bran layer is also scrubbed off. It’s less nutritious, but more popular since it’s not as chewy as hulled barley and it cooks faster.

Grain to Liquid Ratio Chart

Grain (1 part) Method Liquid Ratio Time
Couscous Rehydration 0.75  – 1.0 7 – 10 mins
Bulgur Steam/Rehydration 1.25 – 1.5 15 mins
Buckwheat Steam 1.00 – 1.25 10 mins
Quinoa Steam 1.25 – 1.5 15 mins
Pot barley Pasta 5.0 45 mins

Grains are versatile, nutritious, high in fiber and inexpensive. They can be added to meatballs or meatloaf to keep it moist. Cooked grains can be kept in the refrigerator for up to a week. Cook various grains individually as they need different cooking times. Do not wash the grains unless it’s stated on the package (like quinoa) as washing the grains will wash away the nutrients on the surface. Grains can be mix into salad, soup, wrap up with a tortilla, as breakfast cereal or make into a dessert by adding coconut milk and fruit.


This Braise Lamb Shanks with Aromatic Vegetables and Mixed Grains is another simple and hearty recipe. You can make a big batch and freeze the leftovers in single portion size since this recipe requires long simmering time.


  • 4 lamb shanks
  • 2 large carrots cut into chunks
  • 1 large onion cut into chunks
  • 2 ribs celery cut into chunks
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 jar pasta sauce
  • 1 can diced tomatoes


Source: Ian Lai

P/S: you may substitute the lamb shank with oxtail or stewing meat. You may also add in some garam masala for an Indian flavour lamb shank.


Braise-Lamb-Shanks-with-Aromatic-Vegetables-2Heat some oil in a heavy bottom skillet. Sweat off the mirepoix, i.e the onions, carrots and celery.
Braise-Lamb-Shanks-with-Aromatic-Vegetables-3Season the mirepoix with salt to taste.
Braise-Lamb-Shanks-with-Aromatic-Vegetables-5Add a can of diced tomatoes.
Braise-Lamb-Shanks-with-Aromatic-Vegetables-6Instead of using pasta sauce, Ian used the leftover sauce from a batch of braise lamb shanks that he prepared before the class.
Braise-Lamb-Shanks-with-Aromatic-Vegetables-7Add rinsed lamb shanks on top of the vegetables. You may add some water to make sure the lamb shanks are submerged in liquid.
Braise-Lamb-Shanks-with-Aromatic-Vegetables-8Add garlic and bay leaf and cover the pot with a lid. Cook in the oven at 350F for at least 2 hours (preferably 6 to 8 hours).
Braise-Lamb-Shanks-with-Aromatic-Vegetables-9If you do not have a pot that can goes into the oven, you may use a deep baking dish and cover with parchment paper first and then cover with aluminium foil. This is to prevent any reaction from the aluminium foil when in contact with the acidic tomato sauce.When reheating food, always covers it to keep the moisture in and prevent it from drying out.
Braise-Lamb-Shanks-with-Aromatic-Vegetables-10You’ll know the dish is ready when the lamb shank falls off the bone. Ian served the lamb shank over a bed of mixed grains.
Braise-Lamb-Shanks-with-Aromatic-Vegetables-4Do not toss away the bones as you can suck the marrow out of the bones which people pay for it at a restaurant.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. James

    This is my favorite winter food. I cooked it by browning the lamb or other bonny meat first in the pot, so I don’t have to use the oven to brown the meat.

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