Matariki fare to share

The darkest days of winter bring the brightest stars - the rising of the seven sisters marks the beginning of Matariki, providing an opportunity to honour nature, respect those who have died, and look forward to the future.

What better way to celebrate than by bringing together those you love over a warming winter meal. We have two gorgeous recipes for your Matariki table - some tender braised lamb shanks with creamy polenta, and a vibrant winter slaw with shaved Brussels sprouts and cavolo nero.

Lamb shanks are so delicious and tender when you cook them slowly - the meat just falls right off the bone. There is something deeply satisfying and comforting about the rich, dense flavours of slow-cooked meats over the winter. Any tough cut of meat will transform to melting tenderness when it is cooked low and slow, provided it is in a sauce or some kind of liquid base.

You can also make this with a lamb shoulder or oyster shoulder - it will need to cook for longer to ensure it is melt-in-your-mouth tender. We recommend you drop the temperature and increase the time, so you could do it at 130degC for 6 or 8 hours, or pop it into your slow cooker on low for 8 to 9 hours.

We like to serve this tender lamb with a hearty serving of creamy polenta - our current favourite starch, perfect for soaking up all those precious juices. Polenta can get a bad rap for being unhealthy, but it is all about what you add to it.

Using high-quality chicken or vegetable stock is an excellent way to infuse the dish with a lovely depth of flavour. Once the polenta is cooked, you can finish it off with some butter or grated parmesan (add as much or as little as you please). A heaped tablespoon of miso also adds a nice umami note, especially if you want a satisfying flavour without adding extra fat.

Our second recipe for you is a gorgeous salad with Brussels sprouts and cavolo nero. Rose learned to prepare Brussels sprouts like this when she was living in New York, where they formed a welcome addition to a Thanksgiving menu.

Rather than the traditional ‘‘roast with a lot of oil and bacon’’ technique, here we’ve very finely shaved the sprouts to create a crunchy slaw which we pair with a tangy, juicy dressing and some thinly sliced cavolo nero for added green and crunch.

Currants, capers, and orange are such a good combination - often used in southern Italian recipes, together they tick all the boxes: sweet, sour and salty. This simple salad is so good to accompany rich winter dishes, cutting through hearty flavours with a nice acidic tang and plenty of crunch.

Capers, like Dijon mustard, keep in the fridge for months, and the currants soak up the flavours of the dressing so nicely.

Happy cooking everyone!



For delicious dinner inspiration, sign  up for Annabel and Rose Langbein’s  weekly newsletter - What to Cook  Tonight.

Exciting new recipes, meal  plans, and our tips and tricks to help  make you a better, more resourceful  cook. Delivered to your inbox every Sunday.

Sign up at:


Braised lamb shanks with creamy polenta

If you have a smaller household, this recipe can easily be halved (but realistically if you are going to make a dish like this it's always good to cook more for later).

If using a lamb shoulder, we like to pan-fry the meat hot and fast first to brown it (adding flavour) and to render out the fat. If you don’t do this, then it works best to make the dish a day ahead and then chill it - the fat will rise to the top and can be easily removed.

Note:  You can also cook the lamb in a slow cooker on low power for 8 to 9 hours. Lift out the cooked shanks at  the end of cooking and put to one side while you reduce the sauce. (You don't get much evaporation in  the slow cooker.) Tip the sauce into a pot and simmer until reduced and slightly thickened.


Serves 6

Ready in 2hrs 30min

Suitable for DF GF RSF



2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

6 lamb shanks or a lamb shoulder (see Note)

1 tsp salt

freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2 large carrots, diced

1 onion, finely diced

2 bay leaves

3 to 4 sprigs thyme

2 Tbsp plain flour or gluten-free flour

¼ cup tomato paste

2 cups red wine

4 cups beef stock

1 cup water

2 Tbsp soy sauce or tamari


8 cups chicken or vegetable stock, or well-seasoned water

2 cups instant polenta

2 Tbsp butter, or to taste

½ cup finely grated parmesan

freshly ground black pepper, to taste


For the lamb, heat the oil in a very large Dutch oven or a heavy, deep-sided roasting dish on medium-high heat. Season the shanks with ½ tsp of the salt and a few grinds of pepper. Brown shanks in batches, removing them from the pot and setting aside once they are nicely coloured. Doing this enhances the flavour of the dish. Drain off and discard most of the oil.

Add the chopped vegetables, bay, and thyme and cook on medium-high heat until vegetables are lightly browned (5 to 7 minutes). Add flour and tomato paste and stir over the heat for 1 to 2 minutes until aromatic and paste has darkened.

Add the red wine, stock, 1 cup of water, and soy sauce or tamari to your pot and bring to a simmer, stirring well to lift the pot brownings.

Add the shanks to the sauce. Cut a piece of baking paper to fit inside the dish. Place this over the lamb shanks then cover with a tight-fitting lid or well-sealed tin foil and bake at 160ºC fanbake for 3 to 3½ hours or until meltingly tender.

Remove and discard bay leaves and thyme. Check seasonings and adjust to taste. Skim off the fat from the surface or take out shanks and pour sauce into a container and chill, so you can easily remove the fat. Reheat sauce with shanks before serving.

When you are ready to serve, prepare the polenta. Place stock or water in a large pot and bring to a boil. Add polenta in a slow stream, stirring constantly. Stir over the heat until it boils and thickens, then simmer for 3 to 4 minutes, continuing to stir regularly so it doesn't catch - take care as it may splatter.

Turn off the heat and stir through butter, parmesan, and lots of fresh black pepper. Check seasoning and adjust to taste.

Divide cooked polenta between serving plates and top with warmed lamb shanks and a spoonful of the cooking jus.

Winter slaw with shaved brussels and cavolo nero

Serves 6-8

Ready in10 min, plus 1 hour soaking

Suitable for DF GF RSF V VE

Because this salad is quite hearty, it keeps really well in a covered container in the fridge.  Add  the toasted nuts before you serve as these won’t keep as long.

You can use kale, or even rocket or spinach in place of the cavolo nero if preferred. Leftover salad is also excellent in a sandwich  with some mayo and any leftover lamb. 


350g cavolo nero or kale, stems removed, very thinly sliced

1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

½ tsp flaky sea salt

350g Brussels sprouts, very finely shaved crossways using a mandolin or very sharp knife (see note)

¼ cup toasted pine nuts


¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

¼ cup currants

finely grated zest of ½ orange

2 Tbsp orange juice

1 Tbsp capers, drained

½ tsp Dijon mustard

¼ tsp salt

¼ tsp honey or maple syrup


To make the dressing, place all ingredients in a jar and shake to combine. Leave currants to soak for at least an hour before serving.

Place the sliced cavolo nero or kale in a large serving bowl with oil and salt and use your hands to massage the oil and salt into the leaves - this stops them from being too tough.

Add the shaved Brussels to the kale along with the dressing and pine nuts. Toss to combine.

The salad will keep in a covered container in the fridge for 4 to 5 days. If you leave the pine nuts out until you serve the salad they will stay fresh and crunchy.

Note: To shave the Brussels, hold the base of the sprout and slice from the top downward. Using the base as a handle allows you to get the most out of your sprout and prevents you from cutting your fingers.