Portrait of a recipe

The Lace Weaver, the novel by our guest Lauren Chater, is set in Estonia during the Second World War and so I thought I’d cook a feast inspired by that country’s Slavic cuisine.

The recipe for Estonian Lamb Shanks is based on one I found on the BBC website, from ‘The Hairy Bikers – Northern Exposure’ show”. The Hairy Bikers are David Myers and Simon King, who first met while working behind the scenes on a TV show and soon discovered they shared a passion for cooking and food. They first appeared in front of the camera for their pilot Hairy Bikers show, filmed in Portugal, and their ‘Northern Exposure’ show went to air in September 2015.

Ingredients: Estonian lamb shanks
  • 4 small lamb shanks

  • 2bsp plain flour

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil

  • 2 small onions

  • 1 tbsp juniper berries, lightly crushed

  • 2 lemons, zest only

  • 4 bay leaves

  • 1 small bunch of parsley

  • 2 large potatoes, diced

  • 4 carrots, cut into 1cm slices on the diagonal

  • 800ml veal stock

  • 1 orange, juice only

  • 2 tbsp sour cream

  • Salt and freshly ground pepper


Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan Forced

Put the lamb shanks in a large bag and add the flour. Close and shake, so the flour completely coats the lamb.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed frying pan. Sear the lamb shanks on all sides until well browned and slightly crisp.

Meanwhile heat the remaining oil in a large lidded casserole, add the onions and sauté for several minutes until soft. Add the crushed juniper berries, lemon and orange zests, bay leaves and two sprigs of parsley. Stir for a minute or two, then add the lamb shanks, on their sides if possible. Add the potatoes and carrots.

De-glaze the frying pan used to brown the lamb with a little stock and add to the casserole dish, then pour in the remaining stock and bring to the boil. Add the orange juice and season with salt and pepper. Cover and transfer to the oven. Cook for an hour and half, then remove the lid and cook for a further 30 minutes.

Ingredients: Potato and cabbage mash
  • 1 large potato per person

  • 2 cups of finely chopped cabbage

  • 2 spring onions, finely chopped

  • 1/2 cup cream (or milk for a lighter taste)

  • 3 tbsp butter

  • Salt to taste


Peel potatoes and dice into one inch cubes. Place potatoes into a pot, cover with water, add a pinch of salt, and place over a medium to high heat. Bring to the boil, and then simmer for 10-15 minutes or until tender.
Put two tablespoons of butter in a pot, sauté the spring onions, then add in the cabbage. Cook on a low heat for 5-10 minutes, stirring often, until cabbage is soft and buttery.
Drain potatoes, and place back into the pot. Add cream and remaining butter, and mash. Stir in buttered cabbages. Season with salt and pepper to taste, before serving.

Ingredients: Roasted root vegetables
  • 6 shallots, peeled and halved

  • 4 orange baby carrots, an inch of feathery leaves left on

  • 4 purple baby carrots, an inch of feathery leaves left on

  • 2 white parsnips, peeled and sliced on the diagonal

  • 2 purple parsnips, peeled and sliced on the diagonal

  • 1 medium turnip

  • 1 large slurp of olive oil


Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Toss shallots, carrots, parsnips, and turnip with olive oil and salt. Spread vegetables out in 1 layer, on a baking sheet. Roast vegetables for 30-45 minutes, or until tender and caramelized, turning several times throughout cooking time.

Image Credit: Claire Absolum