Lamb Shanks with Gremolata and…Sprung!

I’m an early riser but that doesn’t mean I’m showered, dressed and looking glamorous by 9am.  No, sometimes I like to take my time and just progress with a few projects before attending to my personal appearance.  But I’m thinking I’m going to have to change tactics because too often I’m being sprung.

A few Sundays ago I planned to shower and dress for the day but I thought that first I’d just make the bed, empty the dishwasher, cook a hot breakfast, change Alfie’s sheets, hang out three loads of washing, bath the dogs, vacume, clean the bathrooms, reply to emails and clip my toenails.

Lamb Shanks with Potato and Carrot Mash

And by then it was lunchtime.  And I was still with disheveled hair and coated in a dressing gown that has seen better days.  And just then there was a knock on the door and I thought it was Alfie because earlier he had gone next door to play with the neighbour so I just assumed he was coming back home.  I threw open the door only to be greeted by two pretty young things dressed in school uniform.  Arabella’s school uniform.  Arabella was mortified that these two girls who she knows were seeing her mother in such a state.  They were collecting money for the Salvation Army, or perhaps the Red Cross – it’s hard to remember because I was in such a flurry at having being sprung.  I thought my only mode of recovery was to empty my wallet into their hands while apologising for being so ill-kept.

A week ago on a cold and miserable night I thought I’d take off my skinny jeans and boots and relax into my dressing gown and ugg boots and eat comfort food in front of The Voice.  And I was really looking forward to my evening.  But before The Voice had even started but after I’d taken off my boots and skinny jeans, there was a knock at the door and some friends who have been living interstate for the past five years but are now back in Sydney, thought they’d ‘pop in’ and surprise us.  They were certainly surprised.

And things like this don’t just seem to happen while I’m at home, sometimes they happen on the street.  Yesterday I had a couple of hours to myself and as the sun was shining (and as Archie had my car) I thought I’d go for a walk.  And then I remembered that I was out of dry dog food so I thought I’d walk to the vet which is about 20 minutes away and because the dog food is heavy, I’d have to take my granny trolley.  I was wearing old jeans that have stretched so no longer give me a shapely look, and a baggy cardigan that grows every time I wear it and because of all the walking, white Seinfeld sneakers.

My granny trolley and I were having a lovely walk and had almost made it to the Vet when coming towards me was someone I knew and yes, it had to be the ex-boyfriend who is now the successful barrister.  What were the odds?  We’ve both lived in Sydney since the break-up at 18 and there has been not one sighting.  Not one.  Except for a few weeks ago when we saw each other at a function but that was bearable because it was night, the light’s were dim (they’ll erase 10 years) and I was wearing a sexy dress.  But on this day I was standing in full sunshine that was highlighting every flaw and there was nothing sexy about my over-stretched attire complete with granny trolley.

Comfort Food

And I wanted to run and hide but I was out of escape options and so I greeted him with a huge smile acting like I didn’t have a care in the world and I couldn’t have been happier to have been sprung.  He greeted me with a kiss on the cheek said, ‘You know you’ve got lipstick on your teeth?’  It just gets better!  So I used my finger to rub my teeth while trying to look it didn’t bother me a bit to have smiled at him with hot pink teeth.  And we talked about the vet and how he couldn’t charge more if he tried and about his house renovations and I showed him photos on my i-phone of Arabella going off to her formal and so basically I tried hard to make a recovery but it was pointless.

It’s moments like these that cause you to make very powerful affirmations like, ‘I will be glamorous ALL THE TIME’ because there is nothing worse than being sprung by an ex while wearing baggy over-sized clothes and white Seinfeld sneakers while pushing a granny trolley and grinning with hot pink teeth.

It’s time for some comfort food!

Baked Lamb Shanks with Gremolata

Baked Lamb Shanks with Gremolata

Serves: 4

Degree of Difficulty:  2/5

Cost:  Could someone please explain why lamb shanks are so expensive.

  • 4 lamb shanks
  • 1/3 cup (50g) plain flour, seasoned
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) olive oil
  • 20g unsalted butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 1 cup (250ml) dry white wine
  • 4 cups (750ml) chicken stock
  • 2 each rosemary and thyme sprigs
  • Mashed potato, to serve


  • 2 tbspns finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1 tbs finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed

Pre-heat oven to 160C.

Dust the lamb shanks with the flour, shaking off any excess.  Heat oil in a flameproof casserole over medium-high heat.  In 2 batches, cook lamb, turning, for 6-8 minutes until well browned.  Remove lamb from the casserole and set aside.

Add butter, garlic, onion and celery to the casserole and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until soft.  Return lamb to casserole, with the wine, stock and herbs.  Bring to the boil, then cover and bake for 2-2 1/2 hours until the meat is tender.

Transfer lamb to a plate and rest, loosely covered with foil, while you finish the sauce.

Return the casserole to medium-high heat and simmer for 5-10 mins until sauce has reduced slightly.

Meanwhile, for the gremolata, combine all ingredients in a bowl, then season.

Divide lamb shanks among plates and ladle over the vegetables and sauce.

Sprinkle with gremolata and serve.

I stole this recipe from Bill Granger.  It is featured in the June issue of Delicious Magazine.

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  1. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella says:

    LOL we’ve all been sprung from time to time but that last one was rather spectacular Charlie! And lipstick on teeth is definitely something I have quite often 😛

  2. I’ve been wanting to make this. How was it ?

    • hotlyspiced says:

      Hi Lissa, it was really good but I found I had to cook the lamb shanks for longer than the 2 1/2 hours. I ended up cooking them for 3 1/2 hours but that might have been because I did double quantity and I missed the quality butchers and had to buy them from the lesser quality butcher who charges just as much as the quality butcher. Give it a go and let me know what you think xx

  3. Seems Like I  felt in love with this Blog. I would suggest this recipe to one of my friend. She must be love it.

  4. At least you were wearing lipstick to have it on your teeth! I’ve also been surprised in my pyjamas by people who’d come round to dinner. But my husband hadn’t told me he’d invited them.

  5. Pippab43 says:

    It is one of life’s mysteries as to why lamb shanks are so expensive! Find of the weekend (last) a 2 kg piece of scotch fillet for $20 at Flemington markets…that was a bargain and delicious.

  6. When JT and I were first married I banned everyone I knew from drop-ins. Now I regret it! If I’m not expecting you I generally don’t answer the door, so it’s best if you text me if you’re planning on dropping by!
    I inadvertently missed wishing you and Carl a happy belated anniversary on my response to your generous comment, Charlie; happy belated! 26 years is quite the accomplishment.

    • hotlyspiced says:

      When I’m dropping by, I will definitely text you! And thanks for your best wishes. Our anniversary was in January. xx

  7. Amanda robson says:

    Love the scene setting!

  8. Oh the mortification!  At least you were wearing make up.  I often skip it when I’m walking the dog or just nipping to the supermarket.  But I do find myself ducking behind cars in the car park very suspiciously. But it’s just that I’ve spotted someone I’d rather not meet in my scruffs.  It’d probably be less effort to get glammed up in the first place!  

  9. If I could only count on the fingers of both hands the number of times I’ve been sprung for not being dressed in the morning.  I get up and start work wearing whatever it was that I put on the night before.  Then I go downstairs to get my camera and let the dog out, feed the cats, empty the dishwasher, run the vacuum, pop in a load of clothes then go back up to my office without the camera. I go back downstairs only to find my next door neighbour standing in the open door where I’d let the dog out.  “I didn’t want to bother you but I thought you might like some home made sweet chili sauce.”  There I am looking worse than an unmade bed trying to smile and pretend I’m happy to see her.   John says, “if you got up, took a shower and got dressed in the morning like I do, this would never happen.”  To which I reply, “can it!”

    I can so relate to this story but I think FoodycatAlicia wins.

    • hotlyspiced says:

      That’s the thing. There are so many other things grabbing my attention and that’s how I end up still in my pjs at lunchtime! Glad I’m not alone! xx

  10. I TRY to look presentable when I go out for errands but around the house … all bets are off. 🙂

    The lamb shanks look very tasty. I almost bought ground lamb to make meatballs at the market on Saturday but then had to remind myself that I was cleaning out my pantry/fridge/freezer so NO new meat purchases.

  11. —  I never leave the house w/out Lipstick…

    Those lamb chops look superb.  My absolute faaaaaave. of all time <3

    • hotlyspiced says:

      I’m glad you like the shanks – yes, they are the ultimate comfort food. The last thing I do before leaving the house is slap on the lipstick! xx

  12. It’s happened to me lots and lots of times and when I make the effort to look great I see nobody hahaha

  13. I almost never wear lipstick, so I don’t have that worry.  I did greet the salt delivery man in my pajamas a couple of weeks ago — completely forgot he was coming.  I’m like you, I often get busy doing things in the morning and don’t get around to dressing until way up in the morning.  

  14. LOL.  We’ve all been caught out like that.  It’s a gentle reminder to dress early…but as you say, there are dogs to walk or children to tend, groceries to buy, and wash to be hung…

    Love the gremolata with the lamb shanks.  Nice touch.

    • hotlyspiced says:

      That’s the thing. I know I need to get into the shower but I think, ‘I’ll just hang out the washing’, and then, ‘I’ll just reply to those emails’, and then, ‘I’ll just make the beds’ and before I know it the day is half gone. I need a new system! xx

  15. Hi,
    It is amazing how things like that happen, when we are totally ready for company nobody shows up, but when we decide to relax and be comfortable the good old knock on the door. 🙂
    I could only smile at the ex-boyfriend encounter.

    I love lamb shanks, these do look delicious.

    • hotlyspiced says:

      That’s exactly right. When you’re looking your best you run into no one and when you’re at your worst, they’re out there everywhere. xx

  16. My husband would love this. I haven’t made lamb shanks in years.

  17. Green Dragonette says:


    Oh dear. I think we all have those days…you think you won’t
    see anybody and so dress down, then the world decides this is the day they will
    see you…

    • hotlyspiced says:

      I know. And you’d think we could have talked in a dark, shady spot but no, it was all out in the glaring sunshine where there was no where to hide. And the days I am all glammed up, I run into no one and it all seems like a total waste of effort.

  18. ChgoJohn says:

    This sounds delicious, Charlie. Rosemary & lamb are a match made in heaven, as far as I’m concerned. And forget about the old BF. You probably looked better than you think. Besides, If you cared what he thought, he probably wouldn’t be your “old” BF.

  19. Juliet Batten says:

    It happens to us all, and must be awful for famous people who get photographed at those moments! Sounds like you made a great recovery.

  20. Love Lamb shanks… never tried mashing potato with carrot. Sounds good!

    • hotlyspiced says:

      I was desperate! I didn’t have enough potatoes but I did have a 1kg bag of organic carrots. I think any root vegetable is perfect for mashing and they did add a wonderful flavour to the lamb shanks – a great compliment.

  21. Choc Chip Uru says:

    Talk about unlucky my friend – ugh! And old boyfriend? Totally not your day! I guess it’s a simple reminder to us all that we should dress glam all the time but to be brutally honest, I’m always wearing thick fuzzy slippers, trackers and my brothers oversized jumper with out of bed hair – oops 😉
    Comfort food away my friend, you deserve it!


  22. GourmetGetaway says:

    Oh no!!! That is so much the type of thing which happens to me.  Looks like I will have to do a bit of glamming up as well!

    I love lamb shanks so I will be giving this recipe a go. Just the weather for it!

  23. I just dread this happening , A knock on the door when at home relaxing can get me scurrying to the inner sanctum of my bed room

  24. My sister keeps getting sprung with the Face Time function on the iPhones.  She makes calls when she’s in the bathroom, keeps accidentally hitting the FT option and tah-dah…there she is in her birthday suit, talking to a friend whom she doesn’t realise is copping an eyeful. 🙂

    The best way not to worry about getting sprung is to not give a rats. I (honestly) walk around the neighbourhood in my floral PJ pants.  Since I started doing it, I’ve had two neighbours come over in theirs. We’re free! 🙂 xx

    • hotlyspiced says:

      Face Time makes me so nervous. I’m always worried I’ve left it on. Interesting street you live in. Imagine if I googled it and there on google earth were you and all your neighbours wandering around in your pjs! xx

  25. Those experiences definitely sound like ones that need comfort food follow-up! But I really don’t think people should *ever* make surprise visits to friends. The thought fills me with dread! Not only may I be discombobulated in appearance (and highly likely if it’s an evening) but the house may be equally so, especially if it’s the night before the weekly cleaning.

    • hotlyspiced says:

      Ah yes, the surprise visit with the house that looks like there’s been an explosion – I have suffered that misery too! xx

  26. Hmm, reading this at 12.40 while I’m still in my smelly gym gear looking like a mess. I so often sneak up the road looking like this and run into someone. If you don’t want to run into anyone, shower, get dressed nicely, do your hair and makeup. Works a treat! 

    • hotlyspiced says:

      I know, but as you get older, more and more time is involved in trying to look good. I’m up to an hour! xx

  27. Denisetyrrell1 says:

    I so detest unexpected visitors when I am in my PJs! You needed some comfort food after all those stressful incidents! I can feel your pain. Never mashed carrot in with potato but  often do this with potato and pumpkin – might have to give the carrots a go.
    Don’t ask me why shanks are so expensive – its cheap meat after all.  I remember a time when they nearly gave these away at the market to get rid of them! Seems they are trendy now so they charge like wounded bulls!

    • hotlyspiced says:

      I think any root vegetable is good mashed (or I haven’t progressed from making baby food!) but mostly, I added carrots because I realised I didn’t have enough potatoes! And yes, when I was growing up the butchers couldn’t give the shanks away. No one wanted them. My mother would buy them and give them to the dogs! Such extravagance!

  28. OMG! I totally hate those dreadful knocks. Positively hate it. And they always come when my hair has a Halloween look, and I’m in my oldest T-shirt that has seen holeless days. And to have to actually walk into an ex, a total disaster. You deserve every morsel of that yummy shank you made.

  29. InTolerant Chef says:

    Last week I stayed in my pajamas for days…. And no one noticed 🙁 I would love some of those lamb shanks though 🙂

    • hotlyspiced says:

      No one noticed? Either they are blind or you look hot in pjs! The lamb shanks are great for this weather and they’re gluten free! xx

  30. I’ve just accepted that any time I go out looking like a fool (it happens regularly, as I live across the road from the shops and often can’t be bothered dressing up to go get more soymilk or broccoli) I”ll run into many people I know. Bloody Canberra.

  31. Haha! I’m an early riser also that likes to take my time getting ready…time just goes by so quickly though! Those lambshanks look delicious!

  32. That lamb shanks looks like it will melt in your mouth! Yummy

  33. HA!! I’m rarely showered before noon these days! I’ve gotten into a routine of working through the morning and not returning to reality until around 1pm 🙂 The benefits of working from home, I guess!
    Your lamb shanks look soooo delicious!!

  34. The less prepared I am to encounter anyone is always when I seem to run into everyone from my past on the street. It’s disconcerting. Comfort food is certainly necessary!

  35. Your household are keeping you very busy, my friend! 🙁 How do you keep up with everything & everyone? This georgous & appetizing meal looks just fabulous!! 🙂
    MMMMMMMM,….!! I hope someone cooks a meal for you sometimes! 🙂

  36.  Come on Charlie dont be too strict on your self. These things just happen, even if you were all dressed up sexy and looked fabulous, something else could have happened.
    We need comfort in our lives as well besides our food.. btw i love those lamb shanks..
    Have a great week my friend!

  37. lisaiscooking says:

    This is the story of my life! I only run into people I know when I look my absolute worst. The neighbors only want to chat when I’m working in the yard and covered in dirt and sweat. So glad I’m not alone in this. 😉 A good comfort food meal makes everything better!

  38. This made me laugh!  I know exactly how you feel.  Sydney is a big city, but it can feel like a small town sometimes.  The other day it was freezing cold and I kept my big warm socks on when I put my flats on to walk to the shops.  Such a bad look!  And, obviously, I bumped into a former colleague who didn’t realise we’d moved back to Sydney.  As I told my husband later, “You can’t swing a cat in the Eastern Suburbs without hitting someone we know.”  Awkward.  

  39. LOL sorry Charlie i feel very sorry for you being ‘sprung’ so many times especially the one with the Ex boyfriend butttttt i had to laugh because you sound JUST like me 😛 I do the exact some thing! When i’m looking nice and glamorious people don’t seem to ‘surprise’ me and i don’t mind if they surprise me…but it’s when i’m not stressed properly and with no make up thats when it really annoys me!!! That’s why I know have fake eye lashes yay it makes me feel slightly better even without make up on 😀 

  40. Sonali Pradhan says:

    Thanks for dropping by and your wonderful comments in my space!!! you have such an amazing space …n this dish looks so so delicious !!!definitely a must try !!!!

  41. Niasunset says:

    Seems so nice and delicious… Thank you dear Charlie, have a nice day, love, nia 

  42. “Could someone please explain why lamb shanks are so expensive.”

    Tell me about it, though not just shanks. Cutlets are like “INSANE” – You can buy little trays here of lamb cutlets. 4 cutlets, each one having literally ONE bite of meat on it, two if you’re very lucky, and it’s like €10. That is one expensive sheep!

    I just learned what a gremolata was too – thanks a lot 😀

    • hotlyspiced says:

      I only buy cutlets in the spring/summer and this season I only bought them on very special occasions because like you say, they are devoured in just a bite and they cost about $50/kg. I have no idea why. Lamb used to be the cheapest available meat in Australia. Now it’s gold no one can afford xx

  43. justonecookbook says:

    Your story was hilarious and I have to say I can totally relate… Things happen when least expected and it’s true!  I haven’t met my ex BF *yet* but you taught me a lesson.  Make sure to get dressed and look proper before doing chores.  That’s most important thing to do, yes before chores!!!!  Your Lamb Shank look amazing!

  44. Anna @ the shady pine says:

    He he he I think we can all relate to being caught at less than our best!
    At least the shanks don’t mind if you’ve showered 🙂

  45. Ugh, that sucks! It’s horrible bumping into an ex at all, let alone when you’re not looking your best. Looks like an awesome recipe, although I’m not a fan of the shank.

  46. What delicious looking lamb shanks!

  47. It seems to be that you fit into the expression about the best laid plans……..
    I also, don’t rush to get myself ready, first thing, in the morning.  It is important for us overworked woman to have a cup of coffee, check email and  perhaps, make a bed.  Why would that take two hours?

  48. Sprung! That’s a great description. I am afraid I’ve had this happen entirely too often on the weekends. I do myself up as required for work and then on the weekend I just don’t want to…and then I think I can sneak out for just one quick errand and I’ve had some very embarrassing encounters myself. I think the best affirmation would be, “I am an intelligent and caring individual and I DO NOT have to wear makeup and have my ahir done)–or combed… 🙂 I haven’t cooked lamb shanks in years! The recipe looks just wonderful! Debra

  49. OMG i sure know the feeling but I love the way you term it SPRUNG! It really sucks if the person who has seen you in an ill state like that is an ex haha.
    I know why is lamb so expensive right?  I love it though when it’s on sale.  A butcher at the store told me that when the expiration comes to a close you could request for a price change.  I sometimes and yeah sometimes it works for some store attendants but at times not 🙁 

  50. Too funny, it is always the way though. I can remember being on holidays in QlD once and i decided to get my hair colored. The hairdressers was in a centre and I recall busting to go to the loo. I thought it would be okay to do the run through the centre with my head in a streaking cap because hey, I didn’t know anyone surely. As I made a run for it, I slipped on something spilt on the floor, I can remember it was outside a just jeans store. Who should come to my aid to help me up – only the hottest guy from my school who was the year ahead of me and who I had crushed on or years. His name all over my pencil case was a testament to my devotion. It seems he had moved to the Gold Coast with his family and he was working in that Just Jeans store. Oh the humiliation still makes me cringe. Xxx

  51. Love the, “I will be glamorous all the time” mantra … Wish it were possible 🙂

  52. Jenny @ BAKE says:

    That dinner looks delicious! and it sounds like you definitely deserve it! I thought that kind of thing only happened to me!

  53. Gretchen says:

    An ex ought never to surprise you!!!

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