After last week’s school reunion [see ‘High School Reunion’ Post dated May 11, 2011] I knew it wouldn’t be long before I’d hear from Mongrel Murray. Over the years he’s really taken a liking to Carl, slapping him on the back when he sees him and throwing out lines like, ‘love you like a brother’.
A few nights ago he thought he’d just turn up for dinner. As we sat outside on the terrace inhaling Murray’s cigarettes under the full moon, Murray started up with his usual unbelievable stories.
‘I’d just been into the city to see a mate of mine perform in a play, it’s a really good play, you should go and see it. Anyway, I was driving home at about midnight and I was going the back way, when suddenly this guy comes straight through the intersection and collected me and I just lost control of the car completely, skidded across the road and slammed into a telegraph pole. If that pole wasn’t there, I would have gone straight over the footpath and crashed into someone’s house,’ he said. ‘All these people heard the noise so they came running outside and someone dragged me out of the car and called the ambulance and then we all stopped the bastard from running away.’
‘The driver of the other car?’ I asked.
Murray lit another cigarette.
‘Oh yeah, he was drunk the bastard. He’s a real estate agent. He’d been out to lunch, stayed out all day and night and then the bastard thinks he can drive home. Could have killed me. He’s going down mate, going down,’ he said.
‘Did the police come?’ I asked.
‘Did they? They sure did. They took him away in the paddy wagon; he was three times the legal limit the bastard. Anyway, my car’s a write-off. I’ve got no transport except for buses, so he’s going to have to do something about that and I guess I’ll have to go to court about it all.’
‘I’ll just get the dinner. Would you like a beer?’ I asked.
Carl stood up. ‘I’ll take a look.’
Murray jumped up. ‘I’ll come and take a look with you. Let’s get a few. I’m a bit shaken after last night.’
‘We haven’t seen you for ages, what have you been doing?’ Carl asked during the dinner.
‘Oh, well, you know it’s all over with Bonnie. That woman was never happy. I tried and tried but nothing I did was good enough. She was always at me. Anyway, I’ve given her everything. She’s got the flat and I left all the furniture, even left some of my beer mugs, so she’s right. She’ll be right. We just weren’t right for each other.’
I’ve told him before and I’ll tell him again, ‘Murray, you are not the marrying type.’
‘Anyway, great meal Charlie, you’re such a good cook. Bonnie was hopeless, bloody hopeless. And that Christmas I spent with you was one of the best Christmases I’ve ever had. Loved that turkey. It was done in the barbeque wasn’t it?’
‘No, it was done in the oven. The ham was done in the barbeque,’ I told him.
‘Oh that’s right, I think I had a bit to drink that night,’ he said.
‘Yeah you did, you kept following my father down to his cellar and you were calling him Stan,’ I told him.
‘So his name’s not Stan?’ he asked all surprised.
‘No, it’s Hugh,’ I said.
‘Someone should have told me, should have said something,’ he said.
‘And then you put your arm around him and sang carols really, really loudly. And you stayed the night and slept on their sofa,’ I reminded him.
‘Yeah but good on me, at least I didn’t drink and drive.’ Murray scraped the last of the sauce from his plate. ‘I think I’ve missed the last bus. Do you mind if I stay the night? I’ll go first thing in the morning.’
So Murray, who recently separated from his wife and just survived what could have been a deadly car crash, stayed the night then bussed it back to his apartment down on the Northern Beaches.
Serves 6 (always good to cook for a larger number in case the uninvited turn up for dinner)
Degree of Difficulty: 2/5
Cost: Depends on the price of the shanks – sometimes expensive!
6 x French trimmed lamb shanks
1/3 cup olive oil
6 French eshallots peeled
1 bunch shallots cleaned and halved lengthways
2 bunches Dutch carrots scrubbed, trimmed and with green tops remaining
2 leeks chopped and rinsed
1 garlic bulb divided into bulbs, skin on
a couple of bay leaves
250 mls dry red wine
500 mls chicken or vegetable stock
1 bunch thyme
Coat the lamb shanks in the flour and shake off excess. Heat a heavy based large casserole dish over high heat. (If your casserole dish isn’t big enough, do what I did and cook in a large roasting dish and cover tightly with 2 layers of foil when placing in the oven). Add oil. Brown lamb shanks a few at a time, remove and set aside. Add vegetables and bay leaves and stir until softened. Return lamb shanks to casserole dish. Pour in red wine and bring to the boil to evaporate the alcohol. Add stock and season. Scatter thyme over. Cover and simmer for 2 hours or place in oven at 180°C for 2 hours.
Serve with mashed potato or pasta that has been tossed in a little butter and chopped parsley.