As many of you are aware, here in Sydney we have just been visited by a Category 2 cyclone. What was predicted was ‘a few days of wind and rain’ but what arrived was far more severe and certainly unexpected.
On Saturday night we went out for dinner and it was so mild and balmy we wore lightweight summer clothing. We sat outside and were perfectly comfortable and there was no need to turn on the outdoor heaters.
On Sunday night we had dinner sitting outside on our verandah and the temperature had certainly dropped and just as we were sitting down the wind picked up. We had to roll down the awning to spare the candles and with the flapping awning it was a bit like dining in a tent.
Later that night when I was cleaning up the kitchen the rain came down. And it didn’t stop. And it became heavier and heavier until it was torrential and no one was sadder than two elderly girls who had to brave the elements to do their business.
Monday was utterly miserable with the wind and the rain being out of control. On Tuesday Alfie had to return to school after the Easter holidays. I walked him to school which was a disaster because as soon as we were out on the street the wind turned my umbrella inside out and the force snapped all the spokes. We arrived at the school drenched.
By now, thousands of homes in Sydney were without electricity and a state of emergency had been declared in several regions. On Wednesday I was meant to meet with Tiago but on Tuesday night he sent me a text message saying the police had just knocked on his door telling him he needed to evacuate because there was a high risk of bursting its banks. Tiago was on the move and would not be turning up to work on Wednesday.
Which didn’t really bother me because he’s becoming a lot more personal and I’ve only known him a couple of weeks and he’s now wanting to know my height, weight and age and document them in his little black book.
Skipping forward a few days, the sun is now shining and we were fortunate to survive the cyclone with water damage from a leaking roof and one fallen tree being our only issues. Elsewhere it was much worse with four casualties, flooding, road closures, houses being swept away, trees crashing onto homes and, four days later, 100,000 homes remain without power.
While the storm raged, I didn’t want to leave my bunker and instead of racing all over town, went into the kitchen to cook up some comfort foods. When you arrive home drenched and windswept it’s so lovely to step into a house that’s being warmed by the oven that has some slow-cooking going on.
One of the dishes I made was these slow-roasted lamb shanks cooked in red wine with a parsley mash. From start to finish it takes around three hours which is a good amount of time to be distracted from the weather.
- 2 tbspns olive oil
- 6 lamb shanks French-trimmed
- 2 leeks, finely sliced
- 2 carrots, finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 500mls (2 cups) dry red wine
- 800gms tinned tomatoes
- 500mls (2 cups) vegetable stock
- 2 sprigs rosemary
- For the Gremolata:
- 1 bunch parsley, leaves and soft stalks only
- Rind of one lemon
- 1 clove of garlic, finely diced
- For the Mash:
- 6 large potatoes, peeled
- 1 bunch parsley
- ½ cup warm milk
- 2 tbspns butter, cubed
- Pre-heat the oven to 180C (375F).
- Heat olive oil in a large casserole dish on the stove over high heat.
- Place lamb shanks in a single layer in the casserole dish (you may have to do this in batches) and brown all over. Remove and set aside. Season.
- Turn down the heat and add leeks, carrots and garlic. Cook until softened (about 5 minutes).
- Return shanks to pan. Add red wine and bring to a boil.
- Add tomatoes and vegetable stock. Stir through.
- Place rosemary stalks on top, cover with a tight-fitting lid and place in in the oven for 2½ hours or until lamb falls from the bone with just a nudge.
- For the Gremolata:
- Finely chop parsley. Place in a small bowl and combine with lemon rind and garlic.
- For the Parsley Mash:
- Place potatoes in a saucepan of cold, salted water and bring to the boil. Cook until tender, drain then return to the hob to remove any excess water. Remove from heat.
- Meanwhile, bring a small saucepan of water to the boil. Add parsley and blanch. Drain.
- Place parsley and warm milk in a food processor and blend. Pour over potatoes and mash.
- When smooth, add cubed butter and mash until smooth. Season.
- To Serve:
- Place parsley mash in the centre of a warmed plate. Stand a lamb shank against the mash. Pour sauce mixture around the shank. Sprinkle gremolata over shank. Done!