Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.


Rosemary, garlic and a bottle of red: a Saturday night dish with a Bob Dylan soundtrack.

3RRR announcer Brian Wise plays plenty of Bob Dylan, but on Saturday he used the excuse of Dylan's birthday - and the announcement of some Dylan concerts at the Palais - to crowd the playlist. We were in the car, on the peninsula under a cold streaky sky alongside a grey heaving sea, heading for town. Music sounds better when you're driving. The two hours made the boys Dylan fans, continuing a long family tradition dating back to me. I told them Dylan's frog-like growl makes him either the worst good singer in the world, or the best bad one. They thought about that for a while. Put his voice over that Warner Brothers cartoon where the frog sings opera, I said, and you'll see what I mean. It fits perfectly.

Close to town now. "Changing of the Guards" from Street Legal even took me by surprise. The year that album came out I saw Dylan play a night concert at the Myer Music Bowl; I had an open air ticket, it rained, I could barely hear the music, and I drove home freezing. I've never forgotten it. Then, "Jim Jones", a track I had almost forgotten (from Good as I Been to You), about a convict being transported to Botany Bay. Should be on every Australian child's school playlist.

Lamb with rosemary and quite a lot of garlic.

Rosemary comes to the fore in this highly aromatic dish that will blanket the neighbourhood with tantalising aromas of lamb braising in red wine with herbs and garlic. (Is garlic also a herb?)

In a plastic bag, dust six lamb shanks with a tablespoon of flour and salt and pepper.

Brown the seasoned shanks in olive oil in a large heavy pot in batches. Remove browned shanks to a platter.

Chop two onions. Cut two carrots and four sticks of celery into small dice. Mince twelve garlic cloves. Place these in the pot with a little more oil. Turn the heat down lowest, put the lid on, and sweat the vegetables for about ten minutes. Stir them occasionally.

Now return the shanks to the pot and add a bottle of red wine, two cans of tomatoes, three cups of chicken stock, a tablespoon of fresh chopped rosemary – yes, it is a large amount - and half a tablespoon of chopped thyme (optional: one leaf of sage and some chopped parsley).

Bring pot to the boil, turn the heat down, put the lid on the pot and simmer for a couple of hours. Then take the lid off and simmer another 30 minutes. Transfer shanks to covered platter. Turn up the heat under the pot and boil the juices, stirring, until thickened, ten to twenty minutes. This will vary according to pot, stove, volume of fluid, hemisphere, phase of the moon and elevation above sea level, for all I know.

Serve shanks on a bed of mashed potato and pour over thickened sauce so that it runs down the mash like rivers to the sea (wait for me, wait for me). I like to add interest to the mash by folding through flavour bursts such as a mere sprinkling of diced black olives or, even better, tiny flecks of anchovy. Added sparingly, they add an amazing taste sensation and work well with the flavours of the stew. Sides of creamed spinach, or green beans, or broccoli tossed in toasted and pounded pine nuts.

Drink: shiraz.


PS: Cheers to Neil Croker at the Palais.

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