I Love Winter

Lamb Shank, Barley and Veggie Soup

June 1st marks the beginning of Winter.

I love Winter in Melbourne. It gets cold! Of course by cold I don’t mean it snows – don’t be crazy! I mean there is a chill in the air and some brilliant sunshine during the day. It gets dark early and it’s just nice to snuggle down with flanny jammies and a glass of red wine or a really rich dark hot chocolate.

I love Winter food. Slow cooking is my favourite and I miss it during the Summer months.

Last week we had a cold day and it rained. The best thing about this was that it was a Sunday so there was time to slow cook lamb shanks and make a hearty soup with barley and vegetables. It was a perfect pj day and I snoozed on the couch while the shanks slowly did their sexy thing.

There’s not much more to say – wonderful – I get really sad for people who have never eaten this.

I love my food :)

I love my food 🙂


  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 6 trimmed lamb shanks
  • 2 large chopped onions
  • 6 cloves garlic – whole and leave skins on
  • 2 diced carrots
  • Marsala
  • 2 litres beef stock
  • 1 litre water
  • 3/4 cup pearl barley
  • 2 tbs chopped parsley
  • 1 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary


Heat 2 tbs olive oil in a large saucepan and brown 6 trimmed lamb shanks. Remove and set aside. Add 2 large chopped onions, 6 whole garlic cloves (skin on), 2 diced carrots and cook for 5 minutes or until lightly browned.

Return the shanks to the pan and add Marsala, 2 litres beef stock, 1 litre water, 3/4 cup pearl barley and 2 tbs chopped fresh rosemary. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 2 hours.

Remove the shanks and cool slightly. Take the meat off the bone and flake into pieces.  Squeeze the garlic out of their skins and mash and mix with the meat. Return the meat to the soup and add an extra 1 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary as well as chopped parsley. Season to taste and serve with warm crusty bread with butter – and drink some red wine – that’s what heaven means to me!


The Great Aussie Pie

Pie Night at Sal’s

My best friend Sally and I have known each other since we were 13 years old. Let’s just say it’s been a friendship that has lasted many, many years.

One of my earliest memories of Sal and I at high school was a very cold day in winter standing in the school yard, freezing. We noticed a couple of kids walking passed eating hot pies with tomato sauce. I don’t know about you but being an Aussie, there is nothing like a steaming hot pie with tomato sauce on a really cold day. Of course you burn the roof of your mouth and scald your lips whereby little blisters pop up but that doesn’t stop you. You know it’s going to happen but you just can’t stop it.

As Sally and I lived close to the school we had lunch passes which meant we could leave the school grounds at lunch time and go home for lunch so we hardly ever bought food from the canteen. My parents worked but Sal’s mum was home and we took it in turns to go to each other’s house for lunch. Today it was Sal’s turn to come to my house for lunch. It was so cold, however, that neither of us wanted to brave the weather and walk to the end of the road to my house.

We watched the kids with their pies and drooled. What a great idea! Looking through our wallets which basically contained photos of our favourite band KISS, we found that between us we had enough money to buy one pie. So, we lined up and bought our one pie with sauce to share. We squabbled a bit about how we would do this. Cutting it in half was not an option as it was given to you in a paper bag.

School canteens here are not like the cafeteria’s you see in American movies nor are they like the great dining room at Hogwarts. There’s no dining room with someone serving up whatever with cutlery and a tray. No, these are just holes in the wall whereby you line up (usually outside) and the little ladies put whatever you want in a white paper lunch bag and off you go to find a seat, outside, or maybe find a covered area to sit and eat. I find it most uncivilised actually!

So we came up with the plan of, ‘you eat half then I eat the other half’…I know right…gross! Sally thought I was a true friend as I let her have the first half, but really it was because I knew it would be a scalding hot pie and by the time it was my turn it would have cooled down enough for me to eat the rest without the 3rd degree burns. A cynical person would say that I was secretly hoping that Sal would burn herself with the first mouthful and not be able to continue thus scoring almost a whole, cooled down pie to myself!

All plans are terrific in theory. Most of us don’t consider the unexpected, especially at the age of 13. It’s these unexpected mishaps that allow you to become more cautious about choices you make when you are older. Believe me, there have been plenty of times when I have set out a plan and have recalled ‘the pie incident’ and have had to revise the plan…just in case.

Sally ate her share and was preparing to hand over the other half when the unthinkable happened. She fumbled and dropped it! Think slow motion movie scene here…My eyes, wide, following the path of the pie to the ground, a long distorted “NOOOOOOOO!!!!” echoing across the school yard and Sally, nowhere to be found. She had become so terrified at the thought of my rage that she ran and hid outside the school gates. The pie splattered on the ground and sauce and bits of ground beef sprayed my legs. It was a nightmare.

We still talk about that today. In fact we’ve had quite a few splattered pies in my house over the years. Always Sally, fumbling and dropping or the pie just sliding off her plate. Of course we don’t share pies these days, in reality, we never really have shared a pie, in that I never got around to eating my half. What we do, however is have pie nights at Sal’s place.  I usually make a whole family size meat pie and slice it up and have vegetables or fries on the side but I love going to Sal’s for pie night. She has bought herself one of those pie makers, which can make 4 small pies at a time. I haven’t got one of the those but Sal loves it and it gets plenty of use in the winter months. I think pie nights are her way of making up for that lost pie all those years ago and I’m not one to complain.

Below is a great meat pie recipe, for 4 individual pies to be made in the oven otherwise follow the instructions of your pie maker.

Just remember that they are HOT!


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large brown onion, finely chopped
  • 500g lean beef mince
  • 1 tablespoon cornflour
  • 3/4 cup beef stock
  • 3/4 cup tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon barbecue sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Vegemite (Yes, this works, it adds saltiness but you can leave it out and use more beef stock)
  • 2 sheets frozen, ready-rolled shortcrust pastry, thawed
  • 2 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • 1 egg, beaten
Heat oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion. Cook for 3 minutes or until soft. Add mince. Cook for 4 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon, or until browned.
Mix cornflour and 1 tablespoon of stock to form a paste. Add remaining stock. Add stock, sauces and Vegemite to mince. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer for 8 minutes or until thick. Cool.
Preheat oven to 220°C. Place a baking tray into oven. Grease 4 x 8cm base measurement pie pans.
Cut 4 x 15cm circles from shortcrust pastry. Use to line bases and sides of pans. Fill with mince. Brush rims with water. Cut 4 x 15cm circles from puff pastry. Place over meat. Press to seal. Trim. Brush with egg. Season.
Place pies onto hot tray. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden. Serve.