lovely legs


lamb shanks with barley & wilted greens

l have a confession to make…I have a thing for legs….. While I am as partial as the next girl to a footballer with bulging quads, what really gets me going is fauna of the edible variety and funnily enough my favourite bits tend to be below the waistline…..

Whenever I roast a chook there is no contest for me between a succulent full flavoured drumstick and the ho humm white-meated breast….I’ll take the leg every time. And when it comes to duck confit there’s nothing like a crispy maryland. I’m even quite partial to the occasional plate of frog’s legs. And my absolute favourite bits of a crab are those fiendishly difficult to extract morsels tucked into the claws. 

Then there’s your legs of the larger variety: beef and veal that are sliced a la osso buco to reveal the jewel that is the bone marrow…yumm…But all this pales into insignificance when compared with the perfection that is lamb shanks. Meltingly tender lamb slow cooked so that it mingles with the flavours of the braising liquid…..d-i-v-i-n-e.

A quick scan of the stonesoup recipe list in the meat and poultry section is a testament to my love of lamb and shanks in particular. This winter there’s been Indian inspired lambshank vindaloo, a Moroccan lambshank tajine with prunes and almonds, and a vaguely Spanish dish of shanks with white wine and chickpeas….a pretty diverse list.

My latest shank recipe was inspired by Maggie Beer’s lamb & barley casserole from the fab ABC show the cook & the chef that the gorgeous Deborah from The Food Palate gave me a link to a few months ago. All that was needed then was a tasty crostini of cauliflower tapenade to kick things off and  something sweet to finish…..a creamy lemon baked cheesecake accompanied by zesty spiced cumquats…all good things…

a wintery shank dinner
cauliflower tapenade crostini
lamb shanks with barley & wilted greens
baked lemon cheesecake with spiced cumquats

cauliflower tapenade crostini
makes heaps

Cauliflower is one of my new found vegetable loves, mainly thanks to the guidance of Jared Ingersoll’s great book Dank St Depot.

200g cauliflower florets, blanched
4 sprigs thyme, leaves picked
45g salted capers, rinsed
60g green olives, pitted
2 red chillis, deseeded
zest 1 lemon
juice 1/2 lemon
1/2 bunch flat leaf parsley, leaves picked and chopped
125mL extra virgin olive oil

Cut cauliflower, capers, olives and chilli into very fine dice. Stir through remaining ingredients and season with s&p.

cauliflower tapenade crostini

lamb shanks with barley
serves 6

The awesome thing with this dish is that the barley soaks up all the cooking juices to become a delicious risotto-ish accompaniment to the meltingly tender shanks without all the stirring. Thanks to the dynamic Maggie Beer for the inspiration.

6 lamb shanks, frenched
2T olive oil
3 med brown onions peeled & quartered lengthwise
3 cloves garlic peeled & smashed
400g tin tomatoes
1/2C white wine
3T red wine vinegar
1L chicken stock
1 stick cinnamon
1t black peppercorns
4 sprigs thyme
2 sprigs rosemary
200g pearl barley.
wilted greens such as spinach, silverbeet or cavolo nero, to serve

Preheat oven to 150C. Heat oil in a large heat proof casserole dish and brown shanks over medium heat. Remove shanks and add onion. Cook stirring for a few minutes to just start to get some colour in the onion but don’t worry about getting it soft. Add garlic and cook for another minute.

Add wine and deglaze the pan. Return shanks and add remaining ingredients except the barley. Wet a piece of greaseproof paper large enough to cover the surface of your dish and place this over the shanks. This will keep the tops of the shanks moist but will allow some evaporation.  Place in the oven an cook for 3-4 hours turning the shanks every now and then.

Meanwhile bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and simmer barley for 20 minutes. Drain barley and add to the shanks once they have been cooking for about 1 1/2 hours. The barley will soak up the cooking juices so you may need to top up with extra stock or some water if they start to look dry.

When the shanks are meltingly tender and almost falling off the bone season with s&p and serve with wilted greens passed separately.

Note: If you are short of time feel free to cook the shanks at a higher temp. Like all good stews this can be made ahead and reheated when you’re ready to eat.

baked lemon cheesecake with spiced cumquats

The lemon cheese cake was adapted from Karen Martini’s version recently published in Sunday Life. There aren’t many things that can trump a good baked cheesecake and this one ticks all the boxes- tart creamy cheesy goodness without being cloyingly sweet or weigh-you-down heavy.

Andy Bunn at Sopra, the upstairs cafe at Fratelli Fresh provided the inspiration for the spiced cumquats. As a cumquat virgin, I was a bit uncertain about these cute tiny citrus jewels. When eaten whole & raw the sweet crunchy skin provides a perfect counter point to the tart citrussy centres. After a bath in a spice scented sugar syrup they make a gorgeous fresh adornment for our cheesecake.

Andy also added a couple of dried chillis to his cumquats but since I was cooking for my sensitive-palated mum I gave these a miss but will give them a go next time.

200g digestive biscuits
100g unsalted butter, melted
1/2t cinnamon powder.
500g cream cheese at room temperature
300g sour cream
150g castor sugar
zest 1 lemon
juice 2 lemons
2T plain flour
5 eggs
for the cumquats:
375mL water
150g sugar
350g cumquats, sliced and seeds removed
1 star anise
3 cloves
1/4t cumin seeds
10 coriander seeds
10 peppercorns
1 stick cinnamon

Line a 24cm springform pan with baking paper & grease sides with butter. Whizz biscuits in a food processor to coarse crumbs. Add butter & cinnamon & mix until combined. Press crumbs into the base of the tin & freeze while you make the filling.

Preheat oven to 170C. Place all filling ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth and well combined which may take a while. It’s important to have your cream cheese at room temp so you don’t run the risk of burning out your food processor motor.

Pour filling over biscuit base and bake for 1 hour until filling is just set. Turn off oven and allow cheesecake to cool in the over for about half an hour with the door open. Serve at room temp or chilled with spiced cumquats.

For the cumquats combine sugar and water in a medium saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring occasionally. Simmer for 5 mins then add the cumquats and spices. Simmer another 5mins then remove from heat and allow to cool.  Great with cheesecake but would also work well for breakkie with some natural yoghurt and a crunchy topping of semi toasted muesli.

baked lemon cheesecake with spiced cumquats


  • oh jules, I don’t know how this can be topped!
    I agree, when it comes to edible animals, legs are the best part. I just made a lamb shank tagine not too long ago and I am still dreaming of those lovely legs. Sounds wierd but shamefully its true.

    And your cheesecake with cumquats are just perfect!

  • I’ve cooked almost every cut of lamb I can get at the butchers, but haven’t attempted shanks yet as I get nervous about cooking meat with bones. This looks like a great recipe to help conquer that fear!

  • Hi Jules –

    That is a great picture of the lamb shank with barley – the meat looks tender, like it is sliding off the bone – yum! Along with roasted leg of lamb and lamb kebabs – this recipe is something that I’ll be keeping in mind next mind I come across a beautiful cut of meat. Thank you!

  • I fight to the death for the leg and thigh. That’s why shanks are so good – avoids the bloodshed of having to portion out a whole carcass :) and that cheesecake looks amazing. Perfection!

  • Nice work Jules, and beautiful photos as always. I’ve been eating quite a few lamb shanks lately. Like you and your duck, i find it really hard to go past good lamb shanks on a menu. Still yet to cook them nicely myself though, which may change soon thanks to my newly acquired tagine.

    Also never tried cooking with barley, so I will be revisting this post soon.

  • hey jen,
    glad to hear i’m not the only one crazy about legs

    give the shanks a go…when it comes to slow cooking bones are your friend..they keep the meat really tender

    roasted leg is another fav of mine as are kebabs…bring it on

    I grew up on a sheep farm and my dad was always joking about trying to get the sheep to grow more legs..

    looking forward to seeing some tajine work from you.
    deb menioned that she had made a barley risotto that sounded interesting…

  • i agree…. legs are the tastiest bit. i do like a good chicken wing too.

    the shanks look absolutely divine. and you know how i feel about that cheese cake. you know i’ve never made a cheese cake myself. the shame of it.

    hey… i wanted to mention to you that i’m taking a cooking class at the seafood school next month. the theme is morrocan. i originally had myself booked for damien pignolet; but to my dissapointment i missed the class completely. anyway i know how much you enjoy moroccan cuisine… and i’ve always seen it cooked with other types of meats… the seafood recipes will be a first for me.

  • hey deborah,
    lucky you. I haven’t done a cooking course at the seafood school in ages…fish tajine..yumm….would love to hear what you cook in the class

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