Osso Buco

osso buco

I thought I’d make the most of what I hoped was the last of the cooler weather and cook up an osso buco. Our butcher sells the pieces of shank quite cheaply and I figured that the leftovers would make a good freezer standby.

I started to look around for recipes and turned first to The Silver Spoon, the Bible of Italian cooking.

This is a very practical book: the recipes are usually brief (sometimes to the point of appearing boring) and I view it as much more of a reference manual than a step by step instruction guide. In this case, it offered two variations on a theme: Milanese osso buco and veal osso buco with peas. Well, no chance of me making anything with peas!

I ended up combining the two recipes to come up with my own version.

Melt some butter and olive oil in a large pan and sauté off a finely chopped onion, two diced carrots and one large clove of garlic (also finely chopped). With the heat medium high, add three pieces of shank (around 1kg worth), dredged in flour, and fry until they start to take on some colour.

Pour in a generous splash of red wine and continue to cook until the wine all but evaporates. Then add 150mL of good quality beef stock, a 400g tin of crushed tomatoes and large slices on the rind of half a lemon.

Reduce the heat, cover with a lid and cook slowly until the meat begins too fall apart (let’s say a good hour or two – this is not a dish for those in a hurry). Once the meat is tender, you may wish to cook for a little longer with the lid off to thicken the gravy.

When you’re ready to serve, stir through a simple gremolata made from the grated rind of half a lemon and a generous half cup or so of chopped parsley.

Serve with your favourite starchy side … we had polenta, made with cream, butter and parmesan cheese (what was in the fridge), but mashed potatoes, risotto or even pasta would do just as well.

Easy AND delicious!

Lemon Polenta Cake

lemon & polenta cake

Last week I was asked about how many of my recipes I make up and I realised it’s been a while since I’ve done any of my own ‘recipe development’.

On Sunday I was going to make a lemon and olive oil cake. As Andy headed off to the shops he asked if I needed anything. Oh no, I had everything I needed. Half an hour later, I discovered that I barely had enough olive oil for the recipe and, if I did, I’d be leaving us with none.

However, I took this as an opportunity to create my own cake. Initially that opportunity was not grasped entirely gracefully – there was a lot of muttering about not being able to find a recipe that suited exactly what was in the cupboard. But the end product was lovely!

Begin by preheating the oven to 160°C fan and grease and baseline a 23 cm springform tin. Using a 23cm tin gives a thinner cake – if you want a deeper cake use a 20cm tin, but remember you’ll need to cook the cake for a little longer.

In the trusty MagiMix, cream 200g of unsalted butter with 200g of caster sugar. Add 100g of almonds and 100g of fine polenta. Make sure you use fine otherwise rather than “texture” you’ll end up with gritty cake! Beat in 3 eggs and 2 tsp of baking powder.

At this point the mixture will be really stiff.

Now grate in the zest of 2 small lemons and add the juice of one (about 1 tbsp) and mix well. The mixture will be quite loose now. Pour it into the prepared tin and bake for 55 mins, or until a skewer comes out clean. I also had to cover my cake with foil for the last 10 minutes or so, as it was starting to take on too much colour.

When you’ve got about 10 minutes of cooking left, start work on the syrup. In a small pan, place 100g of caster sugar along with the juice of 2 lemons and 1 tbsp of rum. Heat this up to create a syrup – you may need to add a splash or two of hot water along the way. When the sugar has fully dissolved, you are good to go. Ensure you don’t heat it so much that it boils and starts to turn into caramel!

Remove the cake from the oven and, while it’s hot, prick all over with a skewer or toothpick and then spoon over the syrup. You probably won’t need all of it (I had a tablespoon or two left). If you have a silicon brush, even better because you spread the syrup out over the cake a lot more evenly.

Leave the cake to cool, and absorb the syrup, in the tin. When cool, remove the tin and baking paper. Serve with cream.

It keeps well: the syrup and almonds keep it moist and the texture of the polenta does soften a little over time.

Note that as this cake is made with polenta and NO flour, it is gluten free (suitable for coeliacs).