Ossobuco with Prunes, Apricots and Saffron

by Meeta Wolff

This chapter is a free excerpt from What's For Lunch, Honey?.



Comfort for me comes in many forms and for me it speaks the language of love through food. When we crave safety and yearn for comfort, I will wander into the kitchen, gather my strength and put away my fears. A hot healing soup, creamy chocolate puddings or a bubbling stew will put our minds at ease and for a while it takes us away to a serene and less cumbersome part of the world. The doors to the real world re-open soon enough, but for now, we are happy to settle down on our own island away from the turbulence.

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Comfort for me comes in many forms and for me it speaks the language of love through food. When we crave safety and yearn for comfort, I will wander into the kitchen, gather my strength and put away my fears. A hot healing soup, creamy chocolate puddings or a bubbling stew will put our minds at ease and for a while it takes us away to a serene and less cumbersome part of the world. The doors to the real world re-open soon enough, but for now, we are happy to settle down on our own island away from the turbulence.

Ossobuco is one of the most comforting dishes I know. It’s a classic Milanese dish of veal shanks simmered in stock and wine with flavorings of sautéed carrots, onions, tomatoes and herbs. The name ossobucco means “hollow bone” and is taken from the cut of meat it comes from—veal shank with its center bone. This famous meal is usually served with a tangy gremolada and its perfect partner, Risotto alla Milanese.

In my recipe, I have totally strayed away from the traditional method and added my own spin to this classic dish. One could say it’s fusion food of the tasty kind as the flavors of my tagine inspired me to experiment. This ossobuco is braised in vermouth and veal stock, while dried apricots and prunes add a fruity note and a pinch of saffron gives it an extravagant highlight. Rounding it off is the wonderfully zesty gremolata with pine nuts, lemon, garlic and lots of fresh parsley.

The taste of this Ossobuco is divine, succulent and rich with fork-tender meat easily falling off the bone and deliciously melting in the mouth. Savor the harmony of flavors as the sweetness of prunes and the fruity apricots counterbalance the tang of the tomatoes. Scoop up the thick gravy filled with powerful earthy notes of parsnips, onions and carrots and finally relish the subtle crunch of roasted pine nuts and herby parsley. It all comes together in this one robust dish, with flavors that will comfort, cocoon and heal.

Ingredients:

For the Ossobuco
  • 1.4kg veal shanks, about 2 cm thick. (Ask the butcher to leave the skin around the veal to hold it in place to the bone.)
  • 120g shallots, finely chopped
  • 80g carrots, diced
  • 100g parsnips, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 60g dried apricots, coarsely chopped
  • 60g prunes, coarsely chopped
  • 250g pearl onions
  • 200ml dry vermouth
  • 400ml veal stock
  • 400g canned tomatoes
  • Pinch saffron threads
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 8 stems thyme
  • 6-8 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2-3 tablespoons flour
  • Salt and pepper
For the Germolata
  • Zest of 1 organic lemon
  • ½ bunch flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, very finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 150ºC (302ºF).
  1. Dredge both sides of the veal shanks in seasoned flour, shaking off any excess flour.
  1. Add a good glug of olive oil in a wide roasting tin and over medium heat brown on both sides. Remove and set aside.
  1. If required drizzle some more olive oil and sauté onions until translucent—about 2 minutes. Add the carrots, parsnip and garlic and continue to sauté for another 3-4 minutes.
  1. Pour the vermouth and reduce to about half. Add stock and canned tomatoes, then return the veal shanks making sure they are covered in the liquid. Take about 1 tablespoon of the liquid out into a small bowl and with your fingertips crush the saffron strands into it. Allow to steep for 10 minutes. Cover the roasting tin and gently braise in the oven for approx. 1½ hours.
  1. Remove the tin from the oven and pour in saffron, add the prunes, apricots, pearl onions and herbs. Cover and continue to braise for another 40 minutes.
  1. In the meantime prepare the germolata, by mixing all the ingredients together and allow for the flavors to absorb into each other..
  1. Serve the Ossobucco with buttered fettuccine, mashed potatoes or creamy polenta sprinkled with the germolata.
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