In Pretoria, Winter is here in every sense of the word. In the morning I struggle to get out of bed because, even though it’s usually a beautiful day outside, there’s an iciness in the air that can only be braved with lots of coffee and a blanket wrapped around oneself. The afternoons are normally really pleasant with just a slight chill in the air before the iciness returns for it’s evening shift. But I’m not complaining…I Love Winter! The only thing I don’t like about Winter is seeing all the trees stripped of their leaves.
And with Winter around, the only thing I ever really want is comforting stew. As a child, I despised stew. As an adult, I’m addicted to it. There’s just something about meat cooked for so long that it literally falls apart when you push into it. Slowly sauteed onions, carrots and celery fill your home with the most incredible aromas and when garlic and bay leaf are added, this elevates to another level. There is just so much good about stew!
I’ve spoken before about my dad’s ‘thinking’ that he is a bit of an Italian, because he works with Italians. For example, when my brother orders a Four Seasons pizza (Quattro Stagione), my dad says “aaahhh Quattrrrrrro Stag-i-o-ne, this means Four Seasons. Quattrrrrro being Four, Stag-i-o-ne being Seasons”. Yes, thanks dad, I think we got that! Whenever I say I’m making anything Italian, he’ll ‘correct’ my pronunciation and accentuate his “r’s” and give me a lesson…not that he speaks Italian of course.
When I told him I made Osso Buco with Gremolata for dinner, he said “what? ooohh, Ossssoo Buccccco with (weeth) Grrremmolaata”, yes dad, that! My brothers and I always laugh about it but it’s one of those things that I wouldn’t change for the world. Even though I get sick of it and it annoys me at times, it’s also so endearing and charming. And I know my dad’s excited about a meal when he goes all Italian on me.
The traditional way of making Osso Buco involves no tomatoes and is called “in Bianco” but more modern versions include tomatoes and sofrito (onions, celery & carrots) and this is my favourite way of cooking it. Normally, Osso Buco would be served with Polenta but I had an intense craving for creamy, smashed baby potatoes so I served my luscious Osso Buco with that. But Mashed potato, polenta, even rice would do. And don’t forget to serve it with Gremolata. Sprinkled over the top, the gremolata adds a freshness to the stew that just makes it 100x better.
2kg beef shin
2 onions, finely chopped
4 large carrots, peeled and finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 bay leaves
3 fresh thyme stalks
3 tins chopped tomatoes
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp smoked paprika
500ml beef stock
salt & pepper to taste
zest of 2 lemons, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
- Pre-heat the oven to 160°c.
- In a large oven-proof pot/casserole, fry the meat in a bit of oil until browned all over. Remove and set aside.
- Fry the onions, carrots and celery for 7-10 minutes until soft, translucent and fragrant. Add the garlic, the bay leaf and the thyme and fry for another minute.
- Add the chopped tomatoes, sugar, paprika. Stir to combine all the ingredients.
- Add the meat back to the pot and pour in the beef stock. Stir to coat the meat in the tomato and vegetables and cover the pot.
- Place in the oven and allow to cook for 2-3 hours until the meat is tender and pulls apart easily.
- To make the gremolata, combine all the ingredients and set aside until you’re ready to serve.
- Serve the Osso Buco with starch of your choice and a sprinkling of the gremolata.