Osso buco – A slow jam


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This is my all-time favourite dish to make.  It’s not something you can just throw together at the last minute, but it is the process of preparation that is so wonderfully therapeutic, and ultimately when this dish is ready, I can guarantee you’ll be totally excited to make it again & again.  The flavours only get better over time, so if you can, make this at least 1-2 days before you’re planning on eating it.


There are 2 vital components to making this gorgeously rustic dish: the brown base, and the Neapoletana sauce.  If you put time, effort & great quality ingredients into making these, your osso buco is guaranteed to be a sure-fire success.  We serve osso buco with gremolata, my darlings – a combination of Italian parsley, lemon zest, garlic & anchovies.  This glorious creation cuts the richness of the stew & brings a light, zesty & salty dimension to the dish, meaning it is perfectly seasoned & balanced in flavour.  I like to make extra and roll in it, rather like cats do with catnip.  I can’t help myself.  It’s that good.

Osso buco is originally made with veal shin, but since we live in a slightly more sensitive society than our French & Italian hombres, beef shin has been substituted & doesn’t let the team down in the slightest.  If you can’t find beef shin, the only other cut I’d suggest for this dish is lamb knuckle.  The texture of the meat at the end of the cooking process is hugely important – just trust me on this one!  And always, bone-in.  Don’t let your butcherman separate the meat from the bone.  Beef shin contains the sexiest bone marrow compared to any other cut, and if you know what’s good for you, you’ll get your slurp on once it’s all cooked.   I like chocolates & flowers in my gift baskets, thank you very much!

What you’ll need… (serves 6)

12 medium-sized beef shin pieces

Seasoned flour

1 small bag baby carrots, peeled & cut into halves or thirds

3 medium onions, peeled & roughly chopped

5 sticks of celery, peeled & roughly chopped

3 cups brown base

2 cups Neapoletana sauce

For the brown base:

1kg beef bones – ask you butcher for some bones that still have a fair amount of meat attached

1 sachet tomato paste – about 80g

1 tbsp olive oil

1 cup celery (leaves & stalks) roughly chopped

2 medium white onions, chopped

1 cup carrots, peeled & sliced

1 bay leaf

2 cups red wine (quality in, quality out so use something decent please!)

1-2 tbsp corn flour & water for slurry

Water to cover

For the Neapoletana sauce:

1 tbsp olive oil

1 medium white onion, chopped

3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped or smashed

3 sprigs of basil, chopped

1 tsp dried oregano

2 tins whole peeled tomatoes

1 tsp sugar

2 tsp salt

1 tsp cracked black pepper

For the Gremolata:

1 cup finely chopped Italian parsley

½ cup finely grated lemon zest

5 garlic cloves, smashed

5 anchovies, chopped finely

And then…

To make the brown base – Heat your oven to blady hot.  Use your hands to coat the bones with the tomato paste & put these in a single layer on a roasting tray & roast them until they’re well caramelized & dark brown.  Heat the oil in a large saucepan & fry all your vegetables together on a high heat until they are nicely browned.  Add the browned bones to your veggies, as well as the bay leaf & red wine, and cover with some water if your bones are still poking out the water.  Let this simmer on a medium heat for approximately 1 hour until all that lovely flavour permeates the liquid.  Strain this, clean your saucepan & return the liquid to the pot & bring to the boil.  Once boiling rapidly, pour in your corn flour slurry & stir well.  Set aside for later.

To make the Neapoletana sauce – Heat the oil in a saucepan & sauté the onions & the garlic.  Once softened, add the basil & oregano & stir well.  Add the tomatoes & turn the heat down to a slow burble.  Leave this uncovered for 1 hour until the sauce has reduced slightly & the tomatoes have broken up.  Season with the sugar, salt & pepper & set aside for later.

To assemble the osso buco – Place your well-seasoned flour on a dinner plate & dust each beef shin in the flour.  Shake well & sear off in a very hot pan with a little olive oil.  Don’t crowd the pan, as the joints will not brown & seal properly.  Layer these browned beef shins in a large casserole with the vegetables, Neapoletana sauce & brown sauce.  Place the lid on the casserole or cover well with foil & place in a preheated oven at 180’C for 3 hours and not a minute less!

Toss all the ingredients together for the gremolata & chill before serving.  This dish is ideally served with pasta, specifically parpadelle or a similar long, thick tagliatelle pasta, but it is just as fabulous served with some fresh (preferably home-made) crusty bread, & accompanied by some awesome red wine.  We paired our osso buco with a Californian Cab Sav. which worked particularly well, or you could go for a 2007 Boekenhoutskloof Chocolate Block; it’s intense spicy notes, ripe plum & black fruit aromas accompany this dish perfectly.  I also paired this dish with a grilled vegetable herb salad, as we had a fairly healthy crowd round the table.


Buon appetito!

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