7th March 2014
Rosso Buco
Rosso Buco for dinner.

I've been wanting to do a nice rich red-wine pot-roast in my slow cooker for a while. When my butcher offered me a whole monster veal shank for £25 I jumped at it. Despite his scepticism about my choice of wine colour (Osso Buco is more properly braised in white wine) the more I admired the glorious meat, the more I convinced myself it would take a good red wine. It was a surprisingly hefty joint - weighing in around 3kg, and the flesh quite rich and dark, so I'm guessing it was an older calf than that usually used for Italian ossobuco but ideal for taking the stronger flavour of red wine. Which is handy because I happened to have several leftover bottles lying around begging to be used up.

Homemade Black Puddings starter Main Course Avocado Chocolate Ice Cream
Aidan and Jude very kindly came over to help out with eating some of my black pudding (this time some of the baked loaf version I'd cut into sections and frozen) and to lend a hand with the monster shank. Lucky for me or I'd be dying of rosso buco poisoning about now.
They also made handy guinea pigs for my latest ice cream innovation - avocado and chocolate flavour!

Apart from the hours of slow-cooking my monster shank, most of the meal prep work was done the night before and the remainder was pretty easy to turn out for dinner.
I served the fried homemade black pudding on a creamy mushroom sauce, with a little strawberry-dressed mixed leaf salad and some red onion.
Since my monster cuts of shank were too intimidating to serve individually I just piled them into a quiche dish and dressed them with the strained cooking liquor for the guests to help themselves.
They seemed well satisfied :)

Though I think they approached dessert with some justifiable trepidation (memories of my crab ice cream still too raw for comfort) they seemed pleasantly surprised by the result. I'm not sure it's actually better than plain old chocolate, but it's certainly not worse. Plus you get to watch your guests faces when you tell them it's avocado and chocolate flavour.
And you can't put a price on that!

Homemeade Black Puddings with a mushroom sauce
Black pudding. AGAIN!
Served with a strawberry-dressed salad.

Rosso Buco
Blanched Sugar Snap Peas dressed with Gremolata
Fried Herb Polenta

Avocado Chocolate Ice Cream
Yep, you read that right!

Mushroom Sauce
veg sauce
A decent mushroom sauce always takes more mushrooms than you expect, so buy extra.
You can add garlic to the frying mushrooms, and finish the sauce with herbs such as parsley or a grating of Parmesan if you like.
You could also substitute sour cream for the double.
Some experimenting convinced me that you get a better flavour of sauce and texture of mushroom by not frying the mushrooms at all, but simply cooking them gently in the cream. It takes a little longer, especially to reduce the volume, but the result is more delicate and more intensely mushroomy.
I've yet to try simmering with wine and garlic included but without frying.

Serves 2

Cut 8 of the mushrooms into ½" cubes, and slice the others about the thickness of a pound coin.
Warm the double cream in a small saucepan, meanwhile in a hot frying pan fry the mushroom cubes in a mixture of butter and olive oil. Keep them moving and keep them hot so they fry and brown rather than just steaming in their own juices.
De-glaze the pan with white wine and stir into the cream.
Simmer the cream to reduce and thicken a little. Season.
You can blend some or all of the mushroom cubes into the sauce depending on how smooth you want the sauce, though it will then look a little grainy.
Re-grease the pan and fry the mushroom slices until browned. Drain on kitchen roll.
Use the slices to garnish the sauce, or stir them through for a more attractive appearance.
I was going for maximal mushroom intensity. It's quite good, but I wonder if a dash of mushroom ketchup wouldn't help?

Fried Herb Polenta
veg staple
If you're going to make polenta to cut up and fry you want it to be quite thick - perhaps 3:1 liquid:polenta, though the proportions below (4:1) actually worked pretty well for me otherwise you can use 5:1 for a looser consistency.

Choose the grade of cornmeal you prefer - fine will produce a soft, thin polenta. Coarse a more textured, flavourful result.
You can either bake the polenta, as I have, and leave it to cool in the baking tin before turning out and cutting up for frying, or you can cook it, stirring regularly, in the pan for 45 minutes, then mix with the flavouring ingredients and pour into the baking tin to set.

Serves 4

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4. Thoroughly butter a small loaf tin or oven dish I used a silicon mould which made turning out really easy. Chop the herbs of your choice I had 2 tablespoons of parsley and leaves from a half dozen thyme sprigs. Bring the milk, water and salt to boil in a large pot.
If you hold some of the water in reserve you can adjust the consistency to suit you once you've added the cornmeal. The polenta spits pretty volcanically so you'll need a decent-sized pan.
Measure out the cornmeal and set it in a jug to hand, then stream it gradually into the water through your fingers as you whisk continuously. I used a slotted plastic spoon which worked well. Keep whisking for a minute or two until the polenta thickens.
Mix the butter I added 20g and herbs into the polenta and pour out into the buttered loaf tin. Cover with buttered greaseproof paper and bake for an hour.

Leave the polenta to cool it should set like cake, then turn out onto a rack. When you're ready to eat, cut the polenta loaf into fat slices and heat about half an inch of sunflower oil (or other neutral oil) in a deep frying pan until very hot. Fry the slices quickly in a single layer, turning until they take on a golden colour. Scoop out with a slotted spoon, drain on kitchen roll, and serve.
Great with stews.

Rosso Buco
Veal shank slow-cooked in red wine
meat main crockpot
Rather controversially I used red wine to make my osso buco - and thus rosso buco was born.

The bone used for ossobuco is the shank, which is between the foot bone and the calf's knee, though their feet are massively longer than ours, so the shank is actually surprisingly far off the ground. The hind legs are usually preferred for the amount of meat on them. Get your butcher to leave the skin on which will help to hold them together as they cook.
Mine was a bit of a monster, probably from quite an old calf, so I'm not sure how milk veal would fare, but I'm sure you could make this with beef shin or any other well-muscled cut.

Serves 6

Have the butcher saw the shank into sections suitable for individual servings ideally about 2" thickness - though to be honest mine were a bit on the large side since I had three pieces each about 4" you can reserve the ankle joint for stock.
Chop the vegetables into fairly chunky pieces - around ¾" so they survive the long cooking.
Tie string around each bone section so they will hold together as they cook otherwise the meat will fall completely away from the bones. Coat them lightly with flour by sifting some onto a plate and rolling the pieces in it.

Heat a little rendered beef fat to very hot in a large cast-iron pot if you have one - or a heavy frying pan will do and brown the sections nicely all over turning them with a pair of tongs. Don't overfill the pan, and as each piece is done, set it aside in the slow cooker.
Once all the meat is done, throw in the carrots and start them frying, then the onions until they begin to colour, then the celery just to coat. Add to the slow cooker.
If you fancy you could also throw in a halved head of garlic with the onions, or add some tomato purée afterwards, frying it until the oil separates. You might also think of enriching the liquid with peeled chopped tomatoes (tinned or fresh). I didn't bother with any of these things - the gravy was already quite rich enough, but it wouldn't do any harm.
De-glaze the pan with red wine, add some stock I used chicken, but I imagine veal would be ideal! and bubble them up until they reduce to about half. You'll need enough reduced liquid to almost cover the meat. Season lightly and add to the slow cooker. Throw in a rosemary sprig and the leaves stripped from a few thyme sprigs.

Turn the slow cooker on low and cook until the meat is tender enough to pull away from the bones and shred with a fork. Mine took about 10 hours - I had to do it in two sessions, about 6 hours the first evening and another 3 or so the next after I got home from work. But then, mine was a monster shin cut into monster pieces. Regular osso buco is reckoned to take only 1-2 hours. It will taste best if you leave it in a cool place for a couple of days for the flavours to meld then reheat it to serve on the day. It's also easier to manage the timing if you know the meat is already properly cooked. My slow cooker took almost 3 hours on high to completely re-heat the meat though - so be sure to start in good time.

To serve, lift the meat pieces into warmed serving dishes, cleaning them of any clumps of vegetables. Strain the liquid into a pan and reduce until it makes a satisfactory sauce, enrich with a little butter if you like pour over the meat, dress with gremolata and hand out to your eager guests.
Just excellent!
If you're reducing the sauce to pour over your rossobuco to serve then you probably don't need to worry if the meat hasn't entirely re-heated in the slow cooker. The hot juices should finish it off.
If you're looking for points for presentation then you probably want to add some mirepoix to the reduced sauce - the vegetables in the slow cooker are now too exhausted to be of any appeal and need to be discarded.

A parsley/lemon/garlic dressing
veg vegan sauce
Quite tasty as a condiment for rosso buco, and also good as a dressing on blanched sugar snap peas or green beans.
Just a head's up though - it turns out you can have too much garlic.

Serves 4

Crush the garlic with a little salt with the side of chef's knife.
Finely grate the lemon or orange peel, peel into strips and finely chop.
Chop the parsley reasonably finely.
Mix with the olive oil and a grinding of pepper.
Very tasty - serve on osso buco or use to dress blanched green beans.
You can also add anchovies and mint or other herbs if you like.

Avocado Chocolate Ice Cream
dessert veg
Note American cups. I presume. The original chocolate-only ice cream recipe is taken from American pastry chef David Lebovitz' The Perfect Scoop. And it talks of quarts and heavy cream. Which is an odd thing really - because being fattier you would think that heavy cream would actually be lighter.
Go figure!

It was my sometime flatmate Andy who first inspired in me the idea for this ice cream when he lovingly desribed the smooth creaminess of the avocado chocolate smoothies he'd been served in one or other of those South American hell-holes he's wont to frequent.
This is my first attempt.

Makes about 1 litre

Warm 1 cup of the cream with the cocoa powder in a medium saucepan, whisking to thoroughly blend the cocoa. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer at a very low boil for 30 seconds, whisking constantly. Remove from the heat and add the chopped chocolate, stirring until smooth. Then stir in the remaining 1 cup cream. Pour the mixture into a large bowl, scraping the saucepan as thoroughly as possible, and set a mesh strainer on top of the bowl.

Warm the milk, sugar, salt and vanilla pod in the same saucepan and simmer gently to infuse. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolk. Slowly pour the warm milk into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.

Stir the mixture constantly over the medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula (80°C/17°F on an instant-read thermometer). Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the chocolate mixture until smooth. Stir until cool over an ice bath. Or just chill it giving it the occasional stir!

Chill the mixture thoroughly overnight in the fridge or for 2-3 hour in the freezer. Peel and de-stone your ripe avocado it has to be soft and ripe or this will never work cleaning away any brown or hard spots. Press the flesh through a sieve into the ice cream mixture and mix in thoroughly. I didn't use a stick blender - but I suppose it's an idea. Now freeze the mix in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. (If the cold mixture is too thick to pour into your machine, whisk it vigorously to thin it out.)

Very good.
Though you really can't identify the avocado it does yield a particularly smooth, unctuous, rich mouth-feel. I fancy working on it a bit more - maybe giving it a blend to get some air into it before freezing might lighten it? And then I could always try adding a hint of chilli.
Or some coconut liqueur?

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