Baking versus Cooking

What’s the difference? One might well ask. My son is a cook, loves to cook always has done even since he was a kid. His wife is a baker and loves to make cakes and things and loves the Great British Bake off! There it is in the title, BAKE.

Baking has to follow rules and more or less to the letter, too much flour, equals too dry, too much yeast, baking powder, it just doesn’t work. Oven too hot or too cool, the result will be a mess. On the other hand cooking allows for creativity, a little bit of this, a little bit of that! ( and some rules as well).

Classical French cooking always had to follow the rules, but in recent times, things have changed, meals less heavy, sauces less rich. But how do recipes develop? Over time, by region, and by cooks themselves, partly by tradition, what their mothers did or by what food stuffs are available at any given time!

One story I like to recall is this.

A young bride was entertaining her family for Easter, and determined to do the right thing, had a beautiful Leg of Lamb. She prepared everything for her guests as had been show over the years by her mother. Just one thing thwarted her, she didn’t have an axe not even a cleaver. Why on earth did she need those? It was Easter, the stores were closed, what could she do ? She was in despair when her grandmother came into the kitchen. What’s the matter ? Granny asked ” Oh Granny, I can’t chop the end of the leg as I don’t have an axe” Why do you need to do that, granny asked. Because it is something that has to be done to roast a leg of lamb the Bride replied. My mother told me, that is the way you taught her. Granny burst out laughing. Oh Dear she said, I only did that as my pan was just not big enough !

So you see, how things can get passed down from generation to generation. Think of it as Chinese Whispers for cooking !

This weekend, I wanted to cook Osso Buco. On one of my very rare forays into a grocery store,I found some wonderful Veal bones for Osso Buco. I have not made it in years and in doing my research, there are, of course as many versions as there are cookery books. One thing I did ascertain is it seems to have gone out of favour in these days of lighter fare.

Not by Giorgio Locatelli, nor by Valentina Harris. Not by Floyd nor Robuchon. On and on I went trolling through my myriad of cookery books. Finally I found exactly what I was looking for. A couple of versions of Osso Buco, actually three, two are made with white wine, one with red, one with added anchovies one with carrots and two with tomatoes. The one thing in common with them all is the Gremolata that is served with the veal.

Julia Child, really says it how it is, you can make a veal ragout with any cut of veal but for Osso Buco it has to be from the Hind Shank as this contains the bone and the marrow. Without the marrow it is not Osso Buco! But, a Stew is a Stew! So now we know.

Basically it is a meat stew, with variations !

For my Osso Buco I used the following

  • 3 large Veal Shanks ( that was all there was)
  • 4 carrots, pled and cut into rounds
  • 2 Onions sliced
  • 4 sticks celery cut into bits
  • 3 cloves garlic smushed
  • Can chopped tomatoes
  • 300 mls veal or beef stock
  • 1/2 bottle red wine
  • Salt and pepper
  • Chopped Parsley, chopped garlic and lemon zest to garnish

Heat some oil in a heavy pan and sauté the vegetables until lightly brown. Remove and put to one side.

Dip the veal in some flour and brown both sides in the pan,made more oil if necessary. Return the vegetables to the pan and then the wine and stock, turn the heat down to a simmer and leave with the lid on for about 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. At this time check the consistency, if too liquid bring to a rapid boil, being careful to give it a stir now and then, do not let it burn. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Make the Gremolata, by chopping finely the parsley and garlic and mix with the lemon zest.

Serve in a shallow bowl with the Gremolata sprinkled on top and give each diner a spoon for scooping out the bone marrow!

And one final word. The Avocados? They arrived on my doorstep yesterday morning. How exciting is that? I wonder what the collective noun for so many Avocados is? Whatever it is I am a happy bunny. Three out to ripen, the rest refrigerated? Yummy !

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