Braised beef shank (osso-beefo)

I’ve eased into a new routine of working. Do the work I get paid to do in the morning, give the kitten a lunchtime run around the garden, then study in the afternoon.

A huge benefit of being self-employed is the ability to jump up and get out when the sun shines. At this time of year such opportunities should not be missed. Edgbaston Reservoir is a little pocket of nature, three minutes walk from our flat. On a Thursday lunchtime it’s busy with gulls, moor hens and the occasional heron (plus dog walkers, mums with prams, retirees, joggers and probably the odd home-worker needing exercise).

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Birmingham City Centre in the distance over the water

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The heron is hiding in this picture, but it IS there

Birmingham is such a city of contrasts. Amazing buildings…ugly buildings. Good food…terrible food. Heaving traffic…green parks. This Buddhist temple sits right next to industrial land on the Birmingham Mainline canal, a gesture of peace amidst the barbed wire. The glinting gold dome never fails to make me smile.

Birmingham Buddhist Vihara

Birmingham Buddhist Vihara

As it’s January, I’m mindful of being economical with my cooking and it’s to the freezer I turn. I bought this beautiful beef shank in November from Ludlow Food Centre. It cost about £5 with enough meat to feed 3 or 4, provided it’s padded out with some veggies.

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Whoever heard of cooking with beef shank? I had never come across it, though really it’s just the grown up version of osso bucco. A Google search told me that the Americans are mad for beef shank…but all the recipes I found served one shank per person. Either they are greedy, or it’s not quite the same cut. Whatever. Osso-beefo it is.

The leg is one of the hardest working parts of a cow, so this needs long cooking. Think 4 hours or so. I cooked it up with a bottle of red wine, some of last September’s pasatta from our tomatoes (another freezer goodie), onions, carrots, garlic and herbs. Had I had celery, that would have gone in too. The bone gives up its marrow to make an unctuous rich sauce, deeply flavoured with wine and tomatoes, and the meat is savoury and tender. Matt declared it “the best dinner ever”. Sometimes the cheap stuff is the best.



I think this dish benefits from being made a day ahead. Serve it up with mash and greens.

Braised beef shank (osso-beefo)

To serve 3-4:

1 beef shank

Olive oil

2 small onions, diced

2 small carrots, diced

3 cloves of garlic, bashed and peeled

bay leaf and/or sprig of thyme

Dessertspoon flour

Salt and pepper

Bottle of red wine – I used a Spanish tempranillo

About 300ml pasatta

Dry the beef shank and brown in a heavy frying pan. Transfer to the casserole. Soften the onions and carrots, add in the garlic and herbs and season. Add flour and cook briefly before pouring in the wine and pasatta. Bring to a bubble then pour the lot over the beef. Top up with water to cover the meat. Cook at 150c for three hours. Leave to cool. The next day, remove the marrow bone (make sure all the marrow has come out) and remove any surface fat. Reheat gently in the oven for an hour or so. Adjust seasoning and serve.

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