Built for Comfort


These dishes don’t make much or climatic sense in the warmer months, but now the colder weather is here, they are just what the doctor ordered.
– PETER MEIER says slow and steady can produce flavours worth waiting for.

Stews, casseroles, hotpots or any other dish that require slow and prolonged cooking comes under the heading of what I call good old-fashioned, hearty and wholesome comfort food.

These dishes don’t make much culinary or climatic sense in the warmer months, but now the colder weather is here, they are just what the doctor ordered.

Most of them, irrespective of their country of origin, had a humble beginning. In general, they use the less fashionable cuts of meat such as shanks, skins, brisket, hock – meats which are a bit muscly, gelatinous and as “tough as boots”. But if cooked at a low temperature for a long time, they develop plenty of flavour and a texture that melts in our mouth.

Every country has its own version of casseroles and stews, including the French beef bourguignon     (beef marinated in red wine then cooked with root vegetables, bacon and herbs); tagines from the countries along Africa’s Mediterranean coast (usually made with lamb or mutton and a variety of dried or preserved fruit, root vegetables and seasoned with honey and fiery harissa sauce); from Britain comes the Lancashire hotpot, steak –and-kidney puddings and pot roasts; and from the north of Italy, osso bucco – which, translated, means hollow bone, referring to the bone of the veal knuckle or shank form which it is made.

Osso bucco is a specialty of Milan. The dish is traditionally served with risotto Milanese (rice seasoned with saffron, white wine, chicken stock, grated parmesan and the bone marrow of the veal shanks). For true osso bucco, use veal, not the yearling which is sometimes sold as veal.


Osso Bucco

Serves 4


  • 8 thick pieces (3cm) veal shanks
  • 1 cup seasoned plain flour
  • 1 tblsp butter
  • 1 tblsp vegetable oil
  • 1 cup veal or beef stock
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 300g ripe roma tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • 4 tblsp chopped parsley
  • Grated rind of 2 lemons
  • 1 tblsp chopped garlic
  • 2 anchovy fillets, chopped (optional)


Coat veal pieces in flour, shaking off excess, and brown them gently in butter and oil. Place veal in a heavy-based saucepan, add stock, white wine and tomatoes. Cover with a lid and cook gently for about 90-120 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure the meat doesn’t stick, adding a little water if necessary. At the end of cooking, the sauce should be rich and thick. Season with salt and pepper.

Arrange veal on plates and spoon sauce over the top. Sprinkle with combined gremolata ingredients.

Serve with a risotto Milanese or plain white rice.