Fusion Food: Ossobuco with Prunes, Apricots and Saffron

Ossobuco with Prunes, Apricots and Saffron  (0009) by Meeta K. Wolff  

Mercilessly pounded by catastrophes that send it rocking and erupting into a fury, it would seem as if the Earth is falling apart. This weekend most of us probably watched in shock as a massive earthquake shook Japan and minutes later a gigantic Tsunami wiped out kilometers of coastal region in northern Japan. Now while we all sit on edge praying that the developments in Fukushima do not add more devastation, my mind cannot help but ponder on thoughts about the epoch we are currently living in. 

We watch live via internet as catastrophes occur, observe bloody wars fought and Dictators overthrown, all from the comfort of our living room. The internet has provided us with easy access to be a part of it all and I wonder at what costs. I wonder because I am a mother and I worry what effects this freedom of information will have on my son.

I am very pro internet, so do not get me wrong. I see the advantages the internet offers but sadly am also aware of the many disadvantages. Parenting has always been like walking on razors edge. As parents, we constantly do a balancing act, juggling between how much is good, or sufficient without going overboard on anything. Take your pick of topics: food, rules, homework, play, TV, we are constantly trying to provide equilibrium for them to follow, without indulging in extremes.

Our children are living in such a fast paced world, where information is available at the punch of a key. They are so in touch and aware of the world around them. Usually this would not be a bad thing, but I contemplate the weighty burdens they are forced to carry with the excessiveness of the knowledge they absorb.

Diptych Ossobuco with Prunes, Apricots and Saffron (0012.0017)  by Meeta K. Wolff

I do not have all the answers. However, I do my best to answer Soeren’s questions as delicately as I can. Questions about why a dictator would choose to kill his own people, what happens to children who lose their parents, what does nuclear meltdown mean or how will people ever be found in all that rubble. And when I do not have answers, I do what I can do to provide him comfort. We shut the notebook, switch off the TV and close the door to the troubles of the outside world. At least for a while.

We curl up on the sofa and snuggle up under blankets, reading a book or resting our minds and recharging our batteries. As adults we cannot run to mom or dad for reassuring words or a simple hug. Instead, we find our own path to a trouble-free world. Comfort comes in many forms and for me it speaks the language of love through food. When we crave safety and yearn comfort, I will wander into the kitchen, gather my strength and put away my fears. A hot healing soup, creamy chocolate puddings or a bubbling stew will put our minds at ease and for a while it take us away to a serene and less cumbersome part of the world. The doors to the real world will re-open soon enough, but for now, we are happy to settle down on our own island away from the turbulence.

Ossobuco with Prunes, Apricots and Saffron  (0005) by Meeta K. Wolff

Ossobuco is one of the most comforting dishes I know. A classic Milanese dish of veal shanks simmered in stock and wine with flavorings of sautéed carrots, onions, tomatoes and herbs. The name ossobucco means “hollow bone” and is taken from the cut of meat it comes from – veal shank with its center bone. This famous Milanese dish is usually served with a tangy gremolada and its perfect partner, Risotto alla Milanese.

In my recipe I have totally strayed away from the traditional method and added my own spin to this classic dish. One could say it’s fusion food of the tasty kind as the flavors of my Ras El Hanout Lamb Tagine with Pumpkin and Apricots inspired me to experiment. This ossobuco is braised in vermouth and veal stock, while dried apricots and prunes add a fruity note to it, and a pinch of saffron gives it an extravagant highlight. Rounding it off is the wonderfully zesty gremolata with pine nuts, lemon, garlic and lots of fresh parsley.

Recipe: Recipe: Ossobuco with Prunes, Apricots and Saffron

Printable version of recipe here


Prep Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 2.5 hours


For the Ossobuco

  • 1.4 kg veal shanks, about 2 cm thick. Ask the butcher to leave the skin around the veal to hold it in place to the bone.
  • 120 g shallots, finely chopped
  • 80 g carrots, diced
  • 100 g parsnips, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 60 g dried apricots, coarsely chopped
  • 60 g prunes, coarsely chopped
  • 250 g pearl onions
  • 200 ml dry vermouth
  • 400 ml veal stock
  • 400 g canned tomatoes
  • Pinch saffron threads
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 8 stems thyme
  • 6-8 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2-3 tablespoons flour
  • Salt and pepper
For the Germolata
  • Zest of 1 organic lemon
  • 1/2 bunch flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, very finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted


  1. Preheat oven to 150 degrees C.

  2. Dredge both sides of the veal shanks in seasoned flour, shaking off any excess flour.

  3. Add a good glug of olive oil in a wide roasting tin and over medium heat brown on both sides. Remove and set aside.

  4. If required drizzle some more olive oil and sauté onions until translucent - about 2 minutes. Add the carrots, parsnip and garlic and continue to saute for another 3-4 minutes.

  5. Pour the vermouth and reduce to about half. Add stock and canned tomatoes, then return the veal shanks making sure they are covered in the liquid. Take about 1 tablespoon of the liquid out into a small bowl and with your fingertips crush the saffron strands into it. Allow to steep for 10 minutes. Cover the roasting tin and gently braise in the oven for approx. 1 1/2 hours.

  6. Remove the tin from the oven and pour in saffron, add the prunes, apricots, pearl onions and herbs. Cover and continue to braise for another 40 minutes.

  7. In the meantime prepare the germolata, by mixing all the ingredients together and allow for the flavors to absorb into each other..

  8. Serve the Ossobucco with buttered fettuccine, mashed potatoes or creamy polenta sprinkled with the germolata..


Ossobuco with Prunes, Apricots and Saffron  (0019) by Meeta K. Wolff 

The taste of this Ossobuco is divine, succulent and rich with fork-tender meat easily falling off the bone and deliciously melting in the mouth. Savor the harmony of flavors as the sweetness of prunes and the fruity apricots counterbalance the tang of the tomatoes. Scoop up the thick gravy filled with powerful earthy notes of parsnips, onions and carrots and finally relish the subtle crunch of roasted pine nuts and herby parsley. It all comes together in this one robust dish and the flavors will comfort, cocoon and heal.

I’d like to take this opportunity to say a prayer and offer my deepest sympathies to the people who have lost so much this weekend. Like a silver lining hope glimmers amongst the devastation as stories of survival filter through. It gives me faith to believe we are a resilient race and while blows may set us back they will never really break us.

Japan we are thinking of you.

Other News …

For those of you with a very sweet tooth I have a special treat for you. Over at The Foodie Bugle, a brand new, shiny online magazine, I take you on a trip to the Decadent Desserts of the World, in my first article. Hope you enjoy indulging in some of the worlds most finest desserts.

I’m also ecstatic to share my feature in the brilliant South African online magazine Crush Online. On pages 10 and 11 Crush features five of my recipes in the Which wine? Which food? section. I love the interactive feature – click on the wine bottles and you’ll be presented with one of my recipes that best match. You can also easily print out recipe cards and shopping lists in PDF.

More Comfort Food from WFLH:

Yellow Bell Pepper and Fava Bean Soup Carrot and Red Lentil Soup with a Hint of Cumin German Lentil and Sausage Stew


All photographs and written content on What's For Lunch, Honey? © 2006-2011 Meeta Khurana Wolff unless otherwise indicated. | All rights reserved | Please Ask First

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  1. I so agree with you! Internet and tv has put everything, really everything at our feet, brings it into our livingrooms. Sometimes I feel like not only are we raising totally global kids, more and more disconnected to their own unique cultures, but kids immune to shock. War, hate, violence is now an everyday affair unless we protect our kids. And discuss openly everything with them. And comfort, indeed. We all need it more and more and I agree on this point, too, that Ossobuco is one of our best and favorite comfort foods. Yours is a heavenly version full of flavors I just love. x

  2. It is very hard to imagine what goes through a child's mind when they are exposed to such tragedy and violence in such a mainstream way now days. I agree with Jamie, I think that kids and even adults have become immune to shock, things seem somehow less real when viewed through the lens of the internet or the media. It's hard to know what the right answers are.

  3. That ossobuco is very original and your pictures are really beautiful!



  4. I've tried ossobuco a few times and I understand the appeal, but I just couldn't get into it. I also may not have had it prepared particularly well... because this actually looks like something I would love to try.

  5. Haven't 'experienced' an ossobuco Meeta {may I put my hand up and say I've never heard of it...and be forgiven for arriving late?}...but what you tell me is pure comfort. A world like we live in is increasingly becoming unbelievable. The pace of things, the conflicts, the fury of nature... and to think that when I stared at 911 on the TV many years ago, I thought it just couldn't get worse. Now Japan has devastated me beyond belief. And yes the kids and the knowledge they are exposed to...sigh! I have graduated from the delicate phase into rough waters! I hear it never ends. Thank heavens for good food & bloggers like you! HUGS!

  6. I was having the same conversation with friends the other day...so many natural disasters and so many events have really shaken us in the last few months. And like you said, the information is so immediate it can really do your head in! To finish off I would love to say that this osso buco offers great comfort Meeta...particularly that you have played around with the ingredients and made it your own. Thank you.

  7. I can only imagine how hard it would be to explain these things to a small child...So much destruction!

    This dish looks beautiful Meeta, comforting and welcoming :-)

  8. I could not agree more, I et an email everyday with the crime report of our neighbourhood. This morning someone almost forced entry into my daughters window, I am disturbed. Should I ask not to get that email of doom an dgloom, I'm not sure. I will hoever, like you, always try and find comfort and warm in food. Great Post Meeta!

  9. The ossobuco looks so good, I can imagine wiping clean my dish with a piece of bread. I dont know if bread is an ideal combination, but whenever I see something so brown and rich, I yearn for bread to go with it.

  10. Thats a nice article in the Foodie Bugle magazine, and the pic of the pavlova is beautiful...However, I found the description of the Baklava to be more tempting than any other.

  11. I agree with you Meeta on the world of the internet. I sometimes also feel that because everything is on tv it can seem less real at times. It scares me to think of what the future will bring with all the turmoil going on and the natural disasters to top it all off. Comfort food is then one of the things that keep us going for sure.
    I love this ossobucco!

    Congratulations also on the publications! I had already seen your article on Crush Online, looks fantastic! And I am of to check the Foodie Bugle now too!

  12. I think one of the effects of witnessing so much is the helplessness that one feels; politicians and world leaders used to be held in high esteem but all this information exposes them as flawed individuals finding their way in life just at the rest of us do. Keeping your feet on the ground, through a sound family life and good shared food seems like a very positive course to take. Not always easy to deliver but something that we can realistically aspire to. Thanks for lovely post Meeta.

  13. I, too, worry much about my kids being exposed to all the information and try to comfort them as I can and sometimes finding my own soothing words are separating from my conciseness and comfort me as well.

    And I do agree that food is one form of comfort that we are so accustomed to that sometimes take it for granted.

    Beautiful post with mouthwatering photos. Thank you for sharing!

  14. My heart goes out to everyone in Japan... to be struck with such awful disasters and now the nuclear problem... :( We can only pray.

    My mum makes versions of the ossabucco, she just calls them casseroles with veal or whatever she's using but it's all from the same family isn't it? Definitely comfort food and great to experiment with! Yours sounds delicious, Meeta!

  15. What absolutely stunning photos, as well as a very appealing-looking meal. Thanks for the inspiration.

  16. You spoke my words, MEETA! I have felt that way ever since last Friday....

    On the plus side, this ossobucco seems perfect. I like the fruity addition :)

  17. I like your twist on osso bucco. Thanks for sharing it.

  18. This comment has been removed by the author.

  19. What gifts we bring to the world; our compassion, empathy and understanding. We react on those events for which we have no control, seeking comfort in what we do know. Food? Wine? Compassionate friendship? Thank you Meeta for your heartfelt postings and escape into the comforts food offers us. Life goes forward as we deal with the world.

  20. Mmm looks delicious.

    Are they parsnips?

    I am visiting your site from Australia and have visitied India a couple of times in the last two years- what an amazing country!!

    We have a family friendly blog, feel free to drop over when youi have a minute!



  21. Thank you everyone for your lovely and thoughtful comments! So glad you liked the recipe here and reading your comments and emails on my thoughts was extremely helpful.

  22. Got to be one of the most unusual combinations I've ever heard of

  23. We are definitely inundated with news and I definitely agree that it's important to choose your sources carefully. The meal that you made your son looks like a wonderful source of comfort. And, beautiful photography too!

  24. You have nailed it. I cann't agree more with the things happening around the world. I have witnessed the horrible site of 2004 Tsunami in Chennai coast. The picture of 100s of fisherman families running towards the main road crying is still fresh in my eyes. I saw dead bodies piled in front of the general hospital in Cuddalore, a town near Pondicherry. I still get moist eyes when I think of that day.

    Also, I have always been left with this thought every time a natural disaster occurs. People living in this virtual world forget to respect, cherish the value of fellow human beings. The arrogant heavy headed people fail to remember that may be tomorrow you won't be alive. Life is really becoming short. So we sh learn to enjoy even simple moments.

    Lovely pictures as always Meeta.

  25. I know what you mean and agree Meeta. With a little one now of my own I feel both the advantages and disadvantage of being so connected. I want my daughter to be aware of the world around her but at the same time not miss out on the innocence of being a child and not having to worry about anything, even for just a brief part of their lives.

    And yes, food and cooking is definitely what I turn to for comfort...feeding the ones I love. Creating something, albeit is small and fleeting, in a time when destruction seems beg and scary and very close to your doorstep. This dish in particular is very comforting to me as, not only do I love hearty braises like this, this is also one of my favorite dishes that my mother makes :)


  26. Fascinating spin on a classic comfort food. It is a perfect dish to weather the storms of the outside world. I agree... I often feel like I'm working my way through a high wire act with my girls and social media. I'm the "evil" mom who won't allow her 11 year old on facebook; however, I do allow her to skype her friends. Balancing is HARD work.

  27. What a beautiful post - I love how captured the feelings of helpless concern that so many of us share in regard to Japan.
    And the dish - sounds wonderful. What exquisite flavors...

  28. So many have voiced thoughts that I share. I would hate to think we would raise our children to be immune to such issues. An incredible balancing act. Thanks for your open comments and thoughts on this.

  29. watching TV is so depressing and then mediums like Twitter make that news more shocking since it's said so matter of fact. i continue to pray for those poor souls that are hurting. now on to your dish. it's stunning and so complex. i love the flavors--major fan of saffron!


Thank you for visiting What's For Lunch, Honey? and taking time to browse through my recipes, listen to my ramblings and enjoy my photographs. I appreciate all your comments, feedback and input. I will answer your questions to my best knowledge and respond to your comments as soon as possible.

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