Next month the days start to get longer again, I mused as I threw half a cup of flour (too much) into a tear-off plastic bag containing two large veal shanks (whole ones). I added a teaspoon of salt (about right) and the same of pepper, twisted the bag and shook it violently to coat the shanks in the seasoned flour. Too violently. The bag broke at its sealed end. At least I didn't drop the shanks.
Our winters are not very cold so I shouldn't complain, of course. But as we head towards June and the house shades almost the half of the back garden, I look forward to seeing the shade recede again.
A haze of seasoned flour settled serenely around the kitchen as I warmed some oil in a heavy pan and seared the shanks, rolling them around like logs and then standing them on their fat ends for a last sizzle on the cross cut. Then I laid them down and added to the pan a finely chopped onion, a diced carrot, a diced zucchini and two scored garlic cloves. I shook the pan and lidded it and turned down the heat and left it three minutes to steam the vegetables under and around the shanks. Then, a cup of red wine, a tin of diced tomatoes, a small tin of tomato puree, and the empty diced tomato tin refilled with water and swished around to get all the remaining tomato out.
Once it boiled, I removed the veal shanks to a heavy baking dish (the clear glass one so you can see the contents bubbling) and continued simmering the sauce in the pan on the stove top, adding two dozen pitted black olives. It's International Year of the Olive in this house. The boys eat them pickled and I cook with them. I haven't worked out how to get them into a dessert yet. (William prefers the green stuffed ones but picks the red middle out.)
Ten minutes later, I tipped the simmering sauce over the shanks and covered the baking dish and put it into the oven on medium for two hours. Ninety minutes might have been sufficient. But reheated next day would have been even better.
We ate the shanks over potato mashed with fresh basil (more leaves appeared in the garden after this week's sun) and a sprinkling of parmesan; but last time I made this dish polenta was the platform. Either is wonderful. You set the shank in a dip in the middle of the mash and pour the sauce into the pool and it spills over and stains the potato or polenta and the result is as voluptuous a meal as you're likely to eat, especially if you pair it with a glass of McLaren Vale Kangarilla Road Shiraz. (Kangarilla - Peramangk origin: 'caring place', 'kangaroos and water'; 'kangaroos and timber' and several other possibilities.)