„Ok , that´s it!“ I said with an apologetic look „ Ça suffit. They didn´t like this one, either. I´m sorry, guys, but no more pumpkin desserts!“ The trio sitting in front of me at the kitchen counter uttered a simultaneous sigh of deception.
„Really?“ the scar faced orange squash by the name of citrouille was the first to reply, somewhat reproachfully „Are you seriously telling us that no one in the family wanted the pumpkin crème brûlée? You said crème brûlée had always been a total winner!“ „I know,“ I said with a shrug, head shaking „but this time it wasn´t. They said it´s not the real thing….and honestly, I didn´t like it that much myself.“
Now I could hear a restrained sniff, coming from the small patisson pumpkin sitting on the left. Though he was trying to be tough, it was obvious he was close to bursting into tears. „That´s…. not… fair!“ he moaned with a quavering voice. „You promised to make a real treat out of us. Un vrai délice, those were your words, remember?“
„Yes, those were my words, I admit, but I never promised! I said I´ll try. But see, tastes are different, and if neither a pumpkin pie works, nor a flan, nor a cake, nor crème brûlée…. well perhaps that´s the time to throw the towel. But hey, the butternut gratin was quite good! And remember the soup – everyone loved it!“
„Oh, don´t try to fool us, please! The gratin was savory, and not even that was a real hit! Plus, who doesn´t like pumpkin soup?“ Now it was the butternut himself talking, hardly holding back his anger.
„Look, I can understand you´re disappointed. I feel it, too, you know? Believe me, I would have loved to come up with a smashing pumpkin dessert. I really tried hard. But it didn´t work out, and now I´ll have to think about something else to do with you. How about a pumpkin risotto, wouldn´t that be something?“
„Boring!“ a three-part chorus snapped back at me.
„We don´t want to end up being mashed! So humiliating!…. but we do like the thought of being turned Italian, right ragazzi? “ It was citrouille again, turning to his friends.
„ Alright“ I said „ now I got it all figured out. We´ll make a real Italian classic, but nothing like pasta, a true main course, you know, meaty and all. I´ll include you in an autumnal osso bucco, just you, the veal, and a handful of girolles. You´ll see, it´s going to be amazing, and those orange butternut cubes will stand out and shine. What do you think?“
„So it´s the butternut again, huh?“ replied the other two, slightly offended. „We knew it. What´s in for us? Can we at least have our picture taken?“
„Of course you can. The butternut will perhaps be in more photos, but we´ll have a few portraits and family photos from all of you, edible or not. Everyone will love those character heads of yours, I´m sure. – Deal?“
„Deal!“ said the three of them. „But wait a minute: what´s for dessert then?“ „Well,“ I said, „the osso bucco will come with an orange gremolata, so why don´t I stick to the flavor and make some florentine cookies with dried apricots and orange zest as well. Would that be ok with you?“
„Fine“ they said, „sounds easy. Even you won´t mess that up. And as of the pumpkin dessert, we´ll talk about it again…maybe next year.“
osso bucco with butternut squash & girolles mushrooms (serves 4):
1.2 kg veal shanks (4-5)
flour for dusting
300 g butternut squash, diced into 2 cm /about 1 inch cubes
1 large carrot, diced into 1 cm/0.5 inch cubes
1 slice celery root, diced
250 g chanterelles mushrooms
1 yellow onion, diced
250 ml dry white wine
250 ml stock (chicken or veal)
4 bay leaves
3 garlic cloves
salt and pepper
1/2 tsp ground coriander seeds
2 sprigs parsley with the stalks
For the gremolata:
1/2 bunch flat leaf parsley
2 cloves garlic
2 handfuls of chopped pumpkin seeds
2 handfuls of breadcrumbs
1 tbsp butter
zest of 1 large organic orange (or lemon)
150 g polenta
375 ml stock
375 ml milk
handful of grated parmesan, optional
For the osso bucco, season meat with salt and dust with flour on both sides. Heat a few tbsp olive oil in a large cocotte, shake off excess flour and brown meat until crisp – about 5 minutes from each side.
Take meat out of the pan and reserve on a plate. Add a bit more oil to the pan if necessary and cook vegetables except mushrooms until slightly browned. Add mushrooms and continue to fry for another 3-4 minutes. Pour the wine and stock and reduce for 3 minutes, always at high heat. Add bay leaves, parsley and coriander seeds, return veal to the cocotte, cover and simmer for 1.5 to 2 hours on a very low heat.
For the polenta, bring milk and stock to boil, stir in the polenta and cook over medium to high heat for 5 minutes, stirring. Off the heat, cover and allow to sit for 1 hour. Before serving, add parmesan if using.
To serve, make a gremolata topping: Heat butter in a small pan and brown chopped pumpkin seeds, 2-3 minutes over medium heat. Add a little more butter, add and brown breadcrumbs. Add chopped parsley, stir for a few seconds. Add orange zest, combine and serve immediately – sprinkle each serving with 1-2 tsp of the orange gremolata.
Add a small spoon for those who might like to eat the bone marrow.
Apricot almond Florentines (makes 16 – adapted from the book Ottolenghi)
These are the easiest to make florentines I´ve ever come across. While the original recipe is more festive with honey, candied orange peel and cherries, this is sort of an everyday version. If you prefer them with a chocolate coated base, just glaze them once they´re completely cooled.
110 g slivered almonds
3 (20 g) dried apricots, finely diced
1 (30 g) egg white
40 g confectioner´s sugar
zest from 1/2 organic orange
Preheat the oven to 150°C/300°F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Grease paper with vegetable oil if desired. Fill a small recipient with some water and set aside.
Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl, using a spoon. Add egg white and stir with the spoon until combined.
Place 16 dollops of the mixture (about 1 spoonful each) on the parchment paper. Flatten florentines with the back of the spoon, dipping it in the prepared water after each cookie so it doesn´t stick.
Bake in the middle of the oven for 15-20 minutes, until slightly browned. Let cool on a wire rack.