When one Mother’s Day leads to Another

Because Anne’s birthday falls close or on Mother’s day, depending on the year, we rarely do anything special for me. Come to think of it, Marc’s birthday is on Valentine’s Day Eve and Terry’s birthday falls on or close to Father’s Day. That means that, by the time we’ve focused on the birthday person, we’re generally too “partied out” to organise another celebration. I realise it sounds quite sad, but in truth, we’re all ok with it and we’ve been known to pick a random date when it suits us and make it our very own romantic day!

Besides, the advantage of being a multi-national family like ours, is that we get to enjoy French celebrations as well as Australian ones. Which is probably the reason why we don’t really feel too perturbed about missing out, since we can always make up for it on the French calendar.

So Australian’s Mother’s Day was very quiet indeed. The kids allowed me to sleep in while they cooked breakfast and we all sat together for a while. Then Terry and Marc left for work, and Anne asked if I wanted to go somewhere for lunch. I politely declined, dreading the queues and busy restaurants we were sure to find ( being Mother’s Day and all…) and offered to take her to the movies instead for a mother-daughter date. I had my mind set on the advanced screening of the new historical drama Viceroy’s House which I knew neither of the boys were keen on seeing, but was hoping to interest Anne. Unsurprisingly, she wasn’t a fan of the idea, but agreed to come along if I would let her watch Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy 2 , a film “she was dying to see” and then we could meet at the end of our respective movies. For a split second, I felt like putting my foot down and invoke my right to pick the movie of the day. Then I took a deep breath, and said “ you got yourself a deal ”. It wasn’t a bad deal, quite the contrary: we both got what we wanted, in my case a little “me” time and an escape from the everyday. The day ended as easy as it started , with a comforting dish of Beef Osso Bucco and polenta that I had prepared the night before in anticipation, so that technically I would not be cooking on Mother’s Day. Yes, sometimes a little organisation helps for things to fall into place…

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As for my own mother, she lives in France and could not join us. In fact, I am embarrassed to say that in the 30 years since I left home, I can count on one hand the times we have celebrated Mother’s Day together. She and my father came to visit us in May last year, and it was the opportunity to share a special lunch at Henry’s in Cronulla, making up for all these long distance phone calls over the years…
La Fete des Meres, French Mother’s Day, is this weekend, on May 28. I will not spend it with Mum, as she is overseas this year ( she travels nearly as much as I do, maybe I got the bug from her! ) but she will be in my thoughts as always. Hoping her day is as relaxing and joyful as mine was, I like to think that some kind soul will be cooking her something delicious too…

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From our house to yours, Bonne Fete des Meres! xx

Beef Osso Bucco

This is my version of the italian classic. As usual, I adapted for whatever was on hand starting with a profusion of mint and carrots! The “Osso Bucco” part of this dish comes from the cross-cut beef shanks, more readily available ( and cheaper ) than veal. I substituted port for wine, as an experiment and because I had some left over from another dish. It gives the sauce a subtle sweetness we all loved! Finally, polenta was my accompaniment of choice but it would be equally delicious with pasta and I know my mother would prefer it served along with rice.

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Serves 6

Ingredients:

6 cross-cut bone-in beef shanks ( approx 1.8 kg)
1 cup plain flour
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, peeled and diced
3 carrots, peeled and diced
1 celery stalk, diced
1 can 410g diced tomatoes
1 cup of port
1/4 cup sultanas, soaked in the port for 30 mn
4 cups chicken stock
A handful of mint leaves, chopped

  1. Pat the shanks dry using paper towels. Place in a ziplock bag with the flour, salt and pepper. Close the bag and shake the meat to dredge it in flour. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over high – medium heat until slightly smoking. Shake off excess flour from the meat before adding it to the pot and cook until browned on both sides. Set aside.
  2. Add onion, carrots and celery to the dutch oven, reduce heat to medium and cook stirring occasionally until vegetables start to soften. Add the diced tomatoes and their juice, the port and marinated sultanas and stir. Cook for a minute until fragrant. Add chicken stock, scraping any brown bits from the bottom of the pot.
  3. Transfer the shanks back into the pot along with any juice they would have rendered. Bring the mixture to the boil, reduce the heat to very low and simmer covered for 1h1/2 or until the meat is very tender.
    Uncover and keep cooking for another 20mn to allow for the sauce to reduce a little.
  4. Serve hot with polenta and sauteed vegetables ( I used mushrooms and broccolini ) Sprinkle with mint and/or parmesan, if desired.

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