Years ago my maternal grandmother, Gigi as we call her, asked me what I'd like for a present. My answer was quick and decisive: a pot. A sturdy one, like those from her kitchen and that of my parents, the kind of pot that ends up with a job in its title - the Rice Pot, the Dal Pot, the Jam Pot - a workhorse kind of pot. We settled on one in cast iron with a substantial lid. Her choice was perfect.
As our family has grown, so has my collection of iron pots. There's the medium round, which is the favourite for baking bread, the large enameled round in which I make soups, and then the burly original oval - it's got presence; all shiny deep green outside, like a forest in darkness, with matte black interior. Empty, the pot has heft, full it's downright heavy, landing with a muffled thud when heaved from the oven to the table.
And, in a way that feels fitting, a vessel which requires such athleticism in its transport is rarely used for sprightly fare. That's the one preferred come colder months, for braising shanks and roasts, for stews and the heartiest of our meals.
In UPPERCASE magazine this season I wrote about a braised beef blade roast, and it's a workhorse too. Immensely adaptable, the recipe owes some lineage to Boeuf Bourguignon; its gravy is rich and deep with red wine, heady with herbs and sweet with root vegetables. To finish, it gets some pointers from Osso Bucco, as I've borrowed its gremolata - an ending garnish of parsley, garlic and lemon zest - to accent the mellow flavours of this slow-cooked stew.
There's a family secret in the story as well, as you'll find Gigi's influence in the ingredients. She's a smart one, in matters of both cookware and recipes, so I'm particularly excited to share her coveted wisdom with you.