VEAL got a bad reputation about a decade ago as a result of ethical concerns.
But if veal is sourced from a quality producer and prepared in the right way, it can make a delicious and sustainable dish. Rose veal has been officially approved as ethical by the RSPCA and Compassion in World Farming but we’re still not making the most of it in this country – even though British rose veal is produced to the highest welfare standards. Veal is a by-product of the dairy industry so we should be doing what we can to ensure this delicate meat features on more of our dinner plates.
Several top quality producers and suppliers are field-raising beef veal, and one of my trusted suppliers is Peelham Farm in Berwickshire. They raise a herd of native Scottish Luing and Luing cross suckler cows and the young cows are bred naturally in the open, grazing on the lush local landscape. As a result, the rose veal they produce is pink, tender and delicate. Cuts of veal most commonly used are escalopes, rib chops, T-bone and shoulder. Grilling, frying and roasting is usually the best preparation method for the leaner cuts, but for cuts like the shoulder it’s best to slow cook them until they are tender and flavoursome. One of my favourite veal dishes is Osso Bucco which I make with my own special twist, but I also love to cook veal escalopes at home.
Escalopes are usually generous in size but they are very thinly cut and incredibly lean. Escalopes tend to be beaten even more thinly so they cook really quickly, resulting in a very tender, pale pink meat. Take great care when beating them. I recommend placing the meat between two pieces of greaseproof paper, and carefully taking a mallet or rolling pin and gently batting the meat. Because they’re so thin I love to envelop them around delicious seasonal vegetables – a typically Italian way of cooking with veal. Taking it easy when you bat out the meat means you’ll avoid the veal escalope breaking or tearing when you wrap it around your chosen ingredients.
Another of my favourite recipes is veal sweetbreads. These are a kind of offal so some people can be put off, but they are deliciously creamy when cooked in the right way and are a delicacy in much Mediterranean cooking. It’s sometimes mistakenly thought that sweetbreads are the testicles of the animal but they are two separate glands – the throat gland and the heart or stomach. You’ll get sweetbreads in most quality local butchers but sometimes you might need to order ahead – though I’d definitely say it’s worth doing so. If you’re trying veal at home, make sure you visit your local quality butcher and ask for rose veal, or look out for the Freedom Food label in supermarkets.
Veal Sweetbreads & Endives
2 200g veal sweetbreads
1 tsp capers
salt and pepper to taste
Pre-heat the oven to 180C/Gas 4. Heat two non-stick frying pans. Cut the endives in half and colour in a pan. Place in the oven for five to six minutes until soft. Now season the sweetbreads with salt and pepper and place into the second pan, colouring gently all over.
Cook on a medium heat for four to five minutes, then place in the oven for two to three minutes. Then remove from the pan and rest. Add the butter and capers to the pan to make the sauce. To serve, place the endives on a plate with the sweetbreads on top and the sauce poured over.
2 250g veal escalopes
2 eggs beaten with 50ml milk
200g bread crumbs
1 tsp chopped parsley
2 slices Parma ham
1 lemon, cut in half
1 tbsp oil
salt and pepper to taste
Take three separate containers and place the flour into one, the beaten eggs and milk into another and the bread crumbs into the last one. Season the veal with salt and pepper before dipping in the flour, then the egg mix and lastly the bread crumbs.
Heat a non-stick frying pan and add the oil. Add the veal and cook gently for two to three minutes on each side. Remove the veal and set aside. Using the same pan, add the two halves of the lemon and colour slightly. Add the butter, the Parma ham and parsley and warm through.
To serve, place the veal on the plate with the lemon and parsley butter.