While we’re not welcoming back to the fold any wayward prodigal sons, (well not yet anyway), we are feasting on fatted calf this month in the form of veal. I say fatted calf but actually veal meat is very low in fat – particularly in saturated fat – making it a healthy alternative to other meats. As it is a very lean meat, us cooks have to be cautious not to over cook it.

A gentle heat is all that is required, otherwise a tender juicy piece of meat will become bland and dry. While I’m using welfare-friendly West Country rose veal from Brookfield Farm, (no, not the one that’s had the alleged arson attack in The Archers), veal production has been a controversial issue, and not just in recent history. Victorian cookery writer Mrs Beeton condemned certain veal-rearing practices as far back as 1861.

Veal steak is a wonderful alternative to beef steak, which I always cook with a delicious tarragon and peppercorn sauce. Serve with a simple green salad and new potatoes for this time of year. I have also included a veal casserole recipe, which is one to keep for colder, shorter days. It is easy to prepare and is full of wonderful autumn flavours.

Finally, everyone enjoys a homemade burger and my veal burgers are made special with the addition of a few spices. Try to buy “ras el hanout” spice mix as it works fabulously with veal and most other meats for a taste of Morocco. The name means “top of the shop” which reflects its expensive ingredients, and serving these burgers with this delicious, summery and vibrant salsa is guaranteed to be a crowd-pleaser. At last, summer is here!

 

Veal Steaks with Tarragon and Peppercorn Sauce

Serves 2

  • 2 veal loin steaks, 200g (7oz) each
  • 20 leaves of French tarragon
  • 1 teaspoon of whole green peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon of black peppercorns
  • A few drops of tarragon vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • 75ml (3 fl oz) dry vermouth
  • 100ml double cream
  • ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 20g butter
  • ½ tablespoon oil

Chop the tarragon and the green peppercorns quite fine and mash them into the butter. Crush the black peppercorns and pat them on to the veal steaks and season with salt. Heat a frying pan, add the oil and then fry the steaks until seared and browned on both sides and cooked how you like them – medium rare is recommended. Remove the steaks from the pan and set aside. Put the vermouth and vinegar into the pan. Stir the mustard into the liquid and when it has mixed in, put in the cream. Boil this sauce until it starts to thicken then stir in the butter. By now you will have some juices that have run out of the steaks – add these to your sauce. Taste for seasoning. Serve the steaks and spoon the sauce over part of the steak leaving some of the meat visible.

Moroccan Veal Burger with Beetroot and Mango Salsa

Veal burger

Serves 4

  • 450g (1lb) minced veal
  • 4 tablespoons of chopped mint, parsley and marjoram
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon “ras el hanout” spice mix
  • 1 teaspoon harissa (optional)
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 4 pitta breads for serving
  • For the beetroot and mango salsa:
  • 400g (14 oz) cooked peeled beetroot
  • 1 ripe mango
  • 1 small clove of garlic
  • Juice of half an orange
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons thick yoghurt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 sprigs of mint
  • Salt and ground black pepper

Place the minced veal into a bowl with the herbs, seasoning, spices and onion. Mix together thoroughly and divide into four. Flatten and shape your burgers into an oval. Set aside. To make the salsa, crush the garlic to a paste. Chop the mint. Combine the orange juice, garlic, mint, honey, ginger, mustard, yoghurt and olive oil and season with the salt and pepper. Cut the beetroot into neat cubes and place in a bowl. Peel and dice the mango, and place in another bowl. Just prior to using, stir the dressing into the beetroot and then mix in the mango. Fry or grill your burgers in the usual way, (using this quality meat means that you can leave it slightly pink in the middle making it more juicy). Split the pitta bread, place a burger in each one with a generous helping of the salsa.

Casserole of Veal with Sherry and Wild Mushrooms

Veal casserole

Serves 6-8

  • 1kg (2.2lbs) stewing veal (shoulder cut)
  • 1 onion
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 sprig of rosemary
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 25g (1oz) plain flour
  • 275ml (½ pint) chicken stock
  • 1 small glass of white wine
  • 25g (1oz) butter
  • 110g (4oz) small white button mushrooms
  • 10g (½ oz) dried wild porcini
  • 100ml (3 ½ fl oz) double cream
  • 2 tablespoons dry sherry

Preheat the oven to 150C (300F/gas mark 2). Chop the onion finely, crush the garlic and cut the veal into cubes. Soak the dried porcini in the (hot) chicken stock. Sweat the onion and garlic in the butter without colouring and then transfer into a casserole. Then fry the veal over a high heat allowing any liquids that come from the meat to evaporate. Sprinkle the flour over the meat until it coats it and disappears. Add the wine and the chicken stock (with the porcini – chopped up a bit if they are large pieces). Bring to the boil, season with the salt and pepper and add the herbs. Now transfer this to the casserole with the onion and garlic. Cook in the oven until the meat is tender. Then stir in the cream and sherry and bring to the boil. Season to taste.