Jersey Bull Calves a Forgotten Flavour

For the past few years there has been a big mutton revival going on in the UK, championed by top chefs and the Prince of Wales. Others, like Fergus Henderson of St John have given offal a cult following. The most recent development on the UK food scene was the launch of real veal at the recent Organic Food Awards in Bristol. 
This initiative will be of interest to Irish dairy farmers and has potential for the bull calf industry. Intensively reared veal has long carried a stigma among chefs and diners because of the negative image of the production system used to produce white veal. Chefs are calling for high welfare veal to be more widely available.

A campaign for good veal backed by the country’s leading chefs and organic farming industry was launched recently with the publication of the Good Veal Guide. Chefs led by Barny Haughton, and supported by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Sophie Grigson, are backing the initiative. 

Veal is often boycotted by the animal welfare conscious because of the negative image of young calves in dimly lit pens. However, the reality now is that production methods adopted by organic farmers mean the animals have plenty of space and light. They are outside in warmer months, enjoy a varied diet and very often the care of a foster cow.

With a life span of six months, organic calves live twice as long as even the slowest growing chicken, share the same life span as a good organic pig and live longer than many organic lambs.

Philip Lymbery, Chief Executive of Compassion in World Farming, says ‘we applaud this initiative for providing better lives for calves through higher welfare systems and thereby helping to save them from the inhumane live export trade’.

Chef Barny Haughton of Quartier Vert and Bordeaux Quay in Bristol has been championing sustainable food production for over 18 years. He produced The Good Veal Guide to coincide with the launch with delicious recipes.

“Organic veal is a meat with a delicate, but sweet flavour”, says Barny Haugton. “It is tender in texture, pink in colour and it is also wonderfully versatile; from saltimbocca – thin slices, a few seconds in the frying pan with butter and lemon – to osso bucco – shanks, slowly braised with tomatoes and white wine - to a beautiful golden veal and ham pie. It is for sound gastronomic reasons that veal is at the heart of traditional European cooking”, he continues.

The first humane organic veal system was pioneered ten years ago by Helen Browning, the dynamic organic farmer who runs Eastbrook Farm in Wiltshire. Also Food and Farming Director of the Soil Association she says that consumers can play a key role in reversing what can be an uncertain future for many calves. “The calf’s mother will go back into the organic dairy herd producing the pints, the yoghurts and the cheeses that many of us enjoy every day”, she says. “But what of the calf? The typical male dairy calf will never turn itself into a great beef animal, but good farming will produce superb meat from these livestock at a younger age. This veal should not be tarred with the same brush as the imported white slab of protein often served in the UK.”

Helen Browning is a dynamic farmer who also rears organic pigs –My ears pricked up immediately when I heard about this initiative because my father-in-law Ivan Allen had a Jersey herd for over 35 years. Myrtle served the bull calves in the restaurant and called it baby beef. They were killed at about 5 months, the meat was pale rosy pink, the flavour sweet and delicate. Now that I have two little Jersey cows for milk for the house and cookery school we also cherish our heifer and bull calves equally and are looking forward to tasting ‘a forgotten flavour’. 

Rosé Veal Chop
Humanely reared veal is often referred to as Rosé Veal to distinguish it from its intensively reared counterpart.


6 Rosé veal chops, 1 inch (2.5cm) thick
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
2oz (50g) butter
24-30 fresh sage leaves
6 segments of lemon

Heat the pangrill, drizzle the chops with extra virgin olive oil. Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

Cook for 5-8 minutes on a hot pan grill.

Meanwhile, heat 2oz (50g) butter in a frying pan to a medium heat. Dry the sage leaves and add to the pan.
Cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute until they frizzle up. 

Put the chops on to a hot serving plate, spoon the frizzled sage leaves over each chop.
Serve with a segment of lemon.

Veal Escalopes with Butter and Lemon – Vitello al burro el limone
from Gennaro’s Italian Year by Gennaro Contaldo, published by Headline

Serves 4

4 veal escalopes, each about 150g (5oz), thinly sliced
Salt and pepper
Plain flour for dusting
50g (2oz) butter
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of 1½ lemons, plus a few slices of lemon, thinly sliced and zest and pith removed
100ml (3½ fl.oz) white wine

Season the meat with salt and pepper, and dust them with flour, shaking off any excess.

In a large frying pan, heat the butter and extra-virgin olive oil, then add the veal escalopes and lemon slices, and cook for a couple of minutes on each side. Add the lemon juice and white wine, shaking the pan to make the sauce creamy.

Remove the meat and lemon slices and arrange on a serving dish or on 4 plates. Pour over the sauce from the pan and serve immediately.

A Classic Blanquette of Veal
Serves 6

3 lb (1.3kg) good stewing veal
2-2¼ pints (1.2-1.5 litres) light veal or chicken stock
1 large onion with a clove in it
1 large carrot, scraped and quartered
1 bouquet garni
2 sticks celery
8 parsley stalks
Pinch of salt
24 baby onions
¼ pint (150ml) stock
½ oz (10g) butter
24 button mushrooms without stalks
½ oz (10g) butter
2½ fl.oz (62ml) stock

Roux made from 2 oz (50g) butter and 2oz (50g) flour

Lemon juice
Heart shaped croutons
4oz (110g)clarified butter
Chopped parsley

For Liason:
2 eggs
¼ pint (150ml) cream

Trim the veal of all fat and gristle. Cut into 1½ inch (4cm) cubes. 

Put the veal in a saucepan, cover with cold water, bring to the boil and simmer gently for 2 minutes. Drain off the water and rinse away the scum from the veal. Wash the saucepan. (This is called blanching the veal.)

Put the veal back into the casserole with the stock, onion, carrot, bouquet garni, celery, parsley stalks and salt.

Bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 1-1¼ hours or until tender. 

Meanwhile, peel the onions. Simmer in a covered casserole for 40 minutes approx. in ¼ pint (150ml) stock and ½ oz (10g) butter. Toss the mushrooms in butter and a squeeze of lemon juice, add 2½ fl.oz (62ml) stock, and simmer in a covered casserole until cooked through, about 10 minutes.

Sauté the croutons on both sides in clarified butter until golden brown, keep warm.

When the veal is tender, strain off the cooking liquid, bring to the boil and thicken with roux, simmer for a few minutes, then add the mushrooms and onions, and simmer gently until heated through. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste. 

Meanwhile, remove the carrot, onion, celery and bouquet garni from the veal pieces and discard. Add the veal to the sauce.

*May be prepared ahead to this point.

Just before serving, slowly reheat the veal, onions and mushrooms if necessary, mix the egg and cream together and pour in some of the boiling liquid and then stir into the casserole. Be careful not to allow the blanquette to boil once the liason has been added, otherwise it may curdle.

Serve in a warm dish surrounded by pilaff rice.

Dip the ends of the croutons into the blanquette and then into the chopped parsley. Use to garnish the dish. Serve with a simple pilaff rice.

Pilaff Rice
2 tablesp. finely chopped onion or shallot

1oz (30g) butter
13oz (375g) long grain rice, preferably Basmati
32 fl.oz (900ml) home-made chicken stock
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Melt the butter in a casserole, add the finely chopped onion and sweat for 2-3 minutes, add the rice and toss for a minute or two until the grain changes colour. Season with salt and pepper, cover with chicken stock and bring to the boil. Simmer either on top or in the oven for approx. 10 minutes, or until the rice is just cooked and all the water is absorbed.

Note – Basmati rice cooks quite quickly, other types of rice may take up to 15 minutes.

Osso Bucco alla Milanese
Serves 6

2 hind shanks of veal, sawed into about 8 pieces, about 2 in (5cm) long
Securely tied around the middle
2oz (50g) butter
5oz (150g) chopped onion
4oz (110g) carrot, finely chopped
4oz (110g) celery, finely chopped
1 teaspoon garlic, finely chopped
2 strips lemon peel
4 fl.oz (125ml) vegetable oil
3oz (75g) flour
8 fl.oz (225ml) dry white wine
12 fl.oz (350ml) beef stock
12oz (350g) canned Italian tomatoes, coarsely chopped with their juice
¼ teasp. fresh thyme leaves
4 leaves fresh basil, chopped (optional)
2 bay leaves
2 or 3 sprigs of parsley
Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 clove garlic, very finely chopped
1 teasp.grated lemon rind
2 tablesp. parsley, finely chopped

In a heavy casserole, just large enough to hold the veal, melt the butter and add the chopped onion, carrot and celery . Cook over medium heat for 8-10 minutes until the vegetables are soft. Add the garlic and lemon peel. Remove from the heat.

Heat the vegetable oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Dust the veal shanks with flour and brown in the sauté pan. When brown on all sides place the shanks in the casserole on the bed of vegetables. 

Pour off almost all the fat in the sauté pan and add the wine, boil briskly for about 3 minutes scraping up the residue in the pan. Pour over the veal. In the same sauté pan, add the beef stock and bring to the boil. Pour into the casserole. Add the chopped tomatoes, thyme, basil (if using), bay leaves, parsley, salt and freshly ground pepper. The liquid should come up to the top of the pieces of veal, add more stock if necessary.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F.gas 4.

Bring the casserole to a simmer on top of the stove, cover tightly. Place in the lower part of the preheated oven and cook for about 2 hours, turning and basting the veal every 20 minutes. The veal is cooked when it is very tender and the sauce is dense and creamy. Meanwhile make some gremolata by mixing together the garlic, lemon rind and parsley. Sprinkle over the veal as it finishes cooking.

Remove from pan, remove the strings. 
Boil up the sauce if necessary and spoon over the veal.

Mary Risley’s Braised Veal with Oranges
Serves 4

5lb ( 2.2kg) veal roast, cut from the heel of the round (with bone)
Or 4 veal shanks as for Osso Bucco
1 large onion, thinly sliced
Juice of 2 oranges
Juice of 1 lemon
Bouquet garni (including 1 clove)
Sprig of fresh basil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Olive oil
1 orange
4 fl.oz (125ml) chicken or veal stock
2 fl.oz (50ml) wine vinegar and a little sugar

Combine the onion, orange and lemon juice, bouquet garni, basil, salt and pepper in a bowl big enough to hold the veal. Marinate the veal for 12 hours, turning it two or three times.

Remove the veal from the marinade, wipe it off and coat with olive oil. 
Preheat the oven to 325F/160C/gas3.

Brown the veal on all sides in a casserole on top of the stove. Add the marinade and bake in the covered casserole in the preheated oven for 1-1½ hours.

Remove the zest from the orange with a vegetable peeler and cut into tiny julienne strips. Blanch these in boiling water for 2 minutes, drain in a small sieve and run under cold water to stop the cooking. Remove all the white part from the orange and section the orange.

Remove the veal from the casserole and keep warm. It will be easier to carve if it is allowed to rest for 20 minutes. In an electric blender combine the braising liquid with the stock and blend. Reheat this sauce in a small saucepan, whisk in the wine vinegar (sweetened slightly). Add the orange zest and the orange sections. Correct seasoning.

Carve the veal into thin slices, arrange them overlapping in a row on a heated serving dish and pour over the hot sauce and oranges.

Foolproof Food

Apple and Raisin Squares
Lovely with a cup of coffee or for the lunchbox.

8ozs (225g) self raising flour
8ozs (225g) porridge oats
1 level teaspoon bread soda (bicarbonate of soda)
8ozs (225g) butter
8ozs (225g) sugar
2 tablespoons golden syrup
2 eating apples
4 ozs (110g) raisins

9½ inch (24cm) square tin, lightly greased.

Mix the flour, oats and bread soda together. Melt the butter, sugar and golden syrup together over a gentle heat and add to the dry ingredients. Press half the mixture into the lightly greased tin. Peel, core and chop the apple finely, mix with the raisins and sprinkle over, then spread the remaining oat mixture on top.

Bake for 30 minutes 180C/350F/gas 4, leave to cool for 5 minutes, cut into squares and transfer to a wire rack.

Hot tips

Fota Honey Show – Sunday 8th October 
Open to the public at 2.00pm

Slow Food Farmers Market, Oliver Plunkett Street, Cork, 11-5 Sunday 15th October with 30 artisan food stalls.
Part of the Slow Food Cork Festival 2006 running from 13-15th October, also includes Foodie films at Kino Cinema –  or at Cork Film Festival Office or Kellys Post Office, Grand Parade. Slow Food Workshops (including one on Spices and on School Lunchboxes), Festival Dinners, Mushroom Hunt at Longueville House near Mallow (022-47156). For festival enquiries – email:  

Eurotoques Mushroom Hunt, Castle Leslie, Glaslough, Co Monaghan
Sunday 15th October at 12 noon. Guide will be Louis Smith of GMIT
Tel Euro-toques office on 01-6779995 for bookings. Tel Castle Leslie 047-88100

About the author

Darina Allen
By Darina Allen


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