Veal is not looked upon very favorably in the UK, due to tales of animal cruelty, concerning its production. I was firmly in the anti veal camp, also due to the fact that it conjured up images of anaemic, grey,slithers of tough tasteless meat, covered in breadcrumbs.
I began to reluctantly change my stance when a friend who was an abattoir worker pointed out to me that the ‘bobby calves’ born into dairy herds (males of no use for breeding or providing milk) were slaughtered immediately after birth. condemning what was the best meat to be put into tins of dog and cat food.
So by refusing to eat veal, I was not saving the calves, just sparing them a short life of misery……but certainly no more miserable than that of a ‘battery’ chicken or Laboratory rabbit!
In the UK my favourite meat was lamb, but sheep are in short supply in France. I also cooked quite a lot with chicken as it is so versatile, and I loved a nice tender fillet steak.
When I moved to France, I discovered that meat cuts were very different, and fillet steak did just not exist as it does in the UK. I had to seek alternatives – Duck became the new lamb (confit de canard coming soonto’A Taste of Two Cities’) but what about beef and steak…………
Then I discovered that measures are very firmly in place governing the production of veal.
I buy only meat from – quote – ‘Animals who have been raised in the open air, fed on milk by their mother, who in turn has been fed only on cereals natural to her breed’. Each animal can be traced by an identification number to the farm where it was raised. So this eased my conscience a little……….
Some of you may still not be convinced (if so, maybe you could make this recipe witheither beef or lamb,), but this is a true reflection of how we eat in France and veal, duck, rabbit and even horse in some parts (I could never stretch this far) is on the menu and vegetarianism is virtually non existent….
I made this dish using an ancient variety of carrot that has just made it back on the scene – ‘carotteviolette’ which apart from the obvious difference in colour, have a less sweet, slightly earthier flavour than the regular variety. (they are mostly only violet on the part of the carrot, just beneath the skin, but in general they are a much deeper rusty orangecolour)A word of warning, wash your hands immediately after handling them as they do stain your palms……
There are also lovely ‘yellow’ and ‘white’ carrots available at this time of year (yellow are actually more like a pale orange and white a pale yellow in colour) and these have a sweeter more delicate flavour, and are lovely made into a puree using a little coconut milk to serve with fish.
Cocotte de veau avec carottes violette et gingembre
Serves 4 generously
750g veal (sauté de veau)
4 rashes of smoked streaky bacon cut into small cubes (un demipaquet de lardoons fume)
4 medium carrots cut into batons or a packet of baby carrots (preferable)
2 shallots very finely chopped
1 clove of garlic very finely chopped
1 teaspoon/cuillere de café of ginger/gingembre very finely chopped
1 level tablespoon of corn flour/ 2 cuilleres de soupe de farine de maise
A good glug of white wine
¾ of a pint/ 500 ml vegetable stock
salt and pepper to taste
1 dessertspoon/1 cuiller de soupe of butter
Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed casserole (preferably le Creuset or similar,alternatively in a slow cooker) and brown the veal on all sides then remove from pan and set aside (this is best done in small batches so that the meat seals quickly, if you put too much into the pan at once, it will create steam and not brown)
Sauté the bacon for 3 minutes until brown, then ad the shallots and garlic and ginger and cook for a further minute, taking care not to burn.
Return the veal to the pan and coat with the corn flour.
Season with salt and pepper then add a good glug of white wine, stirring well to form a paste with the flour.
Add the stock (again stirring well to avoid developing lumps – if this does happen, just continue to stir until they disappear)
Reduce to the lowest heat possible and simmer gently for at least 4 hours (the longer, the better) stirring from time to time.
1 hour before serving sauté the carrots and ginger in the butter for 5 minutes, then add to the casserole. (if you like, you can do the same with some chestnut mushrooms cut into half’s or quarters, depending on the size for 10 minutes before serving and add these to the casserole at the last minute)
This dish is delicious and it never fails to produce ‘The Silent Factor’ when I serve it to guests……………
I serve it with sautéed potatoes, but is also great with ‘Alsace’ pasta.
(Alsace pasta is not so slippy as Italian varieties and holds a sauce much better, I like to use ‘Spatzle’ which resembles large noodles, but is much more chewy and substantial)