Food bloggers are supposed to be keen to try anything food-related but I have to admit I was very nervous about this assignment and how on earth veal could fit with my high ethical standards? Now I have done my research I am completely happy to recommend rose veal – as long as you source it from Good Life Farming, who farm at Upper Muirhall Farm in Perthshire. Here’s a summary of my veal journey and a few easy recipes…
My only prior experience of eating veal was at a banquet in Italy during my honeymoon. I knew veal came from a baby cow and was vaguely aware that there were issues of animal cruelty. I would never have ordered it but it was part of the set meal, so I gave it a go. The escallop had been gently seared and was cooked medium, it was white inside and fairly tasteless. My brain was whirring about all the bad things I’d heard and I couldn’t understand why humans would kill a baby animal for such a bland and boring meat. I actually felt ill at having eaten it. I vowed “never again”!
Over the years since then I heard further horror stories about veal production. I began to list them here but they are so sickening you don’t want to hear about them and actually they are completely irrelevant to our story as they do not, and have never, occurred at this family-run business. Instead I will tell you about the compassionate, ethical and high welfare treatment of the rose veal raised by Good Life Farming. I quizzed Jim and Moira intently when I met up with them at Edinburgh Farmer’s market!
Veal is indeed the meat from the calf of a cow. This is the first thing that puts many people off but Good Life Farming keep their calves until they are eight months old, which is much older than spring lamb!
If you ever drink/eat dairy products, think about it – the mothers must give birth in order to produce milk for us. What happens to all the unwanted calves at dairy farms?
These are classed as “by products” of the dairy industry! Many are slaughtered soon after birth and used as waste meat (think pet foods), and many are sent to market to be sold to beef farmers (think noisy, stressful auction houses) to grow on for our beef produce.
Good Life Farming source their calves directly from local dairy farms that they have personally inspected themselves to ensure high standards of welfare for the mothers and only use those operating under the Dairy Hi Health Scheme. The calves remain with their mothers long enough to get that all-important early colostrum milk, which is high in protein and contains natural antibodies to protect the newborn against disease. This longer time period with their mothers means that Good Life Farming don’t need to use antibiotics or hormones.
Once the animals leave the local dairy farm, they are then protected by Good Life Farming’s six point welfare guarantee to ensure the animals have a happy life…
- A balanced and nutritious diet
– This is key to understanding why Good Life Farming’s veal is pink in colour. Depending on age the diet consists of milk (from powder), haylage, oats, barley or grass. This means no supplements are required and the animals get the correct range of minerals.
– This is in contrast to European white-veal, where the diet is restrictive, iron is eliminated (to keep the meat white) and the animals suffer from anaemia and associated damage to their immune systems.
- A warm dry bed
– Straw is used for warmth and cleanliness.
– Good Life Farming have pledged that they have never, and will never, use slatted floors.
– Slatted floors are one of those horror stories I mentioned earlier – think foot injuries, pain and lameness!
- The right to range free and graze when appropriate
– When the weather is warm enough and calves are old enough they go out to graze and forage in a nearby field.
– This means the calves grow at a slower more natural rate but also ensures happy lives and more flavoursome meat.
- Ample social contact with other animals
– The only time the animals are housed in individual pens is when they first arrive, in order to ensure they get their full quota of milk. Even then they have social contact with the animal in the next pen.
– As soon as they are old enough to fend for themselves, the calves are put in to larger groups with similar-aged calves.
- Prompt treatment of illness or injury
– Animals are handled and inspected daily and any problems dealt with immediately. Of course, the high welfare standards eliminate many of the illnesses and injury problems seen on other veal farms.
- A life free from unnecessary stress
– Stress is minimised whenever possible. Animals are transported as short a distance as possible, there are no unnecessary “medical” procedures (such as castration or de-horning) and animals are slaughtered in a QMS-assured abattoir with high welfare standards.
All of this care by Good Life Farming results in ethical welfare-friendly veal, with a deep colour and a wonderful sweet flavour.
Cooking with Rose Veal
So, on to the recipes and how to use veal.
Best stock and sauces ever!
The only cooking plan I had in advance of speaking with Good Life Farming was that I wanted some bones to make stock. I have heard from several professional chefs over the years that the best stock is made from veal bones. It gives a richness and a special mouth-feel and apparently enhances the flavour of whichever meat it is served with. It does take a day to make though, so I’d just never taken the time before. A little further research and I discovered that veal stock is the base of a whole host of classical French sauces. So I pre-ordered some veal bones from Jim & Moira’s daughter Karen (this is truly a family business) to collect at the farmer’s market. I’m so glad I did as I have concocted such an amazing variety of sauces – they are truly a gem in thrifty, tasty home cooking! These are the four main things I made from the bones…
Veal stock- also called brown stock – can be used to braise meat or as a base for many classic French sauces
Glace de Viande – veal stock reduced down until thick and syrupy – can be used to fortify sauces, or as stock cubes (I poured mine into an ice-cube tray until the jelly had set)
Espagnole Sauce – this is one of Escoffier’s five mother sauces. It is a little strong by itself but is a great base for many more classic French sauces
Demi-glace : a true demi-glace is made from half Espagnole sauce and half veal stock, cooked together to reduce by half. It is a traditional meat glaze which itself can be used as a base for many other sauces.
I now have a bag of each of these gems in my freezer, so I can make amazing sauces in very little time. I served the demi-glace, flavoured with a little fresh mint, at our family dinner of slow-roast lamb last Sunday. It really did enhance the lamb flavour and Mr Vohn said it was the best meal I’d ever cooked!
So, on to the meat itself and I wasn’t sure which cuts of veal to buy. Whilst browsing their stall at farmer’s market, I noticed a recipe folder. This is a lovely selection of recipes by Good Life Farming’s customers, many of whom are professional chefs. The family test them out during a big family dinner and they all have to be in agreement before the recipe can make it into the folder. This is such a lovely idea – a modern recipe swap, as the recipe sheets are free to other customers to take and use. My first recipe is one of those that have made it into the treasured folder, not surprising as it is by award-winning chef Tim Dover.
Rose Veal Meatballs in White Wine and Red Pepper Sauce
This recipe is by Tim Dover, chef-proprietor of The Roost Restaurant which was recently described by Marco Pierre-White as “Scotland’s Hidden Gem”!
– 450g minced rose veal, by Good Life Farming
– 110g bread crumbs [I used real bread by Woodlea Stables]
– 1 onion (finely chopped)
– 1 tsp fresh herbs (finely chopped) [I used lemon thyme and coriander]
– 2 eggs (lightly beaten)
– Salt & pepper
– 55g butter
In a large bowl combine all the meatball ingredients, except the butter. Roll into balls. I then refrigerated mine for 30 mins to firm up (although the recipe doesn’t specify this, so may not be necessary).
Melt butter in a frying pan (I also added 1 tbsp oil as helps stop the butter browning too quickly). Gently fry the meatballs until golden brown. Lift from pan and keep warm (I popped mine in a medium oven on a baking tray whilst I started the sauce).
– 2 onions (chopped)
– 1 red pepper (seeded and sliced)
– 1 tbsp plain flour
– 450ml chicken stock [I used veal stock instead]
– Half glass white wine
Add onion and pepper to frying pan (i.e. the same frying pan you used to brown the meatballs) and cook gently until soft. Stir in flour and cook until golden brown. Gradually stir in stock and wine. Bring to the boil and whisk to get smooth sauce (I didn’t find whisking was necessary as I added the stock quite slowly). Add the meatballs, cover and simmer over a medium heat for 25 to 30 minutes.
I served this with potato wedges that I cooked in veal fat. The Red Pepper sauce is really special and the meatballs are moist and succulent. Plates in our house were completely cleared, and may have even been licked clean – shh don’t tell anyone!
My second recipe is one I have developed myself. I fancied trying involtini, an Italian recipe for veal escallops which are filled and rolled. I wanted to do a cheese-filled version and as I discussed it with Jim and asked him to recommend a cheese, the customer next to me joined in our chat. It turns out he had popped out from Mellis Cheese in his lunch hour and invited us to come up to their nearby Victoria Street shop to talk cheese. This is one of the joys of farmer’s markets – you never know where conversations will lead you and who you might meet! The cheese he recommended was Prima Donna Maturo, which is a Dutch cow’s milk cheese with a sharp piquant flavour reminiscent of parmesan. It appealed to me that it was cow’s milk, since dairy production and rose veal production go hand-in-hand. It was a little too piquant for me as an eating cheese but made for a perfect match with the rose veal.
Prima Donna Involtini – recipe
Thin succulent veal escallop filled with zingy cheese and herbs, served with a deep rich sauce.
An original recipe by Vohn’s Vittles
– 2 rose veal escallops (approx. 100g each), from Good Life Farming
– ½ tsp fresh lemon thyme, finely chopped
– ½ tsp fresh peppermint, finely chopped
– handful of pea shoots
– 30g Prima Donna Maturo cheese, very thinly sliced
– 2 tbsp oil [I use Scottish cold-pressed rapeseed oil]
– 50ml demi-glace
– Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
Place the escallops between two sheets of greaseproof paper and roll, with a rolling pin, to flatten to a uniform thickness. Sprinkle each escallop with the herbs and a little black pepper. Top with the pea shoots, discarding any tougher stalks, then the sliced cheese. Roll tightly (if the escallop is not square then start rolling from the narrowest edge) and secure with cocktail sticks.
Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium-high heat, add the involtini and fry until browned all over. Add the demi-glace, bring to the boil, then reduce heat to medium and cook 2 minutes. Turn the involtini, season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste and cook another 3 minutes. Remove the involtini from the pan and rest for one minute before slicing and serving.
I served this with steamed purple-sprouting broccoli and it was an absolute hit. The cheese was perfect and somehow enlivened the pea shoots, which were a perfect match for the succulent delicate veal. My daughter is still talking about this dish a week later!
So, we have eaten some delicious meals in the past couple of weeks and I have made the best sauces of my life! I am converted entirely to rose veal, but I will only be sourcing it from Good Life Farming due to their high ethical and welfare standards. Seek them out yourself at the Crail Food Festival and elevate your home cooking to the next level!
Producer: Good Life Farming
Website: Good Life Farming
Facebook: Good Life Farming
Good Life Farming will be appearing at the Crail Food Festival on Sunday 14th June. Tickets now on sale from our ticketing partners See Tickets, or by telephoning: 0871 220 0260 (calls cost 10p per minute plus standard network charges)