Most Australian meat-eaters cook regularly with some or all of beef, lamb, pork and chicken; far fewer prepare dishes using cuts of veal. In our experience, this is either a matter of taste – some find veal bland – or a lack of experience or confidence.
Maggie and I have both cooked with veal for decades. However, our shared repertoire was quite narrow and we decided early in 2012 that we would like to extend it, while learning new techniques and adding some cuts of veal with which we were less familiar.
So, we had a chat to our butcher and bought a calf. While we were waiting for a quality calf to arrive, we scoured some of our cookbooks for recipes we might like to try. We already had a few favourites – osso bucco, loin chops braised with leeks and veal parmigiana; we had also made vitello tonnato a couple of times. Fresh inspiration came from four books: the French cookbook mentioned in my Coq au vin post and books written by three Australian writers – Stephanie Alexander, Beverley Sutherland-Smith and Maggie Beer).
Our research helped us to guide our butcher as he broke down the carcass into various cuts. We took our calf home, chose a recipe and cut for our first dish, set aside some bones to make stock and put the rest in the freezer.
The recipes for the dishes that we cooked and enjoyed enough to do a second time were added to our in-house publication of favourite recipes. This season, we will be preparing some of these dishes once again and I will share recipes and photos as we proceed. However, I will begin with our latest veal dish, inspired by our recent travels in Europe.
TGV (tasty gourmet veal) meatballs
Maggie and I travelled by train from Dijon to Salzburg to begin the second week of our travels. The journey took about 9 hours and we supplemented the sandwiches we had bought at Dijon’s train station with a serve of veal meatballs from the train’s kitchenette. They were just delicious, and quite different from the very tasty Italian style of veal (and pork) meatballs. Once we were home, we modified an online recipe to prepare something that matches our palate memory. We have named it in honour of the TGV (Train Grande Vitesse) that reached a maximum speed of 308kmh during our journey!
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
1 cut-for-toast slice of dense bread, crusts removed, torn
25 ml milk
500g minced veal
1 tsp Dijon mustard
¼ tsp mixed spice, ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
salt and pepper
a little extra butter
1 clove of garlic, finely sliced
6-8 button Swiss Brown mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 cup of chicken stock
olive oil for frying
¼ cup cooking cream
- Melt butter over gentle heat and sauté the onion for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.
- Place bread in a mixing bowl. Add milk and stand for 5 minutes. Add mince, onion, mustard, spices and egg, and then season generously. Mix to combine well then refrigerate mixture for 30 minutes.
- Add stock, garlic and mushroom to a saucepan, bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes to extract flavours. Strain, pressing with a spoon, and reserve the stock. (This step is optional but it does add to the richness of the sauce.)
- Roll level tablespoons of the mixture into balls (you should produce up to 20 meatballs).
- Heat a little olive oil in a non-stick pan and brown the meatballs well in 2-3 batches, depending on the size of the pan (don’t crowd the pan or the meatballs will stew). Reserve the meatballs in a dish in a warm oven.
- Add stock to the pan juices, bring to the boil and simmer for about 10 minutes to thicken and darken the sauce. Add the cream and cook for 3 minutes. Add the meatballs, cover with a lid and simmer for 2-3 minutes.
- You could serve the meat balls with some herbed brown rice and a salad of green leaves or some pieces of kipfler potato, Dutch carrots and fresh beans or peas.