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The Caterer

Veal

14 February 2007
Veal

It's not certain that the name "rose veal" will stick. What is clear is that meat from calves reared mainly on grass (generally organically) to between seven and nine months of age has its place. As an alternative to French milk-fed (a luxury item) and Dutch (factory farmed) calf meat, the home-grown product holds its own. Chefs who discover it, such as Tony Borthwick at the Plumed Horse, Edinburgh, find a new repertoire opening up for them. It's a high-yielding meat and so long as you avoid the loins and expensive cushion preferred by Italian restaurants for escalopes, it offers economical cuts that have a high value on the customer's plate.

Veal consumption is still insignificant: less than 100,000 animals are reared for veal per year. The numbers, though, are increasing. And with Gordon Ramsay encouraging the public to eat it, chefs are bound to take note.

Tony Borthwick

At Crossmichael, near Castle Douglas, Kirkcudbrightshire, Tony Borthwick owned one of the least-accessible Michelin-starred restaurants in the country, the Plumed Horse. His move to Edinburgh at the tail end of last year took him from relative peace and quiet into the cut and thrust of big-city cuisine where reputations rise and fall according to the caprice of a fickle dining-out public. Despite an early run-in with an uncharitable food critic, he found that he was earning as much in a week from his new venture as he had in a month on the Scottish borders.

A latecomer to the kitchen, Borthwick was well into his twenties before he committed himself to a cooking career. He has developed the kind of thoughtful, independent approach typical of many self-taught cooks, especially those who have to watch every penny they spend.

Crépinette of truffled braised veal, medallion of veal silverside and roasted sweetbread

Costings

Veal cost per kg: £8.30
Price approx: £50
Boned joint weight: 6.15kg
Estimated portions: 16

Other ingredients
1.5kg calves' sweetbreads
Cost per kg: £19.80
Estimated portions: 16
Vegetables and mise en place ingredients: about £2.50
Optional fresh black truffle at £1 per gram: about £50

Total cost for 16 portions: £133
Selling Price: £24 per portion
Return: £384

Preparation work

Planning

The Plumed Horse makes two batches of veal per week. The crépinettes for each batch can be fully prepared, ready for à la minute cooking and vacuumed in their hoops in packs of four.

Rolled silverside, once it has set, can be sliced to order.

All the accompaniments may be trimmed and prepped ahead of service but should be cooked to order, except for the spinach (which can be baked, chilled and reheated) and the mushroom.

Boning

Tony Borthwick buys British veal from Innes Robb of the Hyndford Meat Company in Lanark (01555 660174) who used to supply him when his restaurant was at Crossmichael.

The 6kg to 7kg boned joint, sold to him as "silverside" is a combination of muscles: the whole silverside, the thick flank (Scottish name: top rump) muscles and a smaller knotty muscle, the intermedius, which joins the meat to the bone. By seaming out the joint, Borthwick can use each piece to good effect.

Lay the joint on the board so that the "bark" (the outer surface) is on the underneath. Pare out the white fat that lies in the seams between the muscles (1).

Reserve it to make veal lard - render in a moderate oven for about 45 minutes. Following the natural conformation of the meat, separate the long, narrower silverside from the thick flank (2) and the more gristly nugget of meat (the intermedius) (3).

Trim each of these pieces in turn (4). Under trimmings from the "bark" should be discarded because they become musty with ageing, but other trimmings should be kept back (5). The thick flank has a seam running through it joined by collagen. This has to be taken out.

Yield and breakdown of boning

Silverside: 1.2kg
Flank: 2kg
Intermedius: 410g
Trimming for jelly: 1kg
Fat for rendering: 660g
Waste: 880g

Veal jelly recipe

Ingredients

(makes 500ml)

40g veal dripping
1kg veal trimmings
1tsp tomato paste
Approx 3 litres water

Method

Heat the dripping in a large saucepan till it smokes. Add the trimmings and brown them thoroughly, turning the meat over regularly. It will sear, then it will start to leech out juices and then it will go through a second phase of caramelisation. Be patient: it takes up to 15 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste (7).

Deglaze with water, scraping residue from the pan bottom. Bring to the boil. Skim. Don't fret if the liquid looks cloudy at this stage. Simmer for up to four hours, allowing natural evaporation. Drain the remaining liquid. Strain it through a fine sieve or cloth. It should be clear, auburn and set to a springy jelly, not a full glaze, but more concentrated than a classic demi-glace.

Veal binding farce

Ingredients
300g (approx) diced intermedius (6) (trimmed veal shin would do as well)

150ml melted veal jelly, just above setting point
80g egg white
30ml Madeira
60ml double cream
50g finely diced black truffle (optional)

Method

Blend the veal in a food processor to a rough purée (8). Add the jelly and blend again (9). Chill, then blend once more with the egg white, then the Madeira and double cream. Scrape the emulsified farce through a drum sieve (10). Add the optional truffles (11).

Preparing the silverside

The boned silverside is rolled in layers of film to form a neat cylinder of lean meat. Left in the fridge to set it can be sliced into medallions to order.

Plumed Horse Veal Stock

Other veal stock used in this recipe for braising the veal and making the sauce is prepared as a concentrated brown, heavily reduced meat stock.

Braised veal

Ingredients
30g veal fat
2kg diced (3cm cube) veal flank
150g chopped shallots
150g diced carrots
150g diced celeriac
250ml brown veal stock (see above)
500ml chicken stock
100ml dry white wine
Water to cover
2 fresh bay leaves
1 sprig thyme
Salt and pepper

Method

Heat the veal fat in a large pan. Sear the diced veal without colouring. Add the vegetables, liquids and herbs. Simmer gently for two hours on the side of the stove, so the meat is a little more flaky and overcooked than it would be if it were going to be served as a casserole or braised dish (12). Season lightly. Chill and reserve meat in its braising liquid.

Veal Crépinette

Ingredients

Fresh caul fat (frozen and defrosted tends to split)
Drained braised veal cubes (upwards of 1kg)
Veal binding farce
Salt and pepper

Method

Stand 7cm hoops on a work top or baking sheet. Line them with caul fat so there's enough to wrap the filling.

Stir the braised veal and the binding farce together. The cubes should be well-coated (13). Season.

Spoon the meat into the caul-lined hoops (14). Press down well with the back of a tablespoon. Fold back the caul over the meat. The hoops are about 7/8ths filled. Chill

Note: Tony Borthwick usually vacuums the crépinettes in the hoops in batches of four.

Sauce base

Ingredients

250ml cooked veal braising liquid
250ml reduced veal stock
30ml Madeira

Method

Strain the braising liquid into a pan through a fine sieve. Add the reduced veal stock and bring to the boil. Add the Madeira. Finish individual portions of sauce to order.

Accompaniments

Sweetbreads: Trim any gristle on the surface.

Carrot and swede: Allow three balls cut with a parisienne cutter per portion. Cut three cubes of swede per portion.

Mushroom: Coat small button mushrooms with a chicken or veal mousse, wrap them in film and poach until set - one per portion.Spinach sformato: Squeeze as much moisture out of a kg of cooked spinach as possible. Flavour it with salt pepper, nutmeg. Beat 150ml cream and two eggs together. Combine with spinach. Turn the mixture into a shallow buttered or non-stick baking tray. Bake until set. Chill and cut out discs with a 7cm cutter.

Cooking to order

Ingredients
(Serves one)

3 parisienne-cut carrots
3 cubes swede
Salt and pepper
1 prepared mushroom
1tsp butter
1 spinach sformato
30g rendered veal fat
1 medallion (roughly 90g) veal silverside
1 crépinette
60g (approx) veal sweetbread
40ml veal sauce base
1tbs (approx) double cream

Method

Preheat the oven to between 180°C and 200°C. The exact temperature isn't critical.

Boil the carrot and swede in salted water till just tender. Add the wrapped mushroom after five minutes and let it heat through. Drain the vegetables, toss them in melted butter and keep hot. When plating up, unwrap the mushroom.

Reheat the spinach sformato.

Heat the veal fat till it's nearly smoking. Sear the silverside medallion on one side. Turn it. Season it (15). Sear the second side and transfer to the oven to finish cooking, about 10 minutes.

Sear the crépinette (16) and roast on a baking sheet for about 10 minutes (17). Sear the sweetbread in veal fat. Turn it and season it. Sear the second side and transfer to the oven to finish cooking 5-10 minutes. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper on a hot baking sheet. Lay the silverside and sweetbread on this, unseasoned side down. Rest five minutes, keeping hot.

Boil the sauce with a little cream and test the seasoning. To assemble: put a spinach disc in the centre of the plate. Take the crépinette out of its hoop and lay it on top. Remove the film from the side of the medallion. Put it on the crépinette. Top with a mushroom. Cut the sweetbread into three cubes. Arrange them around the meat. Put the carrot and swede between them and finish with a little sauce.

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