Now those of you who have been reading along for a while will know about my own particular keenness for that jewel in the butcher's crown that is British Rose Veal. Not only that, but the knock on effect that is finding a job for the many millions of bull calves to do, rather than be shot at just 2 days old (or less, in some cases). These bull calves are a by-product (what a horrid thing to call a calf) of the already beleaguered dairy industry. You see, the mother cows don't produce milk willy nilly for the whole of their lives. No, they need to keep on having calves to stimulate the milk supply. Now a heifer calf (they're the female ones) are easy to find a job for as they can go straight back into the dairy business and have their own babies and supply their own milk. But what happens to the boys?
|Some of Barcut's happy calves|
So how much better is it, for a calf to be bought by a local producer who takes care of them in an ethical manner - with large strawed pens, where they can play with their mates, eat to their hearts' content and be happy (most even spend time out at grass, in the field, in the sunshine) - before being taken to a local abattoir (the important bit about that being both local and British) at 8 months of age where they are killed humanely and their meat is valued by home cooks and chefs alike. It's just a no-brainer, so far as I can see.
Barcut Rose Veal is just one of those ethical producers. A quick look at their website's "Why our Rose Veal" page gives you all the assurances you could require. So I was very excited to be the recipient of an enormous box of their beautiful, lean, Rose Veal.
As always, the quandary is what to do with the sudden rainfall of choice cuts of meat. We had a gorgeous lean topside roasting joint, some braising steaks and some cubed topside. Now we generally use 500g of meat per meal for the three of us - so we had at least five or six meals to think of!
The meat arrived exceptionally well packaged in vacuum sealed bags with freezer blocks to keep it cool - and looked as fresh as a daisy. It felt almost sacrilegious to put it in the freezer, but as it is fresh and not previously frozen, in the freezer it went. With the best will in the world, even my family can't eat five or six meals in one go. Well, everything except the topside roasting joint. That one's destination was marked out for our Sunday dinner almost as soon as I clapped eyes upon it.
Now I won't lie and say that I knew exactly what I was going to do with it, because when you've got the one go at an ingredient (who knows when I would find another piece of roasting Rose Veal as good as this one), you have to give your next move some serious consideration. Or I do, at any rate.
Eventually - after much thought, a significant amount of changes of mind and some considerable research, I came to a conclusion. I would prepare a rub, then roast the joint (hopefully) to a state where it remains just pink in the middle.
Now the rub I devised was one of my own concoction which I hoped would bring out the delicate flavour of the Rose Veal, without stamping all over its own characteristics. It would be a terrible shame to lose the gentle flavour by heavy handedness in the dressing of it. So, I put together some dried rosemary, fennel seeds, lemon zest, sea salt and ground white pepper into my pestle and mortar and gave everything a good crush, then brought it together with some lovely fruity rapeseed oil. It smelled divine.
Rubbed all over the Rose Veal joint - into every nook and cranny - it looked suitably dressed and ready for the party. I made a trivet in the roasting pan of whole carrots that had been sliced in half and added a sliced onion, on top of which balanced the Veal.
Into the oven at 200degC it went, for just 10 minutes. Then the oven was turned right down to 160degC and I left it to chuckle along slowly (with the occasional pause for some basting) for around an hour and a half. I tested the joint with a meat thermometer and waited until the internal temperature was up to a minimum of 65degC before removing from the oven and covering it in tin foil (still in the roasting tin), to rest in a warm place for around 30 minutes.
It looked incredible and smelled even better.
When it came time to carve, the Rose Veal just accepted the carving knife without complaint. You know how sometimes when you're carving a joint, your arm feels a bit like chewed string by the end of it all? Not with this one. The meat, although not as pink in the centre as I had hoped, was just so tender and so juicy it was making my mouth water. My Dad introduced me (years ago) to the concept of "cutter's tasters" thanks to which I was able to tell that the herby, fruity rub had done its work well. The flavour of the Veal was still there, just accentuated with layers of rosemary, fennel and lemon. Naturally, I had saved the pan juices along with a little of the veal stock from the celeriac fondant, which together with some Sherry, made a completely fantastic gravy.
Oh my gosh but what a meal that was. I served the Rose Veal with Duchesse potatoes, Chantenay carrots, broccoli, celeriac fondant (braised in veal stock with butter) and Yorkshire puddings, along with the glossy rich gravy that just brought everything together.
I look at these photographs of that meal and can remember every nuance of every flavour involved with that veal. It fed the four of us (we had a visitor that day) with enough left over for a terrine of Rose Veal with Antipasti vegetables and asparagus the following day, served with salad. So gorgeous!
Barcut Rose Veal are based near Abergele in Wales, so if you are in the area it is worthwhile visiting any of the shops on their website and enquiring. They also sell wholesale, so if you and a few friends can get an order together and share the cost, it is also well worth doing - after all, the Rose Veal freezes perfectly. Who knows, as the business progresses, they might even consider selling retail to the world at large. Well, we can but hope! For those of you on Facebook, you can support Barcut Rose Veal by visiting their page at https://www.facebook.com/barcutveal
ROSE VEAL TOPSIDE ROAST (serves 6-7)
1kg topside Rose Veal
1 tsp dried rosemary (chopped fine)
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp fresh lemon zest
a pinch of sea salt
a large pinch of ground white pepper
1-2 tbsp rapeseed oil
2 chunky carrots, halved lengthwise
1 onion, sliced.
1. Pre-heat your oven to 200degC/400degF/Gas 6.
2. Prepare a roasting tin by placing the carrots, cut side down to form a trivet, in the bottom of the roasting tin. Scatter the onion rings on and around the carrots.
3. Prepare the rub by placing the rosemary, fennel, lemon, salt and pepper into a pestle and mortar (or use a spice grinder) and give everything a good bash to release the oils. Add the rapeseed oil and stir to combine.
4. Rub the Rose Veal all over with the mixture, making sure to get it into all the nooks and crannies.
5. Place the Veal onto the carrots and onions, making sure to keep the fat uppermost. This will allow the fat, as it melts, to slowly baste the meat and keep it moist.
6. Put the roasting tin and contents into the oven for 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 160degC/325degF/Gas 3 for another hour and a half - or until the inside temperature of the meat reaches a minimum of 65degC/149degF on a meat thermometer.
7. Once the correct temperature is reached, remove from the oven and cover the meat and roasting tin with silver foil. Keep in a warm place to rest for approximately 30 minutes, then carve.
Serve with roasted potatoes and vegetables of your choice, making sure to use the pan juices in your gravy (which is made extra delicious by the addition of a little Medium Sherry).