How to cook a good veal roast? Quite the same as beef: 15 minutes per pound of weight after initial spell at high oven heat. This veal topside is seasoned simply: a bit of salty and sweet in the drizzle of oyster sauce and pomegranate molasses.
Veal is not very filling
My Austrian grandmother used to say ‘Kalbfleisch ist kein Fleisch’ – veal is no meat. It is true enough, having eaten a sizeable cutlet of veal will make you nowhere near as full and bloated as the same amount of beef would, let alone other, fattier meats.
It’s also supposed to be fantastically easy to digest. It used to be given to babies as first meat ever, these days replaced by chicken as similarly light but far more widely available and cheaper. And anyway, everyone knows that babies just eat baby food from a jar. Aren’t babies the early victims of processed food these days? I wonder sometimes.
British rose veal
Rose, or rosé veal is the only kind I would recommend buying, as well as reared in high welfare environment. Calves which are a by-product of dairy industry – a rare instance when being male does not pay off – by UK standards are kept in straw-bedded barns instead of crates. They are fed grass and grain and have access to outdoors, and sometimes are reared with their mothers in suckler herds.
Thus rose veal is not as pale and anaemic as milk-fed continental veal. It is often called ‘young beef’ because of the pink colour, firmer texture and lack of mature beef flavour. And it is a real treat for those who like their roasts immaculately lean.
Because it’s so lean and there isn’t usually any marbling to speak of, I’d strongly recommend cooking it to medium doneness at the most. Otherwise it will be a treat who like their meat not only lean but also extremely dry!
How to roast veal topside?
Quite simply – like you would roast beef. I swear by the initial blast of twenty minutes at high oven heat which fixes nicely the browning of the outside, without the kitchen filled with smoke and all the surfaces splattered with oil. Then it’s down to medium oven: 180C or 170C timed at ten to fifteen minutes per a pound of weight.
The only tricky part is turning down an electric oven, otherwise a marvellous appliance. I usually start turning the temperature down a couple of minutes before the requisite time and then open the oven door for a few seconds at a time. Which is an awful waste of heat but if you have a better idea, I’ll be eager to hear.
Resting is just as important as cooking. Ten to twenty minutes in the warm kitchen, loosely covered with a sheet of foil, so that all the juices can be absorbed and the meat tissue relax. Then carve it quite thin and serve drizzled with the resting juices.
How else can you cook veal?
Depending on the cut, you can create quite marvellous dishes with veal. We don’t realise sometimes that osso buco for instance, the meltingly gorgeous Italian roast, is a shin of veal. The poshest restaurant starter, roast bone marrow, is made from marrow-rich veal bones.
Veal liver is tenderer than lamb’s and not as mushy as chicken’s. There’s an interesting dish called veal pojarsky, a cutlet made of partly chopped and partly minced veal steak. And then of course there are scaloppini and veal schnitzels, cut across the topside.
Cold roast veal topside
Our roast veal topside is a great roast but cherish any leftovers – it’s absolutely amazing as a cold cut in sandwiches on the next day. With a slick of mayo and a tomato round in a crusty baguette, it probably beats a roast beef sarnie!