I live in a truly beautiful part of the world surrounded by stunning unspoiled countryside as far as the eye can see. On any given day I am appreciative of my good fortune but some days more than others. A few weeks ago I remember having a little word with myself saying, ‘Goddamn Anneli, this really is the life!’
My jubilance was as a result of meeting some lovely local beef farmers who live just twenty minutes from me. My friend had told me about them and how they were producing grass fed beef that was out of this world. She thought I would be interested and she was 100% correct. I was able to visit them at their farm, stay for some coffee and chat about food, cows, beef and music! They are lovely people and clearly incredibly passionate about their produce. I am looking forward to a box of their beef which will be ready at the end of the month. But in the meantime, they generously gave me a few beefy treats to try out.
And what exactly makes this beef so exciting you may ask? Well, not only are their cows absolute stunners, but lengthy and careful consideration was given to the choice of this breed, called Salers. French mountain cows from the Auvergne region, they are happy to eat grass alone and don’t need to be fed on cereals to bulk them up like other breeds are. They are truly 100% grass fed and that really does affect their flavour.
They were not chosen as the fattest, most profitable cows to breed. They were chosen because these farmers are passionate about really good tasting meat. To be honest, I have not been all that impressed with beef I have bought here in France. It doesn’t seem to be hung for as long as we may be used to in the UK and this is detrimental to the beefiness. That missing beefiness is exactly what these grass fed beauties have in abundance.
Until I get my hands on the 10kg box of meat heading my way soon, I am yet to experience a steak but I am salivating at the mere thought. I was however able to wet my appetite with some steak hache and some veal escalopes that I was so kindly given by my new farmer friends. So let me tell you about them…
Firstly the steak hache – I kid you not, it was one of the best I have had. I didn’t mess with it, I treated it with the respect it deserved and served it up as a burger, with a good quality bun, some melted cheese, salad and ketchup. It was juicy and delicious and above all else, beefy. Everyone loves a good burger and this was most certainly one of the best. Truly fantastic.
Next I had a couple of lovely veal escalopes – quite dark in colour, I guess they would be equivalent to ‘Rose Veal’ in the UK. These calf were not locked away in the dark, they were outside eating the wonderful grass. Brent & Jean (the lovely farmers) were telling me that veal can be a hard sell to the Brits. Unfortunately the stigma of some documentary about veal farming in the 1970’s has scarred our collective psyche, but we are missing out! There was nothing cruel about how these calf lived their lives and the resulting meat is so good and bursting full of flavour that you will no doubt become veal converts.
The French have no such qualms and love eating veal so I decided to take inspirations from them and found an old classic French recipe for Escalope De Veau Cauchoise (Escalopes of Veal with Cream, Calvados & Apple) from my trusty kitchen companion ‘French Provincial Cooking’ by Elizabeth David. Served simply with potatoes sautéed in garlic and duck fat and some courgettes. It was utterly divine; the veal had bags of flavour complimented by the creamy sauce, punctuated by sweet little cubes of apple. This is provincial food that felt like fine dining. A treat that I hope to repeat often.
So a huge big thank you to Jean & Brent Curtis from Grasspunk who I so enjoyed meeting. I am thrilled to be on the list for a box of meat in a few weeks time and I can’t wait to start cooking with such amazing produce. Being able to pop down the road to a local farm and pick up meat straight from cows that I can see grazing in the fields really does make me feel lucky and reminds me why I love living here in rural France and I thank my lucky stars for that everyday.
For those of you out there also lucky enough to also be living in the Gers, hop over to www.grasspunk.com for more details on how you can get your hands on some of the good stuff. Here’s that veal recipe for you…
Escalopes De Veau Cauchoise (Escalopes of Veal with Cream, Calvados & Apple) Serves 2
- 2 veal escalopes
- squeeze of lemon juice
- 1/2 apple. peeled & cubed
- 145 ml double cream
- 25 g butter
- 2 tbsp Calvados
- Season your lovely veal generously and squeeze over a little lemon juice. Melt the butter in a pan and when it starts to foam, add the veal and cook rapidly to get a bit of colour on both sides. This just takes a few minutes. Add the apple cubes.
- Heat the Calvados in another pan and set light to it and pour it flaming over the meat. Rotate the pan until the flames die down.
- Pour in the cream, lower the heat and let it cook gently until the sauce thickens up, another 2 minutes.
- It is ready to serve covered with creamy sauce and chunks of apple. Fabulous.