Friend/Relative: What would you like for your Birthday Lorna?
Me: Dunno. A cookbook?
Friend/Relative: What would you like for Christmas?
It’s easy to see how I’ve managed to acquire the 152 cookbooks that make up my collection. Though it doesn’t always go to plan. I remember a particularly frosty conversation between my mom and Matt on Christmas day 2014 when there had been, shall we say, ‘some confusion’ over who was buying me Rick Stein’s ‘India’ that year.
Rick Stein’s ‘From Venice to Istanbul’ is another new, and welcome gift. It’s a book that I’m not sure I would have bought for myself: I never really got into the TV series. Different to his Far Eastern Odyssey book that I loved, the chapters separate courses rather than countries. This makes it easier to find a type of meal I suppose, but I preferred the, ahem, ‘culinary journey’ of his previous book.
I’m kicking off with the Veal Cannelloni, for no other reason than I had a pack of veal mince, bought reduced from Sainsbury’s, already stashed in the freezer.
Veal’s not a popular meat, let’s be honest. But from what I can tell, and from researching the topic, it seems to have earned a derserving bad press, back in the day, when conditions for the young cattle weren’t up to today’s standards. The best article I read was for the Telegraph, which you can read here. From what I can tell, British veal is as humane a purchase as any other British meat.
This recipe comes from Croatia. Rick Stein says in the intro “The fact that lots of recipes in Croatia are Italian can work against my including them in the book. However, if it is something I really want, like this cannelloni, I am only too pleased to include it”.
To make the filling I whizzed the veal mince, onion and garlic in my magimix into a course paste, before frying in olive oil. Once browned, white wine, tomato paste and seasoning were added and the mixture was left to cook for 30mins before stirring in spinach, nutmeg and Parmesan.
I made a béchamel sauce flavoured with comforting bay and salty Parmesan. A ladle of this rich, silky sauce was poured into a large baking dish, ready to be topped with the filled cannelloni.
A simple tomato sauce made from tinned tomatoes, garlic and olive oil, coated the rows of pasta tubes before another generous layer of béchamel sauce sealed everything in.
Topped with grated Parmesan, the dish went into the oven for 40 minutes.
And came out golden and bubbling.
This is true comfort food in all it’s glory. Eating this, I didn’t care if it originated in Croatia, Italy, or anywhere, it was good. Really good.
The veal filling retained a firm and almost crumbly texture which was in perfect contrast to the soft, smooth pasta and creamy sauce. The tomato sauce introduced a lovely tanginess, and the crispy, chewy , melted cheese topping was the stuff of dreams. I urge you to make this.
Next Week: Chocolate Gelato with Orange & Hazelnut Biscotti | From Venice To Istanbul