When we first arrived in Australia, we lived in Adelaide and one of the favourite things that my mother cooked when we had guests, was vitello arrosto (roast veal).
It was not vitello as we had been used to in Trieste (veal which was very pale in colour and young), however, we were very fortunate to have a good Hungarian butcher who did his best to supply us with cuts of meat that we were better acquainted with.
When I was a teenager I often had friends who came to stay and I used to tell them that what we were eating was roast veal, they were confused. Firstly because it was not roast lamb (my mother thought the lamb as pecorona – ultra big sheep), but secondly because it was not roast cooked in the oven, so why did we call it roast?
Ovens were not commonly used, baking was not common, but wet roasting was, and if you look at recipes for vitello arrosto you will find that the most common way of cooking it is in a pan with a close fitting lid on top of the stove. The juices do not dry out and the roast will be tender and very flavourful.
This is not a recipe my Sicilian relatives cooked – their arrosto was cooked slowly in the oven, with onions, a little tomato, bay leaves and usually with potatoes. This was also moist and cooked for some of the time partly covered. The photo was taken in Sicily; the cut of meat that my relatives often use for a boneless roast is called a reale.
Ask your butcher for a piece of veal that you can roast. A girello is suitable, but it is more likely to be yearling beef (most Australian butchers label this piece of meat as such, if not it is also called silverside – but not pickled). A leg of veal is also suitable, but it will be gelatinous and not every one likes this.
The pan often called a Dutch oven, is a good shape to use for vitello arrosto.
roasting veal in one piece of 1.5 – 2 kg
extra virgin olive oil, ½ – ¾ cup
white wine, up to 2 cups or 1 cup wine, 1 cup stock
onion, 1 cut into quarters
carrots, 3, leave whole
fresh rosemary, sage and whole garlic cloves to stud the meat
salt and pepper to taste
Make holes in the meat (use a sharp, thin knife) and stud the meat with the flavourings – use separate flavours for each hole.
Heat the oil, brown the meat well on all sides.
Pour in 1 cup of the wine and evaporate.
Add the onion and carrots, a few more sprigs of rosemary and sage, salt and pepper.
Cover and cook over low heat for about 1½ hours, but keep on adding a little more wine (or stock) so that the meat is kept moist and does not stick to the bottom of the pan (add extra water or stock if necessary).
When the meat is cooked, cut the roast into thin slices and serve it with the sauce (I always include the bits of onion and carrots, some cooks use a mouli to passare (grind/ mash) the vegetables into the sauce.
My mother always presented the veal with spinach sauteed in butter and nutmeg and patate in teccia…but these are part of another story.
I grew up in Trieste.
Trieste is in the Friuli Venezia Giulia region of Italy. It is close to Venice, but it is also close to the Slovenian border. In 177 BC Trieste was under the control of Roman Empire. As well as Italy, Trieste also once belonged to Austria and then Austria-Hungary for more than 500 years and much of the cooking of Trieste reflects these cultures.
One of the culinary specialties of Trieste is strucolo de pomi (in Triestine dialect). It is a popular autumn and winter sweet.
When my family came to Australia the pastry shops in Adelaide were not to our tastes (lamingtons, sponge cakes with raspberry jam and in most cases, mock cream). My mother felt it necessary to teach herself how to bake, something that she never did when we were living in Trieste; as is the common European way, we left the baking to the specialists and we bought all of our pastries and cakes, especially when we had guests.
For our first Christmas Eve celebration in Australia my mother and my aunty made a strudel together and making strucolo de pomi became our celebratory dessert for any occasion. Later my mother began making Zuppa Inglese, this too became a perfect celebratory dessert especially for Christmas.
My only aunt living in Australia is zia Licia. She married my mother’s brother. Her maiden name was Ursich, which may not sound Italian, but like many of the people living in Trieste, she had a Slavic name.
When we first came to Australia our families lived next door to one another and they often cooked and ate together.
plain flour, 250 g
salt, 1/4 teaspoon
sugar, 2 tablespoons
egg yolk, 1
warm water, 115 ml, plus more if needed,
vegetable oil, 2 tablespoons, plus additional for coating the dough
apples, 1k – we used delicious apples (golden or red) but other people prefer more acidic varieties, e.g. granny smiths
sugar, 3/4 cup
sultanas, 3/4 cup
walnuts, (or pine nuts) 3/4 cup
ground cinnamon, 1teaspoon
lemon, 1 (juice and grated peel)
butter (unsalted), 70g
bread crumbs, 50g
Mix the flour, sugar and salt together and then slowly add the water, egg yolk and oil to the dry ingredients and knead into a medium-firm dough. We always made any dough on our kitchen laminax table (these were great for mixing and rolling out pasta and pastry), however an electric mixer can be used.
For this option:
Combine the flour and salt in a mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. Mix the water, egg yolk and oil and add this to the flour on low speed. Knead it for about 10minutes until the pastry is soft and elastic. Even if I use the mixer, I like to finish this off with my hands so that I can feel when the pastry is right.
Shape the dough into a ball and throw it down hard onto the working surface a few times.
Spread a little oil on the surface of the dough, cover it with plastic wrap (a use a tea towel) and allow the dough to rest for a couple of hours.
While the pastry is resting prepare the filling:
Peel, core and slice apples. Mix in sugar, sultanas, nuts, grated lemon peel, lemon juice and cinnamon and toss together well.
Stir well until the sugar dissolves and the apples are coated with the mixture.
Melt the butter in a frying pan, over medium heat. Add the breadcrumbs and toast, stirring constantly until lightly browned (about 5 minutes). Let cool.
Roll out the dough:
Cover your working area with tablecloth and dust it with flour (this will help you move the strudel to the baking tray once it has been shaped).
Place the ball of dough in the middle, sprinkle with flour and beginning rolling from the centre roll the dough out into a very thin rectangle,. The dough my be a little resistant at first but will relax more as you roll it. If the dough tears a little it can be patched with off cuts of pastry before you add the filling.
Assemble the strudel:
Spread the breadcrumbs bread evenly over the dough and leave a clean border on all sides.
Arrange the apple mixture evenly on top of the crumbs.
Shape the strudel: begin rolling the strudel into a fairly tight roll, starting at one end and gradually working down the roll. The finished roll should look fairly even in circumference.
Use the table cloth to transfer the strudel and place strudel on a buttered baking tray (I line it with baking paper).
Brush it either with melted butter or oil, or egg yolk mixed with a little oil.
Bake strudel for 60 to 80 minutes in a 180 C oven.
We soaked the sultanas in rum beforehand. Small pieces of dark chocolate mixed into the filling was also a variation.