18 July 2012

Taste test : veal meatballs -v- lamb meatballs

Veal meatballs right, Lamb meatballs left
In the package of veal that Farmers Choice sent to me, was a small packet of veal mince.  Now I'd been pondering over what to do with this.  It wasn't enough to use for an entire meal for the family, but I didn't want to dilute it by adding another type of mince - I wanted to sample the flavour and texture unsullied by outside influence.

Then, the obvious answer struck me.  No, not burgers (which I admit was my first thought), but meatballs.  How about I find a generic kind of meatball recipe that would suit the veal as well as another meat - and do a direct taste test comparison.

So that's what I did.

Close enough for you?  lol  Veal meatballs
I found a recipe on BBC Good Food, for Greek style lamb meatballs with tzatziki, that used just grated onion, garlic, lemon zest, mint and cinnamon in the meatballs.  All of these ingredients would go very well with the veal, I thought - so that's what I did.

I kept the two minced meats apart and put exactly the same amount of flavour ingredients into each, mixed them both by hand (washing my hands in between types) and rolled them up.

On a scale of 1-10 where 1 is poor and 10 is excellent, the lamb rated a 10 for rollability (i.e. forming a meatball without crumbling or otherwise breaking) and the veal a 9.  The veal was just slightly lighter in texture and much leaner.  Without the fat content, the meatball was slightly harder to get to stick together - but unless you were comparing the two, I doubt you'd notice.  It certainly wasn't a problem at all.

Veal meatballs
I cooked the veal meatballs first, so that they went into a clean pan.  This avoided any contamination from the lamb, which is a much stronger flavour.  The two types of meatball were identical where the cooking was concerned, as both held together perfectly and both achieved a nice colour in roughly the same time scale.

This recipe used just plain meatballs without a covering sauce.  I didn't want anything to affect the flavour of the veal, you see.

Once cooked, the two types of meatball were almost identical.  The veal had a very slightly darker colouration to the lamb, which I put down to the structure of the meat.  The veal meatballs had much less fat involved in the mince, which meant that the majority of the meat in contact with the heat of the pan was veal, as opposed to the fat in the lamb meatball.

Where flavour is concerned, the veal scored as best in both hubby's and son & heir's opinions, but I just couldn't get past my love of lamb, I'm afraid.

Don't get me wrong, however, because I really liked the veal meatballs.  Without the influence of the lamb to compare it against, I'd have been as happy as Larry with the veal.  I can't help being true to my love of lamb.

It was very interesting to have the context of the lamb to compare the veal against.  Most of us have sampled lamb at some point of another and know how lamb tastes.  Veal, however, is a different matter as it's not a meat that has been readily available.  The veal meatballs were lighter in flavour to the lamb.  For all that, though, they weren't one-dimensional, in that the veal very definitely had a mild, gentle beef flavour - but it truly is a unique flavour.  Veal doesn't taste like anything else, except veal.  All of which doesn't really help you if you've come here to try and decide whether you might like it.  In my opinion, if you like beef and you like pork, then without a doubt you'll like veal.

It is my hope that, if bloggers and the like continue to promote the consumption of British Rose Veal, that eventually (it may take some time!) the consumer will pick up the idea and demand for British Rose Veal will grow.  This will, in turn, make it possible for the millions of bull calves who are currently shot at birth, to be raised for veal in the humane and ethical conditions that are in force in the U.K.  Don't be tempted to spend a fortune on veal from the continent, as by doing so you may well be supporting the use of the barbaric veal crate system of raising veal calves and not buying the best product.  British Rose Veal is so much nicer than meat that has been produced in such a high stress environment.  You would think that the way an animal has been kept wouldn't be directly attributable to the quality of the end meat product - but believe me, it is.  Do a quick search online for farms in your local area that produce and sell veal direct from the farm, to cut out the middle man who always puts his percentage on top and you'll be getting veal in the most economic way possible.  It's not cheap at the moment, but is very well worth the cost.


Ingredients :

500g minced veal (or lamb, or beef, or any combination)
half a red onion, grated
half a garlic clove, grated
half a lemon, zested
half a small bunch of mint, chopped gently
half a tsp ground cinnamon
1-2 tbsp rapeseed or olive oil.

For the Tzatziki :

150ml plain Greek yoghurt
3cm chunk of cucumber, skinned, deseeded and diced
half a sharp apple like a Braeburn, cored, sliced and cut into matchsticks
half a small bunch of mint, chopped gently
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper.

Method :

1.  Put the mince, grated onion, garlic, lemon zest, mint and cinnamon into a bowl.  If using different meats, use different bowls for each and divide the other ingredients equally between them.

2.  Season very well, then use your hands to mix the ingredients until distributed evenly.

3.  Using wet hands, roll individual meatballs about the size of a walnut and set aside.

4.  To make the Tzatziki, combine all the ingredients with some seasoning to taste and mix well.  Refrigerate until serving.

5.   Place the oil into a frying pan and heat until a meatball, when placed into the pan, lightly sizzles upon contact - but don't overheat or the meatballs will burn on the outside before the inside can have cooked sufficiently.

6.  Fry until the meatballs are well coloured and cooked through.  Place onto a plate covered with kitchen paper and keep warm until serving.

I served my meatballs with the Ottolenghi's Green couscous.

Printable version


  1. Here in Hamilton Canada, we have two types of lamb-Ontario and New Zealand. There is no way to compare the flavours-it's night and day. Veal is very popular wherever I have lived in Canada, always fresh on the shelf, we have large Italian populations. Also, all the lamb I've ever bought is frozen in the deep freeze, waaaay down at the bottom, so not an option. Ergo, we buy fresh lamb at Easter and Orthodox Greek Christmas, cause that's when it is fresh. I'll try this recipe to make my next meatballs, using veal pork and beef. Thanks.

    1. Interesting, Tracey! I can imagine that the flavour of Ontario lamb is waaay above that of New Zealand. I suppose it's not surprising that they should be so different, as they come from very different places, grazing on very different herbage.

  2. Replies
    1. Ooops! Sorry about that, Calogero - now, off you go and make some meatballs of your own. LOL

  3. Jenny it would be great if you linked this up to Food on Friday: Meatballs! Very interesting comparison.

    1. Okeydokey Carole - I'll do that now. :) Thanks!

    2. thanks Jenny - I am going to have a lot of fun trying out a bunch of these meatball recipes - I'll have to try to be more scientific about it!


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