Sage is one of my least favourite herbs. I have too many memories of bad childhood dinners consisting of dry roast chicken served with cardboardy Paxo sage and onion stuffing to ever really be comfortable with the flavour. As a result, I’ve always shied away from making this recipe, with its whole leaf of sage embedded within a slice of veal, and it was with a little trepidation that I embarked on making Saltimbocca.
Putting the sage problem aside for a moment, it certainly sounds delicious: veal escalopes, beaten flat, wrapped around prosciutto ham and then fried in butter. The book claims it “takes no time at all to prepare”, so let’s see.
It starts with my favourite part: placing the veal escalopes between two pieces of greaseproof paper and then beating them so that they become thin sheets of veal. Beating the hell out of your dinner-to-be is a very therapeutic way of kicking off meal preparation.
Each escalope is then sprinkled with a little black pepper. A sage leaf place on top, and then some prosciutto ham to cover the slice. The escalope is then folded in half, placed back inside the greaseproof paper sheets, and gently beaten once more to sandwich it all together.
Then, to cook, I melted some butter in a frying pan, dusted the escalopes in flour and then fried them for a couple of minutes each side. Once cooked, a few more sage leaves were fried in the butter until crisp, and then sprinkled with a little salt and put to one side.
Finally, I drained off the excess butter from the pan, and poured in some white wine and some dry sherry (it was supposed to be Marsala, but both Ocado and my local Waitrose let me down here – neither had any Marsala, so sherry was the best substitute I could find). I reduced the sauce for a minute or two until it was a slightly syrupy gravy, and then we were ready to serve.
That really was it. Incredibly easy, and took no time at all. I served the Saltimbocca with the gravy spooned over, together with lemon wedges and some salad on the side.
It was delicious. Slightly crisped on the outside, soft, tender meat within. It had a rich, savoury flavour from both the fried exterior and the prosciutto on the inside. And the sage? Well, it was a revelation. I needn’t have worried there – the sage was delicious, especially the crisped, salted pieces.
Oh my gosh! Where has this particular dish been my entire life. It’s just fantastic!
Everything I love about food embodied in this delicious meat dish. It was an explosion of taste and umami. Buttery, tart, beautifully tender meat flavoured with woody sage and salted with prosciutto ham. The pan juices were just divine.
I’ve not even heard of this dish before, but I can’t understand why. I suspect people became squeamish over veal and that dealt it a death knell.
I think an equally good version would be made using chicken and switching basil for sage.
I’m in diner delight here tonight. I can’t think of anything else to say about it other than “when can we have that again?”.
10/10 + **