Veal Stew

Civé de Veel

Cooked food is cut up for serving on three-legged tables designed to balance firmly on uneven floors. On the right dishes are carried in procession to the tables.

Civet, meaning stew, is still a common French dish, though we would call Taillevent’s recipe a curry. The sauce is thickened with breadcrumbs or with a purée of peas, in much the same way that legumes are added to give body to curries in southern India. Grain of paradise is a pepper-flavored variety of cardamom, and verjuice is tart fruit juice.

Roast on the spit or on the grill without cooking the meat too much, cut it in pieces and let it fry in fat in a casserole, and cut onion very finely and fry with it, then take toasted bread softened in wine and beef bouillon or purée of peas and bring to a boil with your meat; then prepare ginger, cinnamon, clove, grain of paradise and saffron to give it color, and dilute with verjuice and vinegar; and let it be well thickened, and plenty of onions, and the bread be browned, and all piquant with vinegar and highly spiced; and it should be yellow.

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For the Thickening 1

  • 3 slices bread
  • 6 fl oz/¾ cup/175 ml red or white wine
  • 8 fl oz/1 cup/250 ml beef stock

For the Thickening II

  • 2 oz/¼ cup /60 g dried split green peas, soaked overnight in water and drained
  • 12 fl oz/ cups/375 ml water
  • salt and pepper

For the Stew

  • 2 lb/1 kg piece boneless shoulder or leg of veal
  • 2 tbsp lard or oil
  • 4 medium onions, chopped
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
  • seeds of 1 cardamom pod
  • pinch of saffron
  • salt and pepper
  • 2-3 tbsp verjuice
  • 2-3 tbsp vinegar


  1. For the thickening: if using bread with wine and stock, heat the oven to No 2/300°F/150°C. Bake the bread in the heated oven until well browned, about 30 minutes. Let cool and grind it to fine crumbs in a food processor or blender. Stir in the wine, let stand 5 minutes until the crumbs are soft, then add the beef stock. If using dried peas, simmer them, covered, in water until very soft, 1¼-2 hours. Purée the mixture in a food processor or blender; it should be thick but still pour easily. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  2. For the stew: sear the veal over an open flame, preferably charcoal, so the outside is slightly charred; cut it in 1 inch/2.5 cm cubes. In a casserole, heat the lard or oil and fry half the veal until browned on all sides. Take out, fry the remaining veal and remove it. Add the onions and cook until soft but not brown. Put back the meat, pour over the bread and wine mixture or the pea purée, cover and bring to a boil. Stir a few spoonfuls of the sauce into a mixture of the ginger, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and saffron, and stir this mixture back into the meat. Add salt and pepper, cover, and simmer on top of the stove or cook in an oven heated to No 3/325°F/160°C until the meat is very tender, 1-1¼ hours. Stir in the verjuice and vinegar, adding more to taste (the amount needed depends on their tartness).