Saltimbocca means ‘leap in the mouth’, presumably because it’s so good your tastebuds jump for joy. Like so much Italian food, it’s the simplest of dishes, its impact relying on good ingredients and precise cooking.
It is usually seen as a Roman dish, although some say it originated in Brescia. This is a Tuscan/Suffolk hybrid, as I used Prosciutto Toscano, a present from my hosts on my recent visit to Tuscany, and Suffolk-reared veal.
I know some people are leery of eating veal, harking back to the days when milk-fed veal calves were kept in crates in horrendous conditions. This is illegal in the UK and ethically-reared rosé veal is available from good butchers. Mine came from Salter and King. And if you’re a meat eater but still squeamish about eating baby cows, consider that they are slaughtered at nine months, as opposed to six to eight weeks for most roasting chickens, and six to seven months for lambs.
Still, logic doesn’t always apply when it comes to food so alternatively you can make this with pork fillet, thinly sliced and beaten flat. You may then need to fold the prosciutto to fit on top. Whatever meat you use, saltimbocca takes only minutes to prepare and cook but really packs a flavour punch.
2 veal escalopes, cut across the grain, beaten flat
2 generous slices of prosciutto
6 fresh sage leaves
Salt and pepper
Olive oil and butter
1/2 glass white wine
Lie the veal escalopes flat and place a slice of prosciutto on top of each. Skewer the sage leaves to the meat with wooden toothpicks.
Put a tablespoon of flour on a flat dish and season it with freshly ground black pepper and a little salt. Dip the bottom of each escalope (ie meat side down) in the flour and gently shake off any excess.
Heat about a tablespoon of oil and a nut of butter in a large frying pan. When the butter starts to sizzle, add the escalopes, ensuring they don’t overlap. Cook sage side down for one minute, then flip them over and cook the other side for one minute.
Pour the wine around the meat (not over it) and cook briefly until most of it has evaporated. Serve straight away with the pan juices poured over.