Good Food Blog
Offally goodPosted at 12:05PM, 06 October 2008 by Carol Wilson - Food writer
Offal (liver, kidneys, hearts, brawn, intestines, tongue, tripe, etc.) has become very chic in fashionable restaurants nowadays - a fact that would have greatly amused our thrifty grandparents, who ate offal because it was cheap and tasty.
I've been a fan of offal for years, but while it may be the latest thing in trendy restaurants, it's largely ignored by home cooks. Why is this, I wonder? It's perfectly edible, lean, nutritious, inexpensive and easily available. Possibly childhood memories of school dinner liver and onions - a tough grey slab of leathery meat in thick gloopy onion gravy - have put many people off. Is it that we've become too squeamish? Or maybe we just can't be bothered to learn how to cook it? Perhaps it's the off-putting name - in the USA, offal is called 'variety meats', which sounds much more appetising.
Possibly childhood memories of school dinner liver and onions have put many people off
Whatever the reason for offal's fall from favour, I think it's a great pity, because offal is not only nutritious, it offers a fascinating variety of unique tastes and textures and is interesting to cook too.
The Italian, Spanish and French love their offal and consider it a delicacy. The various parts are used in all sorts of ways and lots of recipes use tripe, such as the French manouls (sheep or lamb's tripe stuffed with chopped lamb and mutton offal, the meat from the foot, chopped ham or bacon, herbs and spices) and Andouillette de Troyes - sausages made of tripe; in the Champagne region, a speciality is Pieds de Porc à la St Menehould (pigs' trotters served with pickles, onions and mustard); but perhaps the most famous (and controversial) offal speciality is rich, creamy foie gras (the specially fattened liver of a duck or goose); in Italy, pajata is a popular pasta dish with lamb's intestines and a favourite dish in Spain is sweetbreads with bacon and onions.
We may not be inclined to cook tripe or lungs these days, but kidney, lamb's liver and oxtail are full of flavour. And let's not forget our own delicious specialities, Faggots, Steak and Kidney Pie and Scotland's famous haggis, which is made from 'sheepÃ¢ÂÂs pluck' - the liver, heart and lungs, plus lamb, mutton or beef, oatmeal, suet, herbs, spices and seasoning, packed into a natural casing (traditionally sheep intestine, which is not eaten), then boiled.
I think it's time we put offal back on our plates. You may not find offal in your local supermarket, but your local butcher should be able to supply whatever you need. Why not try some tasty offal recipes?