Offal is described as the entrails and organs of a butchered animal such as, but not limited to, the tongue, kidneys, intestines, brains, liver, and heart. It was once common in times when food was scarce but it eventually was phased out due to the popularity of other cuts of meat and often got discarded as pet food.
But as recently as the 1970s, lambs liver, kidneys, lambs brains - even stuffed ox-hearts and tripe - were a regular part of the Australian diet, even in relatively well-off households.
I would agree that the definition does nothing to promote the popularity of such ingredients but the rising awareness of nose-to-tail eating is sparking quite an interest with chefs and also home cooks.
While offal might be considered unattractive, or looked upon distastefully in our culture, in others they are prized as delicacies.
When most people think about offal they picture a big tongue on the plate or even a greyish lamb brain but it is far from this.
In Australia most offal is eaten in meat pies but there are also other options that are quite palatable such as paté or even steak and kidney pie.
In Australia and the UK, lamb's fry predominately refers to the lamb's liver although in other countries it can also be used in context with other parts of the animal such as the testicles. They are traditionally fried up and served with crisp bacon and hot toast. Lambs fry was once very popular in pubs and also as a breakfast dish and is starting to make a comeback in cafes and restaurants.
To prepare the liver, first remove the outer skin of the liver and cut away any gristle and veins. Ox liver should be soaked in milk before cooking, to leach out some of the stronger flavour which can be unpleasant. Liver is best when sliced and quickly cooked, so that it retains a slight pinkness. Overcooked liver will be tough and dry.
Lambs Fry with Bacon and Sage
2 tablespoons plain flour
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 rashers bacon, rind removed
2 medium onions, peeled and thinly sliced
500 g lamb's liver, cut into 4 thin slices
30 g butter
16 large sage leaves
5 tablespoons Madeira
1¼ cups chicken stock
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large frying pan and fry the bacon rashers until lightly browned on both sides. Drain on paper towels and keep warm. Add the remaining oil to the pan and fry the onions until lightly browned, 10–15 minutes; push them to the side of the pan.
Meanwhile, mix the flour with the salt and pepper on a plate. Dip the liver, a slice at a time, in the seasoned flour until evenly coated, shaking off the excess. Add the butter to the pan and heat over medium heat until sizzling.
Add the liver, sprinkle with half the sage leaves and fry for 2 minutes, or until lightly browned. Turn each piece and cook the other side, sprinkling with the remaining sage. Remove the liver from the pan and set aside.
Stir any remaining flour into the pan, pour in the Madeira and stir, scraping any browned residue off the bottom of the pan. Add the stock and bring to the boil, stirring occasionally. Return the liver to the pan, reduce the heat and simmer for 4–5 minutes, or until the liver is tender but still slightly pink.
Return the bacon to the pan and serve immediately on a thick piece of toast.
Duck Liver Paté
300g duck (or chicken) livers, cleaned
2 French shallots, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
1 egg yolk
190g unsalted butter, softened
Good Sea Salt
Preheat oven to 120°C.
Place the shallots, garlic, bay leaf and brandy into a saucepan. Simmer for about 1 minute until the brandy has reduced by half. Allow to cool then pass through a fine sieve squeezing the liquid from the shallots.
Place livers, brandy mixture, egg, egg yolk, 90g of the softened butter, salt and pepper into a food processor and puree until smooth. Pass through a sieve.
Place the mixture into individual ramekins or into a bowl and cover with foil.
Place into a deep oven tray and fill halfway with hot water.
Place into the oven and bake for 30 minutes or until the centre has a slight wobble to it.
Remove from the tray and refrigerate for 3-4 hours.
Melt the remaining butter in the microwave until it splits into a white and a yellow liquid. Let sit for a minute so the yellow oil sits clearly on top of the white liquid. Carefully pour or spoon the yellow oil over the paté and set in the fridge overnight.
If possible, ask your butcher to cut marrow bones into sections to make the marrow easier to remove. Marrow should be soaked in cold water before cooking to remove excess blood.
It can then be poached in salted water for a few minutes. When the marrow is cooked, it may be incorporated into a sauce or served with a vinaigrette or mayonnaise. Its delicate flavour and texture make it ideal to serve on toast as a base for canapés.
Lambs brains have a soft, delicate texture and flavour and consequently should be combined with other ingredients which will enhance rather than dominate.
Before cooking brains, soak them in a bowl of salted water for an hour. This will remove excess blood and whiten the brains. Drain the brains then carefully remove as much of the skin and membrane coating the brains as is possible.
Simmer the brains in salted water for 15 minutes. Handle the brains carefully throughout the cooking process, as the tissue is delicate and will readily break up. Brains are best left to cool and set a little before any further preparation is done.
They are often served coated in a batter or crumbed and fried but they can also be used in a terrine.
Parmesan Crumbed Lambs Brains
6 lamb's brains
A few peppercorns
Juice of half a lemon (or a dash of vinegar)
Flour for dusting
1 egg, beaten
1/3 cup breadcrumbs
1/3 cup parmesan, grated
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
Place the brains in a pot and cover with cold water. Add a generous amount of salt, the peppercorns, parsley stalks and lemon juice. Only just bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 4 minutes.
Remove and drain on kitchen paper. Season with a little salt, dust in flour, then the egg wash, then the combined breadcrumbs and grated parmesan. Place a heavy-based pan over a medium heat and add a good knob of butter.
When the butter is foaming, add a few brains at a time and cook until golden brown all over. Remove to a warm plate while you repeat with the rest.
Serve with a squeeze of lemon juice and a little of the browned butter from the pan.
Fried Lambs Brains
4 sets of prepared lamb brains
1/3 cup plain flour with a pinch of black pepper
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup fine breadcrumbs
Vegetable oil, for deep-frying
Lime or lemon wedges, to serve
Place the brains in a saucepan, cover with cold water and add a little salt and lemon
juice. Bring to simmering point and simmer on very low heat for 15 minutes. Allow to cool in the liquid, then drain and pat dry on paper towels.
Cut the brains into bite-size pieces, trimming off any gristle. Pat dry again, coat with the flour mixture, dip in the egg and roll in the breadcrumbs.
Deep-fry until golden brown then sprinkle with salt and serve with wedges of lime or lemon.
Ox and lamb hearts are both suitable for culinary use, and both can make a delicious meal.
The tough, fatty top of the heart, containing valves and tendons, must be cut away before the heart is used. It should then be soaked in cold, salted water for 1 to 2 hours so that excess blood will be rinsed away.
Lambs hearts are often stuffed and baked, but ox hearts tend to be tough and are best sliced then sautéed or braised. Bacon and onions are good with heart, as are mushrooms and wine-based sauces.
Pork intestines are commonly used as sausage casings. Most commercially prepared sausages make use of manufactured casings, but gourmet sausage makers prefer the natural product.
Not only savoury sausages can be made in this way; intestines can be used to encase dessert fillings. In this case the casing would be removed once the filling had cooked and solidified.
Lamb, pig, calf and ox kidneys are all available from selected butchers but lamb kidneys are the most popular and have the mildest flavour. Ox kidneys are favoured for hearty, strong-tasting dishes, like the popular steak and kidney pie.
To prepare the kidneys, first remove any skin and fat from around the kidney then cut out the gristle and core. Calf and ox kidneys consist of a number of lobes, and are best chopped or sliced rather than served whole. They should be used more sparingly than lamb kidneys so that their strong, distinctive flavour does not dominate the other flavours of the dish.
Milk-fed animals will produce kidneys of fairly light colour and mild flavour. Mushrooms and onions are both good accompaniments for ox and calf kidneys, particularly with a little red wine added to the sauce, while a creamy mustard sauce is suitable for lamb kidneys. Finely chopped lamb kidneys which have been briefly cooked in butter can also be added to an omelette.
Steak and Kidney Pie
2 ½ Tablespoons vegetable oil
1.5kg chuck steak, trimmed, cut into 3cm cubes
500g kidneys, trimmed, chopped
50g (1/3 cup) plain flour
2 brown onions, thinly sliced
250g mushroom flats, thinly sliced
75mls (3 cups) beef stock
Salt & ground black pepper, to taste
Water, for brushing
1 sheet (25 x 25cm) ready-rolled puff pastry, thawed slightly
1 egg yolk, lightly whisked, for glazing
Heat 2 tsp of the oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan over medium-high heat. Toss together the steak and kidneys in the flour. Add 1/4 of the steak and kidneys to the saucepan. Cook, turning occasionally, for 2-3 minutes or until well browned. Remove from the pan and repeat in another 3 batches with the oil, and remaining steak and kidneys.
Add the remaining oil to the Pan and heat over medium low heat. Add the onions and mushrooms and increase heat to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until the onions and mushrooms are softened slightly.
Return the steak and kidneys to the pan with the stock. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat t medium-low. Simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour. Remove the lid and simmer for 30 minutes or until steak is very tender. Remove from heat and transfer to a heat-resistant bowl. Stand for 50 minutes. Cover and place in fridge for 3 hours or until cooled completely.
Preheat oven to 220°C. Place the cooled steak mixture into a round 21cm (6-cup) pie dish. Cut a 1 cm strip from 3 sides of the puff pastry. Brush the edge of the pie dish with a little water. Place the pastry strips on the edge of the dish. Place the pastry sheet over the steak mixture and press the edges together to seal. Trim away the excess pastry. Cut 2 slits in the top of the pie to allow steam to escape. Brush with the egg yolk.
Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 190°C and bake for a further 20 minutes or until the pastry is crisp and golden brown and the filling is heated through. Serve immediately.
Tongue has a firm but tender texture and a distinctive, hearty taste. Many people enjoy tongue, whether it is beef, pork, lamb or ox tongue, and all are relatively cheap to purchase. Tongue can be cooked several ways, including smoking, boiling and pickling. Regardless of the cooking method, slow cooking is essential for preventing it becoming tough. Typically, the smaller the tongue the better it will be.
To cook the tongue, scrub it thoroughly then soak it in cold water for approximately 2 hours, changing the water frequently to remove excess salt.
Remove from the water rinse and place into a pot making sure the water covers the tongue by at least 5-6cm. Add chopped carrots, chopped celery, chopped onions, peppercorns, thyme stalks, bay leaves, garlic and cloves.
Bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer. Remove the scum from the surface of the water when it appears. Simmer for about 3 hours until it shows little resistance when poked with a knife.
Remove from the water and remove the outer skin using scissors or a knife. Remove the bone from the back by simply pulling on it and check for small bones and gristle and discard. Slice crosswise as thin as you prefer.
From this point you can reheat by placing in boiling water again or even fry it in a pan.
Black pudding, blood pudding or blood sausage is a type of sausage made by cooking blood with a filler until it is thick enough to congeal when cooled. The dish exists in various cultures from Asia to America but mostly recognised from the UK. Pig, cattle, sheep, duck and goat blood can be used depending on different countries.
You can easily buy ready-prepared black puddings which is much easier and more practical than making your own. Ready-made puddings are already cooked, so they just need a gentle re-heating by slicing them thickly and gently grilling it, or heat it in the oven or even lightly frying it.
However, if you do find the need to make it yourself, follow the recipe below.
1 litre blood (Pig, Lamb or Goose)
340g Shredded Suet
3 Medium Onions, chopped
1 tbsp Salt
½ tsp Mixed Herbs
½ tsp Cayenne Pepper
Large sausage cases
Pre-heat oven to 160°C
Mix all of the ingredients together thoroughly, making sure that the seasonings are evenly distributed.
Next fill the large sausage cases.
Place into an ovenproof dish with a cover, standing in a larger dish half filled with water.
Bake for 1½ hours.
Allow to cool.
Fry with bacon and eggs for breakfast or use as a part of a Mixed Grill.
Pigs trotters require a long, slow cooking method, at least three to four hours to make them tender. The cooked meat can be removed from the bones and then set with its own cooking stock by reducing the liquid.
You can buy them fresh or even smoked. Smoked trotters are ideal to make a stock for a minestrone soup or a pea and ham soup using the meat as it falls of the bone.
Pigs Trotters Stuffed with Chicken Mousse
For the pig’s trotters:
4 boneless pig's trotters
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 sticks celery
1 leek, chopped
5 cloves garlic, chopped
200ml white wine
200ml red wine
4 sprigs thyme
4 bay leaves
For the stuffing:
1 tbsp oil
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 tsp thyme
300g chicken breasts
1 egg white
Put the trotters in the heavy based pot with the butter, vegetables, garlic and wine.
Pour in enough water to cover the ingredients and simmer gently for 1 1/2 hours until the trotters are cooked then remove and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 150°C
Add the stock to the pot and cook until it has reduced by two-thirds.
Season the trotters with salt and pepper and add to the pot with the thyme and bay leaves and cook for at least 6 hours, basting regularly, during the cooking time.
Pour the stock through a sieve, and reserve for the sauce.
For the chicken mousse, cook the onion, garlic and thyme in a saucepan
Put the chicken breast meat into a food processor and blend until minced. Add the egg white, onion, garlic and thyme mixture, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Process the mixture until well blended. Slowly pour in half the cream and process until well mixed.
Scrape any mixture from around the sides of the processor bowl then add the remaining cream and process until combined. Chill the mixture for 30-40 minutes until firm.
Split open the cooked pig's trotters and divide the stuffing mixture evenly between them. Wrap the trotters in foil and cook in the preheated oven for 1 hour.
Remove from the foil and serve hot with the reserved stock.
There are two kinds of sweetbreads, the thymus gland in the throat, and the heart sweetbread in the belly. The thymus gland is the most popular used sweetbread. Both lamb and veal sweetbreads can be used in cooking, but many prefer veal because they are larger and easier to handle.
To prepare the sweetbreads, they must be first soaked in cold water for a few hours, or overnight, changing the water two or three times. This is to remove the blood. After this, put the sweetbreads in a pan of cold, salted water and gradually bring them to the boil. As soon as they are boiling, drain them and rinse them in cold water. Allow to cool and remove the gristle, tissue and membrane. The sweetbreads can then be cooked in stock for a further 30 minutes and served with a sauce of your choice.
Sweetbreads can also be fried, having been brought to the boil and trimmed, as above. Before coating them in batter or breadcrumbs, place the trimmed sweetbreads on a plate or board and put a weight on the top. Leave them for an hour. Sweetbreads have a very delicate flavour and match well with a variety of flavours. Light, stock-based sauces go very well with sweetbreads.
Sweetbreads in a Marsala Sauce
1 cup white wine
1 bay leaf
1 tsp peppercorns
1 pair sweetbreads, cleaned
2 Tbsp butter, melted
2 Tbsp flour
½ cup Marsala
In a saucepan boil the wine, bay leaf and peppercorns.
Turn the heat to low and add sweetbreads. Simmer for 10 minutes.
Remove sweetbreads from the pan and slice into 2cm slices.
Strain the liquid and set aside.
In a separate pan stir the flour and butter together.
Add the reserved liquid to the flour/butter mixture then heat and stir until smooth.
Add Marsala and salt to taste.
Stir until smooth.
Add the sweetbreads to the sauce and heat through.
Haggis is a traditional Scottish dish kind of like a savoury pudding. It is made from the sheep's heart, liver and lungs and has been described as having an excellent nutty texture and delicious savoury flavour.
The heart, liver and lungs are minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt then mixed with stock and traditionally simmered in the animal's stomach for approximately three hours. However, most modern commercial haggis is prepared in a casing rather than an actual stomach.
Haggis is widely available in supermarkets in Scotland and other parts of the world all the year round and it’s sometimes found in tins or a container which can simply be microwaved or oven-baked. Some supermarket haggis is largely made from pig, rather than sheep, offal.
Haggis is also served in some Scottish fast-food establishments deep fried in batter. Together with chips, this comprises a "haggis supper". A "haggis burger" is a patty of fried haggis served on a bun, and a "haggis pakora" is another deep fried variant, available in some Indian restaurants in Glasgow.
A modern haggis variant often served in higher class restaurants is the "Flying Scotsman", which is chicken breast stuffed with haggis. This can in turn be wrapped in bacon to create a dish known as "Chicken Balmoral". Haggis can also be used as a substitute for minced beef in various recipes.
As well as food, Haggis has also been use in the form of entertainment. It is used in a sport called haggis hurling, which involves throwing a haggis as far as possible. The present Guinness World Record for Haggis Hurling has been held by Alan Pettigrew for over 25 years. He threw a 1.5 lb haggis 180 feet, 10 inches on the island of Inchmurrin, Loch Lomond, in August 1984. On October 8, 2008, competitive eater Eric "Steakbellie" Livingston set a world record by consuming 3 pounds of haggis in 8 minutes on WMMR radio in Philadelphia.
Matt Clark Professional Chef, Freelance Writer and Culinary Madness
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