PUTTING OFFAL back on the menu
So, my friends, what’s in a name? When it comes to that wide range of meat products collectively called offal, it brings strong responses.
In the olden days in England the word came from off and fall – literally the bits that fell off an animal during the slaughtering process.
Australia’s own Macquarie Dictionary tells us offal is “the inedible parts of a meat carcass after slaughter”. The Oxford Dictionary describes it as “scraps, garbage and dregs”.
So who, my friends, would want to dine on offal? Well, the Chinese do – they pay up to $70 for a kilo of Aussie beef or lamb tongues. The French do – their goose liver pate foie gras is now one of the most expensive culinary treats and in great demand around the world. The Scots do – their famed haggis is made from various offals and lined with sheep stomach.
In fact, in almost any country you’ll find offal is becoming increasingly popular. Australia is the exception – but it was not always so.
Back in the 1980s Australians ate a range of offal – from sheep’s brains, especially as baby food and in sandwiches for the playground; to honeycomb tripe, usually served up in a white sauce; to kidneys, usually served up on toast for breakfast, or baked in a pie with braised beef; to lamb’s tongue, which accompanied salads.
Lamb’s fry, presented in a rich gravy with bacon and onions, was a great favourite in the pubs around the country. And still is a great favourite because hotel kitchens can buy it so cheap (around $3 a kilo), it’s fast and easy to cook, and it tastes great. I love it simple, served with mash and a green vegie.
Pate made from chicken livers is a favourite of Aussies, but why buy it in a pack off a supermarket shelf? It’s so easy to make as I will show in this edition.
Chicken livers also combine so well with pasta. Inside there’s a recipe for this dish.
Food fads have changed dramatically in the past 30 years. Offal in various guises was a staple on kitchen tables – tripe, kidneys and livers were the most popular.
In those days rabbit was so cheap it was used to bulk up chicken casseroles. Now chicken is cheap and rabbit is so expensive ... that’s if you can find a bunny in a butcher’s shop.
Similarly, lamb shanks and pork belly used to be cheap; not so nowadays because chefs have increasingly turned them into foodie works of art.
Butchers in and around Hobart have a regular supply of lamb’s fry and kidneys, but only a few of them now sell tripe. The two excellent butcher’s shops in
Brighton municipality don’t sell tripe because it is hard to get and there is little consumer demand.
But you can buy tripe at Robinsons Meats in Glenorchy and Chigwell.
Popular Aussie chef Stephanie Alexander loves offal, especially tripe dishes, but she complains that the Poms cook tripe in milk and onions – “probably the worst way to serve tripe in the whole world!”
She prefers tripe done the Italian way – rich tomato flavours and parmesan cheese – or one of the many recipes developed by the French and Spaniards.
I also like the way the Europeans cook their tripe, and I have a recipe inside. But you’ll have to shop for tripe outside the municipal boundary.
Another famed Aussie chef Maggie Beer in her great cookbook Maggie’s Harvest has written: “I love offal so much that I cannot go past it when I see it on a menu, and I have been known to have three offal entrees instead of an entrée, main course and dessert.”
Tassie’s home-grown Olympian has had career setbacks recently, but he’s learned to put his best foot forward
KEEPING on the right track
The winter months are potentially the most challenging time for athletes or anyone not sitting on a heater. But they are also the most rewarding. As it becomes easier and easier not to head outside and get things done, few could be blamed for not doing so. But there is something special about persisting with things that are hard, and not giving up when others could.
Not letting things beat you is the theme of my message today and though it’s not the most exciting story to tell, I do think it’s an important one.
As I wrote in my last column, I may have been to the Olympics and had some solid runs at world championships in the last few years. But I have never been able to regain the level of performances I achieved in 2009.
This has largely been due to setbacks or interruptions along the way. While it led to many angry moments a few years ago, as I’ve got older I now realise that this is life, and is certainly not unique to athletics or even sport. What I’ve learned along the way is that the thing that separates those who achieve their goals from those who let them go (and I’m certainly not in the first category yet) is an ability to assess what’s going on, accept it and deal with it in a positive manner before it gets bad enough to break you.
I am currently meant to be on a plane to Japan for a couple of racing meets, but instead in a few hours I’m off to get an injection on an injured muscle.
On top of this if all had gone to plan at nationals a few weeks ago, I would maybe have been back at the level I crave so much. But that’s not always how life works and here I am. In the nationals final I ran the first half of the race better than I ever have and was in the box seat to do something great. But then in an instant I had smashed hard into a hurdle, nearly fell over and cost myself the race and automatic selection to the Commonwealth Games.
While I should hopefully get into the Aussie team later in the year, I was pretty down about this and for a few hours questioned why I do it at all. But in the end I refused to let that be the way the story went.
I could question why bad things happen but there’s no point, things only start feeling better once you refuse to let them ‘We’ll all have setbacks along the way. That’s part of life’s journey’ take over. Then you no longer feel helpless and can start to get back to being happy about it all. I am by no means the most talented person in my event, but I do know that whatever happens I can be proud that I kept striving.
For you guys too I don’t need to say that at times things won’t always go according to plan, but we always have a choice on how we deal with situations. The best advice I ever got was when I was at my lowest and nothing was going right. I was moping around and having a whinge to the person I was eating with. My friend made the point that no matter what was happening, we all still have the choice on how we approach our day. I didn’t get the point then but it eventually sunk in.
You, me ... we’ll all have setbacks along the way. That’s part of life’s journey.
But with the right approach to setbacks – a positive attitude – we continue our journey through life all the better for those experiences.
Meanwhile, enjoy conquering the winter months.
OFFAL – the cheapest meat in town!
And for as little as $3 a kilo, you can cook up a very tasty meal
Australian butchers, it seems, give a low priority to selling offal. They say their younger clients especially are not used to preparing dishes with kidneys, liver and tripe.
But overseas there is only one other country – the great old USA – whose people are also averse to offal. It might be the various unappetising names it sells under, especially those that sound like our body parts. Or it might be the look of the product.
But the people of all other nations – and that includes the fussy foodies of France and Italy – love their offal. And I reckon the Brits were brought up on tripe.
But offal is rich in vitamins (especially Vitamins A and B12), minerals and other trace elements.
But a warning: the downside health- wise is that offal is high in cholesterol, so if that could be a problem, check with your doctor or dietician. But remember, you don’t need much on the plate for a satisfying meal
Offal is very affordable – especially lamb livers (aka lamb’s fry) which can sell for as low as $3 a kilo.
Folks, I can guarantee that offal is the best protein value in town! No fat, no bones, no wastage. And the food is so rich in flavour that you don’t need to buy a large amount. The flavours are spread into whatever is served with the offal – pasta, noodles, mashed potato. For instance, around 100 grams of chicken livers is ample to accompany a serve of pasta.
For liver and kidney recipes you can use cuts from calf, lamb, pork and chicken. Some butchers also sell ox kidneys.
Offal should be as fresh as possible
for preparation – ideally used less than 24 hours after purchase.
Wash offal under running water and liver should then be soaked in milk for several hours to make it tender. Never overcook liver, because the high protein content makes the liver tough and bitter when overcooked.
Liver takes just minutes to cook, so everything needs to be at hand when preparing a meal.
Never put salt or herbs on liver before cooking. You season an offal dish just before serving.
Before you put liver into the pan, make sure the butter or fat is hot without becoming brown. Place the liver in the pan and sear both sides quickly, then turn the heat down to medium to finish cooking.
If you are using onions, fry them first until they’re brown, then put them aside while you reheat the pan to fry the liver.
TWO GREAT RECIPES FOR CHICKEN LIVER PATE
125 g chicken livers
15 g butter
1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons dry sherry
90 g cream cheese, softened
salt and pepper to taste
Trim and clean the livers, wash and pat dry with a paper towel. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
Stir in garlic, onions and liver. Reduce heat to low and simmer for around 10 minutes until livers are tender and no longer pink.
Place all in a blender with the dry sherry, cream cheese, salt and pepper. Blend until smooth. Transfer into a bowl or jar, cover and refrigerate for about two hours before serving with crusty bread.
600 g chicken livers
100 g chopped butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and
chopped 1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons brandy or port
salt and pepper to taste
Trim and clean the livers, wash and pat dry with a paper towel. Melt the butter in a large frying pan over medium heat until butter is foaming. Add onion and garlic and cook and stir until soft. Add the livers, bay leaf, thyme and brandy or port. Cook for about 10 minutes until livers are cooked. Remove from the heat and let cool.
Remove the bay leaf and spoon the mix into a food processer. Blend until smooth and season to taste. Spoon the pate into ramekins and cover with plastic wrap pressed on to the surface to prevent discolouring. When the pate is cool, cover with a layer of clarified butter and refrigerate until needed. Serve with fresh crusty bread or toast.
PERI PERI chicken livers It’s great on pasta!
500 g chicken livers, trimmed and cut into bite size pieces
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
juice of one lemon
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons crushed chillies
2 bay leaves
pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper
20 g butter
1 medium onion peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
1⁄2 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon brandy
Place chicken livers in a large bowl, pour in 3 tablespoons olive oil, vinegar and lemon juice. Season with garlic, cumin, coriander, chilli flakes, bay leaves, salt and pepper. Stir together and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
Remove livers to a bowl and reserve the marinade. Heat the remaining olive oil and the butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. Stir in chopped onion and cook until tender, about 7 minutes.
Increase heat to medium-high, stir in chicken livers and cook for 2 minutes, taking care not to overcook them.
Stir in tomato paste, worcestershire sauce, chicken stock and the reserved marinade. Simmer gently for about 5 minutes. Pour in the brandy and heat through and serve.
Serve with steamed rice, fine egg noodles or pappardelle pasta,
CHICKEN liver pilaf
11⁄2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion finely chopped
1 cup long grain rice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
450 g chicken liver
1 clove garlic thinly sliced
1⁄2 teaspoon ground cumin
1⁄4 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Heat a tablespoon of oil in a saucepan, add chopped onion and sauté gently until soft. Add the rice and stir for 1 minute, then add two cups of boiling water and a pinch of salt. Cover and gently cook for about 18 minutes or until rice is tender.
Meanwhile rinse the livers and pat dry on a paper towel, then cut into small, even sized pieces, removing all gristly bits.
Heat the remaining oil in a non-stick pan, add the garlic, sauté for 1-2 minutes, then discard the garlic.
Add the livers to the oil and cook over moderate heat for 3-4 minutes, turning regularly, and sprinkle cumin, paprika, salt and pepper to season. Remove the livers to a heated dish.
Add the vinegar and 11⁄2 tablespoons of water to the frying pan and bring to the boil, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Return the livers to the pan to keep warm in the juices, while serving the rice.
Drain the rice if necessary, then heap it on to four serving plates.
Top with the livers and pan juices and serve.
MUSTARD lamb kidneys
6 lamb kidneys
15 g unsalted butter
1 tablespoon red or white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
100 ml cream
2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon salt and freshly ground black pepper fresh tarragon to garnish
Remove the transparent membrane covering the kidneys. Cut the kidneys in half crosswise and remove the core from the middle.
Melt the butter in a frying pan. Put the kidneys in the pan, cut side down. Cook over a moderate high heat for two minutes, then turn and cook for a further two minutes, pressing them flat with a spatula as they cook. Take care not to overcook the kidneys or they will be dry and rubbery. Remove the kidneys to a plate.
Pour vinegar into the pan and scrape up any meaty sediment using the spatula. Cook over a high heat until most of the vinegar has evaporated. Add the mustard and cream and bring almost to the boiling point, stirring all the time. Stir in the tarragon and season to taste.
Return the kidneys to the pan, reheat them for a few seconds, then serve immediately with the creamy sauce. Garnish with fresh tarragon.
Noodles or pasta go well with this dish.
LAMB liver skewers
300 g lambs fry cut in 1 cm cubes
8-12 slices of prosciutto sage leaves
2 tablespoons butter
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
Sprinkle the liver cubes with thyme and
roll the prosciutto into tight rolls, one for every piece of liver.
Skewer a piece of liver, then a rolled up prosciutto and a sage leaf on to a bamboo skewer and repeat until you have about 8 of each on one skewer. Repeat until all ingredients are used up.
Melt the butter in a fry pan and place skewers in the pan and fry until they are uniformly brown.
Season with salt and serve on a bed of rice. .
You could also wrap prunes in the prosciutto to enhance the flavour.
RICH English steak and kidney pie
1 tablespoon of plain flour mixed with salt and pepper
750 g braising steak, trimmed and cubed
185 g kidneys, cored and chopped
1 tablespoon butter
1-2 cloves garlic crushed 1 onion chopped
100 g mushrooms 150 ml beef stock 150 ml dark beer
1 bay leaf
1 sprig of fresh thyme
1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon tomato paste fresh milk to glaze
For the Pastry
185 g plain flour pinch of salt
80 g butter
1/4 cup cold water
Toss the steak and kidney in the flour, shaking off any excess. Melt the butter in a large saucepan and lightly fry the garlic, onions and mushrooms for about 3 minutes. Add the steak and kidney and remaining flour and cook for about 5 minutes until lightly browned.
Gradually stir in the stock, beer, bay leaf, thyme, worcestershire sauce and tomato paste. Cover and simmer gently for about 1 to 11⁄4 hours. Spoon mixture into a pie dish and cool slightly.
Put the remaining flour and a pinch of salt into a bowl. Rub in the butter until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the cold water and mix to a dough. Roll out on a lightly floured surface 5cm wider than the pie dish.
Cut a 2.5cm wide strip from the pastry and place on the dampened edge of the pie dish. Brush the strip with water. Cover with the pastry lid, press lightly to seal the edges. Crimp to seal, brush with milk and bake at 200C for 30-40 minutes.
Serve with mashed potato and steamed greens.
650 g parboiled tripe 3 onions chopped
6 cloves garlic finely chopped
7 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons mild paprika
220 g chorizo sausage
150 g black pudding
480 ml dry white wine
6 tomatoes chopped
3 teaspoons fresh thyme chopped
2 bay leaves
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of salt
2 small chillies chopped
300 g cooked chick peas
5 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Soak the tripe in water or milk for 10 minutes. Rinse thoroughly and drain well. Cut in to 5cm squares.
Heat the oil in a large heavy saucepan until very hot, add the onions and garlic and sauté until lightly golden. Add the paprika, tripe, chorizo and wine and bring to the boil, then stir in the tomatoes, thyme, chilli, bay leaves, peppercorns, nutmeg and salt. Mix well.
Add the black pudding, reduce the heat and cook over a low heat for 11⁄2-2 hours, until tripe is tender.
Discard the bay leaves, stir in the chick peas and cook gently for a further 5-10 minutes.
Garnish with parsley before serving with a mash and steamed greens.
670 g pre-cooked tripe cut into strips
2 tablespoons white vinegar 2 tablespoons olive oil
100 g mushrooms thickly sliced
1 large onion sliced
75 g butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons tomato paste salt and black pepper
220 g bread crumbs
150 ml beef stock
Freshly chopped parsley
Place the tripe in a shallow dish. Add the oil and vinegar, mix well and leave for about 30 minutes to marinate. Preheat the oven to 180 C, lightly grease an oven-proof dish.
Melt the butter in a large frying pan, add sliced onion and mushrooms and sauté for two or three minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Stir the flour and tomato paste into the pan, mixing well then add the stock, salt and pepper and blend thoroughly.
Place half the tripe in the greased dish, cover with a layer of the onions and mushrooms, then sprinkle some breadcrumbs. Place remaining tripe on top of this, then top with the remaining onions and mushrooms.
Pour the tomato sauce mixture over this and finally top with the remaining breadcrumbs. Bake for 30- 45 minutes, serve garnished with chopped parsley.
HOW to grow new gardeners
I’m talking kids here. You see, many kids love nothing better than mucking around in mud and slush.
So play it smart, get them rugged up and digging around in all that dirt, maybe making the odd mud pie, and you just might sow the seed of a future gardener. A love of gardening can be a huge joy in life.
I always remember a past great gardener, Kevin Heinze, the original TV gardener, claiming that if more kids got hooked on gardening at an early age there would be less juvenile crime. I reckon old Kev was right.
Gardening’s got a lot to offer kids. It teaches them patience. It shows them that if they put a little effort in they’ll be rewarded by nature. And it’s heaps of fun.
Start them with an easy crop. A good one this time of year is broad beans. Buy a packet and get them to help you plant.
Dig some soil in a sunny spot, sprinkle in a few handfuls of lime (available from a nursery), make a long trench 5-10cm deep
and have them place a seed about every 30cm. The important bit is that the soil should drain well or the seeds will rot.
Fill in the trench and in a week or two their broad beans will be springing up.
String up some chicken wire between stakes alongside the trench so the beans have something to lean against when it gets windy.
Kids get bored easily so don’t expect them to be with you all the way. You just need to get them interested at this stage.
A trick for later on in the year is to get them to spell out their name in radish seeds – then wait for their name to appear.
Flowers are great too. One I’ve had success with for warmer weather is growing sunflowers and, when the flower heads are full size, using a knife to scrape out a smiley face.
Kids love it. Take their photo smiling next to the sunflower. With luck, they’ll view the photo in years to come and associate that smiley face with gardening happiness.
Another good winter ploy is to grow a green manure or green compost crop.
The kids can help you on this one too.
A green manure crop adds oomph to your soil so it grows better vegies and flowers in quicker time. You’ll be amazed how good they will be.
The idea is to dig the green manure crop back into your garden to replace all those nutrients previous crops have eaten up.
It will also improve the structure of the soil while acting like a carpet to stop weeds from taking over your patch.
The best green manure crops are ones that grow quickly.
It’s easy. Just clear a bed of the previous crop and sow some seed.
Good green manure crops include barley, tick beans, rye mustard, clover and oats. Ask for them at your nursery or check out the specialist seed companies on the internet.
Water the seed regularly if it doesn’t rain. When the plants get up (and before they flower), simply stomp them down (the kids will love this bit) and dig them into the ground.
In a few weeks the plants will have broken down and the soil will be screaming out to grow something else.
Chuck in a couple of handfuls of blood and bone and let ’em rip.