Odd bits used to be used all the time, with every part of the animal being utilised in one way or another. However, these days people are less inclined and less comfortable about using these parts. It seems bizarre that odd bits and offal are considered delicacies and regional specialities throughout the United Kingdom, yet we fail to bring it into our own kitchens. Cooking with the whole animal is a respectful approach to cooking, as it is seen as wasteful to only use an animal for it’s prime cuts.
Photography by Shannon Robinson at SLR Photography
Odd bits are low in cost compared to cuts which we are more familiar with, they’re extremely rich in protein and hold truly delicious flavour. These underused cuts of meat are traditional to our Country and can be found deep in our history, with Henry VIII dining on odd bits such as the pigs head to impress Monarchs from all over the world. It is true that cooking these unfamiliar parts may seem a little daunting, most of us lack the knowledge of how to cook organs as the textures are not something we are used to. However, with just a little bit of digging you can uncover some truly delicious recipes online and in various cookbooks which will change the way you view odd bits forever. With healthy eating and Palleo recipes becoming increasingly popular, people should familiarise themselves with the health benefits of eating these protein rich cuts.
‘Pork’ written by Phil Vickery and Simon Boddy contains a section dedicated to the off cuts of pork which we no longer use on a wide scale. It’s an extremely interesting read and has some mouthwatering recipes which should transform the way we look at these parts. Twice Cooked Trotters with Mango Chutney Glaze This recipe from Phil and Simon is a non intrusive introduction to trotters, featuring familiar flavours and sticky textures which don’t appear too daunting when faced with. The method is quick and easy, making the whole experience of cooking trotters stress free and enjoyable, and don’t they look delicious?
Image from ‘Pork’
4 large trotters, washed well 500ml good quality chicken or pork stock 2 large onions peeled and cut into wedges A few sprigs of fresh thyme 1 head of garlic, sliced horizontally Salt and freshly ground pepper 225g mango chutney or any other sweet fruit chutney/relish 2 tablespoons tomato purée 2 tablespoons cider vinegar 1 small red chilli, finely chopped 4 tablespoons olive oil
- Soak trotters in cold water for a couple of hours. Then preheat oven to 180°c/Gas 4
- Place a deep ovenproof pan with a tight fitting lid on the hob and add the drained trotters. Add the stock, onions, thyme, salt, pepper and garlic and bring to the boil. Leave it for 2 minutes and then cover.
- Transfer to the oven and cook for 1 hour 30 minutes. At this point remove from the oven and gently turn the trotters over. They will probably have started splitting due to the tendons contracting. Re-cover and return to the oven for a further hour, maybe slightly longer, until soft and squidgy.
- Once cooked, leave to cool, then chill well.
- When ready to re-cook, remove the trotters from the jelly and place in a small roasting tray large enough to accommodate all four trotters with a few centimetres gap between them.
- Preheat oven to 200°c/Gas 6
- Make up the glaze by whisking all the ingredients together, then spoon over the trotters. Cook in the hot oven for 15-20 minutes, by which time they will be glazing nicely, although you’ll probably find the glaze may go slightly runny at the start as some of the jelly will ooze out of the trotters. Turn the trotters over and reglaze with a spoon until all the glaze has stuck to the trotters.
- When deeply glazed, remove from the oven and leave to cool for 10 minutes, then tuck in.
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingsall is also in favour of ditching the squeamish attitude and embracing nose-to-tail dining with his recent article featured on The Guardian – http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2011/may/07/tongue-oxtail-pigs-cheek-recipes. The article features another great recipe for getting you cooking offal at home.
Ox tongue with Lentils and Green Sauce
Photography by Colin Campbell for The Guardian
Hugh says “Don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients – it’s very simple and you will have plenty of tongue left over for sandwiches and salads. Serves six.” For the brine 500g demerara or light muscovado sugar 1.5kg coarse sea salt 1 tsp black peppercorns 1 tsp juniper berries 5 cloves 4 bay leaves 1 sprig thyme For the tongue 1 whole ox tongue 1 bouquet garni (1 bay leaf, 4 parsley stalks, 2 sprigs thyme) 1 carrot, chopped 1 onion, chopped 1 celery stick, chopped 1 leek, chopped 1 clove garlic For the green sauce 1 large bunch flat-leaf parsley 1 large bunch mint, marjoram or basil (or a combination thereof) 1 tbsp capers, rinsed and chopped 8 anchovy fillets, finely chopped 1 small clove garlic, finely chopped 1 tbsp Dijon mustard Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper 2 tbsp white-wine vinegar Extra-virgin olive oil To finish 300g Puy lentils 1 bouquet garni (1 bay leaf, 4 parsley stalks, 2 thyme sprigs) Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Put the brine ingredients in a large pan, add five litres of water and, over low heat, stir until the sugar and salt dissolve. Bring to a boil, bubble for a few minutes, remove from the heat to cool, then refrigerate until cold.
- Put the tongue in a non-metallic container. Cover with the brine, weighting it down, if necessary, to keep it submerged, and leave in a cool place or fridge for four to five days.
- Remove the tongue from the brine and soak in fresh, cold water for 24 hours, changing the water at least once more. Put the tongue in a pan with the bouquet garni, vegetables and garlic, cover with fresh water and bring to a gentle simmer. Poach very gently for two and a half to three hours, until tender and yielding. Lift out the tongue, cool and peel off the coarse outer skin.
- To make the sauce, finely chop the herbs and put in a bowl with the capers, anchovies and garlic. Add the mustard, seasoning and vinegar, toss, then add enough oil to loosen the mix to a spoonable consistency.
- Cook the lentils as per the packet instructions (though adding a bouquet garni to the cooking water), then dress with oil and season. When the tongue is completely cold, cut into 1 cm slices and serve with the lentils and green sauce.
Odd bits aren’t all organs and unfamiliar objects, there are all sorts of cuts which you might not be aware of that are just delicious cuts of meat. One of these is the chuck steak, which is a piece of beef from the shoulder shaped like the number ‘7’ which got it’s name from being ‘chucked’ aside for uses such as dog food. However, the chuck steak is a great cut for making ground beef, as it holds a great balance of meat and fat, whilst having a deliciously rich flavour. Another cut which isn’t commonly used is the lamb neck fillet. The neck fillet of lamb is a cut we are familiar with here at The Wild Fork, we serve the fillet on basil crushed new potatoes, green beans and jus provençial. It always goes down swimmingly with clients and wedding guests and is an extremely tender, melt in the mouth piece of meat. Jamie Oliver is another chef who uses a great variety of cuts, and is well aware of the cost effectiveness of utilising all animal parts. His recipe for lamb neck fillets is much different to ours, featuring lots of exotic spices.
Moroccan Lamb Neck Stew
Image from http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/lamb-recipes/moroccan-lamb-stew/
“I made this dish up the other day on a kind of Moroccan vibe, when I was mucking about with ways of marinating and tenderizing a neck fillet of lamb, which is a really tasty and cheap cut of meat. I trimmed the meat of all sinews, bashed it flat using a rolling pin, and made 2 incisions down the length of each fillet, but not quite to the end, so it looked almost like a tripod. I then marinated it with lots of spices and herbs and plaited it, to give a contrast between crispy and soft meat which I thought would be interesting. You don’t have to plait the meat but it does increase the surface area, meaning the marinade can get right in there. Needless to say, Jools thought I was mucking around with it too much and being very camp — you decide!” ½ teaspoon cumin seeds 1 tablespoon coriander seeds 1 teaspoon fennel seeds 3-4 small dried chillies 1 small bunch fresh rosemary, leaves picked and finely chopped 2 thumb-sized pieces fresh ginger, peeled sea salt freshly ground black pepper extra virgin olive oil 4 smallish quality neck fillets of lamb 4 sweet potatoes, peeled, cut into 2.5cm dice 2 red onions, peeled and roughly chopped 4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced 12 ripe plum tomatoes, each cut into 8 pieces 1 stick cinnamon 2 bay leaves 1 handful dried apricots 285 ml boiling water 350 g couscous a little wine vinegar 1 large bunch fresh coriander 4 tablespoons fat-free natural yoghurt
- Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/gas 5. Pound up your cumin, coriander and fennel seeds with the dried chillies, rosemary, ginger and a pinch of salt and pepper, stirring in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil.
- Smear half of this marinade over your lamb before you plait it. Rub and massage it in, then put the meat to one side while you mix the rest of the marinade in a bowl with the sweet potatoes, onions and garlic.
- Brown your 4 marinaded pieces of meat on both sides in a pan with a little olive oil. Add the sweet potato mixture to the pan and remove the lamb to the empty bowl while you fry your veg for about 4 minutes until the onions are slightly soft.
- Add your tomatoes, give the pan a shake and place the meat on top. Add 3 wineglasses of water, the cinnamon stick, bay leaves and dried apricots, and braise in the preheated oven (I suggest you do this with the lid off to give it a little colour) for 1 hour 15 minutes.
- Now pour the boiling water over the couscous and allow it to be absorbed. Then fork the couscous through, season with salt, pepper, a lug of olive oil and a swig of wine vinegar, cover with tinfoil and place in the oven for 5 minutes to steam.
- Roughly chop the fresh coriander and stir it through the stew just before serving. Divide between 4 plates with the couscous and spoon over a good dollop of natural yoghurt.
Hopefully by now, you understand that cooking offal, odd bits, organs and unfamiliar cuts really isn’t scary, challenging or pricey. It gives you a whole new area of food to experiment with and a huge variety of unique tastes and textures. It’s cost effective, delicious and challenges wastefulness. The use of these parts is definitely on the increase, not only in restaurants but people are very slowly starting to introduce it into the home. So embrace the odd bits and let’s get cooking.
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