Archive | January, 2012

Haggis and Redcurrant Ragu

25 Jan

This is what happens if left with a relatively empty fridge and a hge bowl of haggis to use up in the thrifty spirit that being Offaltarian brings to you. I also bought some reduced Morrisons venison meatballs  and needed to make a sauce since dry meatballs and dry pasta is the basis of deliciousness rather than the delicious itself.

To make the ragu (which is the main event … everyone has venison meatballs every day of course) it is very simple. You will need:

  • two sticks celery
  • one teaspoon garlic salt
  • one teaspoon dried rosemary
  • one teaspoon sugar
  • one can chopped tomatoes
  • 4 heaped tablespoons cooked haggis
  • 150g redcurrants removed from stalks, discarding manky and mouldy ones, you can remove the brown end where the flower was if you like but I didn’t and it didn’t make any difference to the flavour, just added a bit more fibre and we all love that!

Basically, it’s then very simple. Gently fry the celery, add the garlic salt, sugar and rosemary, swoosh it all about. Add tomatoes. Swoosh. Add haggis. Stir thoroughly. Add redcurrants. Simmer 10 minutes. The End.

Not really a recipe, and you ay notice born out of not having many ingredients in the house. In fact me and the Mr mostly had celery and redcurrants and haggis. Just shows you can make a meal from anything. The redcurrants were leftover from our Christmas when we had partridge and I think haggis and redcurrants is an excellent combination. The fruit cuts through the richness (which is I guess why they often partner game) and with the tomato makes a really nice tart sauce. I’d recommend trying it especially if you see some in the supermarket either reduced or you’re feeling like an adventure. I’d pair them with anything rich. I imagine redcurrant and duck would be good, or with sweet potato.

The most important part was re-using the haggis, which was excellent. Some Offalsceptics say you can’t reheat offal and that you’ll DEFINITELY DIE if you do. I totes didn’t die. The haggis worked really nicely in two ways. Firstly the meat added an extra meaty intensity to the sauce. Also the oatmeal swelled further so you got these little nice saucy oaty bits. It really made the texture of the sauce very chop-licking.

I’m looking forward now to the making of my own haggis and the using up of the spare haggis. Watch this space!

Kidney is dense ….

10 Jan

After the haggis I thought my next attempt with the offal should be a proper piece of offal, something that really looks like an organ.

As research I’ve been looking at different offal blogs (I am not alone) and different sites that offer offal recipes. Quite a few people have been inspired by the chef Fergus Henderson and are working their way through his book Nose to Tail Eating (here). I’ve not read it, nor been to his restaurant, but I gather he uses a lot of offal. The best known dish (it appears) is roasted marrow bones with parsley salad. That’s one for the list.

However, at the moment I haven’t made a butchery friend in Leeds who’ll give me bones. Nor do I at the moment have time to go to the butcher (I wish I did – though I could never vie with my mother’s reputation as The Butchery Whore of East Anglia*). So I toddled after babysitting to Otley Sainsbury’s. There I found some chicken livers prepacked and at the butchery counter some lamb’s kidneys. Kidneys. They are definitely a filtration organ. Very organly I thought to myself. More organly than liver? Difficult to call.

So I bought both, with the intention of freezing the livers and eating the kidneys that night.

First you have to prepare your kidneys, which involves cutting them in half and cutting out the white core.

I should point out that the kidneys aren’t racing, but my camera lens was covered in kidney juice which creates this romantic soft-focus effect. The white core is pretty tough. It is made up of the major and minor calyxes which seem to drain the filtered excreta from the kidney and then they join up with the ureter. I am quite glad I removed them. Also I believe they are CHEWY, which is not nice.

I wanted nice juicy kidneys when they were cooked, not the beaten-into-submission-ones that my Great-Grandfather used to cook. Also simple, as by this point it was half past eight and I was a bit hungry.

  1. Prepare your kidneys. Cut out the white core and cut into chunks.
  2. Heat a tablespoon olive oil in a pan, add a tablespoon of soy sauce and a teaspoon of chopped chilli from a jar (those easy use ones). Mix that together.
  3. When pan is hot, but not smoking, add chopped kidneys and cook for about four minutes, jiggling them about so they get cooked on all sides.
  4. Meanwhile grab a bag of salad from the fridge, wash and put on a plate.
  5. Add the cooked kidneys – they should be two-tone as in the picture due to the density of the meat in different parts of the organ. I like them a little pink inside, but feel free to cook them through.
  6. The DE-GLAZE THE PAN! I added a tablespoon of red wine vinegar, shoozzed it around and then dressed the kidneys and the salad with it. Add a gherkin or two.
  7. Ta DAH

I thought the kidneys would like gherkins as an accompaniment just to cut through the richness. It was a lovely dinner. I did, however, learn two important lessons.

Lesson 1: Kidneys are dense. You only need one lamb kidney person for a light supper.

Lesson 2: Maybe cut them a little smaller and to the same size, ish. This is because some pieces were too big and I couldn’t be bothered to wash a knife up.

Overall, I was pleased with myself and my foray into the world of kidney. There’d been quite a few warnings online about how they can taste urinous (no surprise) and I do remember eating a steak and kidney pie years and years ago that did indeed taste of piss. These didn’t. They were juicy, definitely tasted meaty, but pleasantly. I would recommend trying them.

What I also though was good, was that Sainsburys gave you cooking instructions on the label. However I did, with fading orange hair, fur coat and yellow Doc Martens, get a very funny look from the butcher who served me. Clearly, I don’t look like an offal-eater … YET!

Down to business …

9 Jan

Yes, that’s correct. I tackled the haggis. I am indeed a brave lady. My haggis-involvement was not purposeful though. I went for a run with my friend and then we went to Asda where I bought two brassieres for £1 each and then turned my thoughts to dinner.

Now Asda (it may just be the Holt Park one) is woefully short on the offal. I was slightly despairing that for a quick dinner I would have to get a £1 veggie lasagne, but then the reduced section came to my rescue.

Whoops indeed, Asda! I’ve never cooked Haggis. I’ve eaten it before – drunk at Burns Night Parties and I have ogled over this recipe from my friend RockSalt! You should totally check her things here. So this was indeed a new step for me. I checked it was indeed offal and was gratified to see the first two ingredients as pork lungs and pork liver. Excellent! It even looked a bit Scottish, what with the artfully placed thistles and all:

The instructions for cooking were on the back and as I had neither time nor inclination to steam or boil my haggis, I microwaved it, like what ye clansmen of Olde Bravehearte did. You take the filling out the fake bladder and blast it for five minutes, stirring half-way through. It tasted just like the drunk boiled ones I’d eaten before.

What you may not suspect is that a 454g haggis is actually a lot of haggis. I ate maybe a fifth. There’s still some in the fridge now. I’m intending to use it in exciting ways – maybe even Scotch egg it? All Scottish people (like Stephen Hendry) may know this, but haggis on toast is delicious. I did not.

I got  fancy and fried some leeks to go with it and my toast was from a really good baker in Headingley on North Lane just next to the vintage shop next to what was Oddbins. It is small and nice. I put some redcurrants on top and their sharpness cuts through the haggis, which was (whether due to amount plated or brand bought) a bit cloying.

But yes, first proper offal dinner at home done. Win.


Dipping my toe …

7 Jan

My first full week of being offaltarian began in earnest. Well ish. Some. A bit. It began with a visit to Little Tokyo in Leeds. It has a lot to offer the vegan/vegetarian, but what did it have to offer the offaltarian (I really like that term)? Well, unsurprisingly not a huge amount. All the meat things were out. The fish was in of course, but after my previous post about being a responsible fish eater, I wanted to well do that. But then I got over-excited and saw that eel was on the menu. Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeel.I had an eel bento … It was delicious, but …

I’ve plagued myself with half-remembered articles that I’ve read about eels and how people still don’t know where they spawn and what happens to adult eels after they’ve had a reproductive time and how long it takes them to reach sexual maturity and I’m not sure I made the right choice. A bit of the old google has shown me that I should be asked if the eel was sustainbably sourced as there is a new EU eel labelling standard (here). Each EU member state has had to come up with an Eel Management Plan that reflects the eels unique lifestyle. In England it is the Sustainable Eel Group who are responsible for its implementation.

However, at present, the eel is still on the Marine Stewardship Council’s red list (here) of species that are unsustainably caught. They also run the good fish guide so you can work out which fishes are most responsibly fished. This is excellent and I would downlaod the iphone app if I had one.

So, what you should take away from this lesson: DO NOT GET OVER-EXCITED IF YOU SEE EEL ON A MENU. IT IS NAUGHTY TO EAT IT AND THE (surviving) EELS WILL PUNISH YOU.

Eat Tilapia.

A condemned woman …

2 Jan

So, my visitation to the world of offal formally began on January 1st. Now I have just another 365 days (stupid leap year) to carry out this life experiment (does that make me sound like an idiot?) to its conclusion.

On New Year’s Eve I had my Last Supper and celebrated the end of regular cuts of meat with a delicious FILLET STEAK at the Stubbing Wharf in Hebden Bridge. Unfortunately I have no photos of this beautiful, succulent piece of desire because Daz and I decided to leave our phones behind to enjoy each other company all the more. That did leave us cameraless. But, imagine if you will, a really juicy rare fillet steak – but not that bland steak you get in the supermarkets – this one was clearly from a real bovine that had been in the outdoors. Lightly peppered it was delicious. A bit of me remembered how much I love steak and then shrank a little at the task ahead.

During the meal (Daz had pink lamb chops) we discussed the offal challenge and quite a lot of questions came up. What about chicken – all parts of game birds are included, but not those of chicken – is any bit of chicken included i.e. only wings? What about sausages? Historically yes, as they used up the offal, but nowadays with these posh sausages they contain proper meat. Shellfish? Fish – you can answer that below:

I guess the main point I am trying to make is about me (and us) as consumers and if we are choosing to eat meat we shouldn’t be squeamish about all the bits we eat. Responsible carnivory, if you will!