Archive | March, 2012

Foodie Penpals!

30 Mar

My friend Rocksalt is hosting the European part of Foodie Penpals. Foodie Penpals is where you get matched up with two people – one gives you a box and you give the other one a box – in a big circle of food love. That’s nice isn’t it?

The box I received came from Jennie who is a co-host of the Sharing Supper Club and you can follow her twitterings @jen_dub.

I really enjoyed making mine and putting together some tasty (?) treats. Fingers crossed I got mine right – my own preview of it is here on my other blog.

Anyway, Jennie sent me a lovely box full of Nigerian treats as she had recently been on holiday there.

It is pretty timely as I’ve just fallen in love with the African butcher in the market in Leeds – I can thoroughly recommend their chicken and thyme sausages (not sure how African they are though!). And some recipes were included, which Jen had kindly made offal-appropriate!

You can see that I was a very lucky recipient!

Clockwise from top: lemongrass, Cameroon pepper, pepper soup spice, BBQ peanuts, Chin Chin (sweet goodnes), green tomato chutney, Suya spice (hot), Hot chilli pepper, Suya spice, my lovely card!

Some things are for the experimentation with, some were specified to eat now, so since it was a lovely Spring day, my boyfriend and I took a picnic! The barbecue peanuts and the chin chin are snack for now, so we made some cheese and tomato chutney rolls and took them all off for a jolly. A jolly that would end in being gobbled up. Nom.

Here is Kirkstall Abbey grounds where we took our picnic to. By walking along the canal. Oh, the Romance!

And here is my Romantic Cheese and Green Tomato Chutney Roll. You can’t get better than that.

The following day I used the lemongrass to make some herbal tea to drink while I was working on job applications and suchlike. Literally I put three stalks in the teapot and poured over water that was just off boiling. What a lovely treat. I’m a massive herbal tea fan, and have used fresh lemongrass before, but this dried stuff was the bees knees. I was surprised that it gave the tea so much colour too. Aside, I love lemongrass essential oil and use it a lot when I’m making potions for friends and myself, so it was lovely to handle the real thing.

One of the nicest things Jennie did was put a couple of recipes in with the stuff so I’ve got a starting point to work from. One of which was for Pepper Soup.

Me being me, and this blog being what it is, I did end end up asking for “a pound of mixed offal please” at the butcher in the market. In the same transaction I’d asked for chicken necks (watch this space), but they’d SOLD OUT. So whoever bought all the chicken necks in Leeds a) what were you making and b) that’s very greedy of you. The butchers, who seem to do a fairly brisk offal trade, were confused and asked me if necks and other offal had been on television, because there’d been a run on it. Clearly signs of Spring mean we want our meat to be extra-perishable!

The following recipe is pretty much the one Jennie sent, but I changed some things because I was trying to do about fifty million things at once, but none of those fifty million things were to read the recipe properly. Ooopses …

1 lb mixed offal cut into chunks, some oil, 2 onions finely chopped, 2 medium potatoes peeled and chopped in bite size chunks, 3 peeled and chopped carrots, 2 tbsp pepper soup spice, 1 tsp chilli, 1 heaped tsp mixed herbs, handful fresh mint leaves.

  1. Tackle the tongue first. Boil it for about twenty minutes and then remove the outer skin. Cut into chunks.
  2. Boil chunks of meat in water to cover them for a couple of hours. Put the heart and tongue in first, then liver, then kidneys. When cooked through, drain, reserve water (offal stock?), and finely chop the meat.
  3. Add oil and onions to pan, cook til soft, add offal, carrots, potatoes, herbs and spices. Fry all together about twenty minutes.
  4. Add offal stock and any extra water you might need so all ingredients are covered with liquid. Simmer another twenty minutes. 
  5. Add chopped mint just before serving!

The soup was very delicious, but very spicy. Possibly heavy-handed with the chilli and the pepper soup spice? I’m not sure. However it definitely blew away the beginnings of a cold that I had. The mint is an amazing addition by the way. It seems to at the same time cool your mouth, but also make the spices seem hotter. (I guess that’s to do with the way mint essential oil works on the skin, so it cools down hot skin and warms up cold skin.) It was beautiful!

Even though I’m an offaltarian, I had been a bit sceptical of a soup with chunks of offal in – but it was great. I’m not sure it would be to the taste of a first time offal-eater, but at the medium to advanced level I would say it was pretty good. I enjoyed the mix of species in the offal mix too. I don’t think people should be afraid to mix species with their cooking.

All in all I really enjoyed my first foodie penpal. Jennie was very generous with what she sent, considerate and I’m sure whoever gets her next box will be very lucky. I’ve definitely enjoyed learning a little more about African cookery, and am going to invest in an African cookery book at the first oppurtunity! Any suggestions?

Happiness Soup

25 Mar

Obviously, I’ve been eating a lot of offal. And writing about it. Behind the scenes, however, there is a large vegetable component to being an Offalsaurus.

This is an invented recipe, inspired by feeling a bit glum and having got a copy of Readers Digest ‘Foods that Harm, Foods that Heal’. Not a lot of offal heals apazza. However, foods that heal, and specifically boost mood, are many and various. Inspired by the blog, written by Neals Yard, about how to boost your mood, I made a Happiness Soup.

There are five key ingredients: butternut squash, sweet potato, dates, walnut, turkey. They help boost serotonin in particular and include vitamins A, B3, B6, C and E, fibre, iron, omega-3 fatty acids and lots of other good shiz n ting.

(The turkey leg I purchased satiated an early chicken craving. Probably cheating, I imagine, it was excused as I would never have thought to buy a whole turkey leg prior to the offalicity of my current diet. The meat is brown? Asda is balls for offal? I hadn’t got my boundaries right? Whatever, the soup is lovely.)


1 medium onion, 3 finely chopped garlic cloves, 1 medium sweet potato, half a smallish butternut squash, 50g chopped walnuts, 50g dried and pitted dates that are roughly chopped, 2 pints turkey stock plus any of the meat you have

  1. Put the walnuts and dates in a bowl and cover with boiling water. It’s best if you chop them first then cover them. They will soften down a bit while everything else does its thing.
  2. Finely chop your onion and fry it gently in some oil. Add the garlic. Stir.
  3. Add the roughly chopped sweet potato and butternut squash. Stir. Keep them cooking on a medium heat for about twenty minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Now add any turkey meat you may or may not have. Stir.
  5. Add the date and walnuts. Stir. (Do you get the gist?) Fry for about five minutes, stirring all the time. The date-flesh will sort of melt into the other ingredients and it all might seem a bit sticky.
  6. Add your stock and bring to the boil. Simmer for about twenty minutes.
  7. Depending on how you like your soup, either whizz with a hand blender, or leave it chunky. (I whizzed, but the texture had a few chunks still.)

There you have it. You could easily leave out the turkey component and have a delicious vegan soup. It’s quite thick when it’s made, but you can always water it down a little. I like a nice thick soup, particularly in February, which was when I concocted this idea.

I felt very well while I was eating the soup, but whether that was due to my own smugness at having homemade soup for lunch everyday, or the ingredients, I’m not sure. However the more I read about eating in relation to specific requests you put on your body, the more sense it seems to make. I’d recommend an explore of the Neals Yard Natural News site – I’m forever writing down recipes and tips from there. My friend Daisy also discusses eating healthily (and how tricky it can be) on her blog.

What I am discovering is that my offal diet, is perhaps not the most healthy of diets for me. In that overnight I went from *almost* vegetarian (by price, rather than ethical choice) to a Meatatarian (as my friend Gus put it). I’m toying with the idea of putting the offal aside for a week to be a vegemetarian- what do you think I should do?

Do you have a happy soup?

Tagine of Veal Tongue

22 Mar

I was trying to look bovine, but cows don't wear towells.

This is a recipe unashamedly taken from ‘The Fifth Quarter’ by Anissa Helou. This is a brilliant book for anyone thinking of getting down with the offal. The recipe in the book is ‘Tagine of Ox Tongue’ (page 95). However, Daz and I forgot to check we had all the right ingredients. So, therefore, it was inevitable that we didn’t use all the same things. That is a bit of a shame, as I was for once intending on just copying someone’s recipe and not ending up with a different thing all together. Maybe I’m just too creative for my own good *coughs*

Here is the version we ended up with. But I would buy the book. Or don’t as it may give away some of the things I intend to serve at my offal banquet at the end of the year, and if you intend on coming, it might be a spoiler.

  • 1 veal tongue, weighing about 1 kg, well cleaned
  • 2 x 400g tins cannellini beans, drained
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 2 tsp ras el hanout spice mix
  • salt
  • 6-8 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar

So, you need to first of all boil the ox tongue for 10-15 minutes, according to Anissa. I would probably boil it for 30 minutes so that the skin is just a bit easier to peel off. After the 30 mins, remove tongue from heat and peel it, using fingers and/or a knife.

Cut the tongue into 1 cm wide slices and put in a pan. Add all the herbs and spices and a litre and a half of water and boil for 45 mins. Now add the cans of beans and boil for a further 30mins. Make sure then you add the beans that the sauce isn’t too dry. You can add a bit more water. At the end of the cooking you want tender tongue and tender beans. If you’ve got too much water, you can then boil that off.

When you’re satisfied with the consistency, transfer to a serving dish and add vinegar. Ours was quite thick, almost risotto like, but you could have it any way you fancy. a nice crisp salad would be good on the side.

A super simple dish that really is a taste explosion. Tongue is delicious and I’m really enjoying cooking with it. Definitely try it. If you don’t fancy wrestling a whole one, just pick up some cooked tongue from the supermarket instead of ham. it really is the SHIZ!

Not quite the Dambusters …

21 Mar

Not my finest hour. My newest and probably most important lesson is that you don’t have to add offal to everything. By offal in this case I mean rehydrated pig’s blood and by everything I mean a delicious pasta sauce.

After eating quite a lot of meat lately (obvs offal), Daz and I had a lovely vegetarian lunch and were meant to continue that theme with a nice pasta sauce for dinner for my hard-working other half. I got some tomatoes and an aubergine and had ideas to add chilli and smoked paprika. All was going well, untill the ill-fated thought of “oh I should offal this up” …


At this point I was frying onions, garlic, aubergine and anchovies together. Getting it all to meld until I added some tinned tomatoes and turned down the heat for some simmering time. Between this and the following photo I thought, yes, what this needs is some dried pig’s blood.

Then I added the blood. (One 50ml shot of the powdered blood and then 6 more shots of water.) And two tins of tomatoes. I think that actually looks quite delicious. The downfall, the bunker of my demise was in forgetting that blood actually has quite a lot of flavour. When you cut yourself, and suck the wound (I don’t make a habit of this, but I am by nature supremely clumsy), you can taste the metal. Anchovies, also, have a strong taste.

Does blood + anchovy = delicious?

I think you can see both the hope and trepidation in this face. Have I gone too far? Is this going to be an offal mess? Would Hugh F-W look disapprovingly at me?

If truth be told, I didn’t make the most delicious dinner I’ve ever attempted. I also managed to overcook the pasta and the cheese was a bit corner shop generic cheese. Also, perhaps cheese and blood aren’t the best supper-partners either? I think I just got a bit over-excited. Not even did some last minute tomato paste improve conditions. Basically I was struck down by my own inventiveness.

After about half my bowl, I turned round and said I didn’t really like it. Daz manfully struggled on a bit further, with his bigger bowl, before bowing out. Admitting when you are wrong is a kind of wisdom though, isn’t it?

Who’s got the crack (pudding)?

8 Mar

By crack, I of course mean bacon.

Nine and a half weeks in to my self-imposed offalism, I’ve got the bacon shakes. I really want some. But I can’t have it. It’s not only NOT OFFAL, but is also a REGULAR CUT OF MEAT. I even asked Daz is streaky would be OK and he said NO. Quite right too really. If I broke the bacon rule I may as well go out and eat twenty fillet steaks in a sitting. And not only would that be bad for my digestion, but it would also be a waste of good fillet and we wouldn’t want that.

A little while ago I was talking to my friend MotherEagle about cravings and because she was an aromatherapist I asked her if there were essential oils that stopped cravings. Unfortunately not really, but you can train yourself to associate certain smells with craving a thing so you stop doing it. I’ve been trying this with my bacon obsession and it’s not working. I just want to try bacon and bergamot.

Bacon is a taunting meat as well. It’s everywhere I look. Bacon at the bed and breakfast I stayed at. I had sausage, because there wasn’t even any black pudding. Bacon at MacDonalds (I work very close to one). Bacon in the market near my work. And finally ‘How to make the Perfect Bacon Sandwich’ on the Guardian today. I can imagine the taste vividly. Either I am ignoring the signs of the Universe, or the Guardian has never seen Robin Hood Prince of Thieves and therefore does not know that only Allah is perfect. And I’m pretty sure Allah is not a bacon sandwich.

Is there an offal equivalent of bacon? Is there heck! Though I am going to try and re-create it with pig’s ears. watch this space! I will however have some of those soya bacon chips on hand. Put on pasta with some cheddar, comfort food of the Gods!

In an attempt to satiate my craving, I set to with what is fast becoming a fridge staple for me – black pudding!

I’m not in any way saying that black pudding is the same. It is delicious though and I’m really enjoying using it cooked and crumbled over salads and in warm sandwiches. A new favorite is black pudding omelette.

So it might not look amazing, but a balc pudding omelette is very nice indeed. You want to fry your black pudding so it’s cooked, doesn’t matter if it breaks up and then add your eggs and omelette like normal. Omelette were the first proper thing I learnt to cook and sometimes it’s nice to return to those sorts of basics. What did you first learn to cook?

Meat Mail …

5 Mar

A while ago a super exciting package arrived on my doorstep …

Where has this monster package come from? What might it contain? Why did it arrive at 7am in the morning? Why did it feel so very cold? Why is it so very heavy? What does that yellow sticker say?

Well, it might be no surprise that it contained MEAT. More precisely OFFAL. More precisely an amazing package of veal offal from the Alternative Meat Company. The purchase was inspired by my trip to Kendalls and the eating of the veal liver, which you can read all about in an earlier post. So what’s in the box I hear you cry?

Ooooh, it looks like there’s a lot in there … what can it be? Some delicious treats to go in my belly?

Ah ha! So what are we looking at? Well from top left there are two hanger steaks, two packs of oxtail, two hearts and two tongues. Why is it all in pairs? It was buy one, get one free on the veal offal. Including postage, it came to about £20 and we’ve already had a lot of meals out of it. It all arrived perfectly frozen and on the day I requested and it all went into the freezer. We now have an offal drawer.

Steak, you may say, what about the offalism? Well, let me tell you that hanger steak is not an offal, but it is an underused cut. Also on Masterchef they called it offal, according to my friend Lucia, so therefore it must be. We’d recognise it more by the name of beef skirt.

I’ve got a few recipes to try and lots of ideas. Mostly I’m excited at trying some really nice veal. Alternative Meats get their veal from Cumbria, and on their website there is a video with the farmer. I really trust the company to supply nice things and was impressed with their service and the quality of the product and it’s delivery. Baby cow eating ahoy!

If you’ve been to their website, you’ll see that they do a lot of African meats. My question is now:

Let me know! Next week I’ll reveal the results of my previous fish poll …

Lincolnshire Pig’s Fry

4 Mar

This, in case you were wondering, is a pack of Fry. Or Pig’s Fry. Or Bag of Deliciousness. What you can see, going left to right is some pork offcut, some fat, some liver and hiding underneath is some sliced kidney. These are the raw ingredients for Lincolnshire’s Fourth Most Famous Pork Dish (Sausages, Haselet and Chine come further up the Walk of Fame) – Lincolnshire Pig’s Fry. A lot of the cuisine I grew up with can be summed up in two words. PORK and SAGE. Pigs are very cunning, George Orwell would have us believe. Sage is used as a medicinal herb to aid alertness and concentration and also helps the body to digest fat. Clearly Lincolnshire’s sons and daughters should be taking over the world on this diet … *embarrassed cough* Margaret Thatcher …

Being the well-behaved yellowbelly that I am, I did feel quite sad when I realised it had taken me til my 27th year to cook and make it myself. Unsure of how to procede, Google came to my aid with a recipe from this website. I’m not sure if it’s a blog, or something else, but thank you for putting it online as it gave me an outline for my Fry Making!

What you need is:

1kg pig’s fry – I bought this from Hargreaves Butchers in Pinchbeck (“Now then Mrs Moore, nice bit of beef *whispers* on the bone?” a quick nod, then “See you round the side” where you collected your then illegal beef on the bone from a secret door near the bins … I kid you not so many moments of my adolescence were pretty much copied by League of Gentlemen) – if you don’t visit backwaters very often then you’d need to either ask your own butcher for a fry, or get a pig liver, couple of kidneys and some meat. So it all adds up to a kilo of weight.

Potatoes, washed and peeled, then sliced

2 large onions sliced in rounds, 2 large carrots sliced in rounds, 2 pints of stock, 2 tbsp dried sage, 2 tbsp flour, salt and pepper, a knob of butter.

First of all you need to tackle your offal:

From left to right you’ll find a slice of liver, a slice of kidney and some fat from around the organs. In the background of the third picture, you can see the pork meat. No idea of the cut – I kept meaning to telephone and ask, but also kept forgetting.Possibly belly, but it didn’t seem fatty enough. Anyway, I’ll take order for when I’m next down in the Shire …

Everything needs to be cut into similar sized pieces. You need to check the liver is de-veined – if it isn’t they come out quite easily if you just pull them. The veins look like white tubes. You only need to pull the biggest ones out. The kidney needs to have the white core removed and then cut to chunks. I like to say “WHITE CORE” in a Star Trek voice because I think it sounds like either space engineering, or astronomical stellar gumpus! “We can’t save the white core, captain! We just don’t have the power!” The fat also needs to be cut to chunks, as does the meat.

Add the flour to a bowl, season it with salt and pepper, then roll each chunk in it so they are all generously covered. If you run out of flour, just use a bit more.

Heat the butter in the bottom of the casserole you’re going to use and add the onion. Cook until soft. Now add the floured meat chunks and brown them all off.

Add the carrot, the sage and lots of black pepper. Add the stock. Boil, then reduce to a simmer.

Lay the slices of potato on top of the casserole, the layer can be as thick as you like, mine was of 2 or 3 slices thick. Put lid on the casserole and either heat in oven for a few hours, simmer on hob for few hours or if you’re using a slow cooker, cook on High for four hours.

Basically you get a really sagey stew – think Lincolnshire sausage seasonings – with a potato top that is basically steamed because the lid is kept on the casserole. Different to Hotpot, because the potatoes aren’t crisp. It is well delicious and stands up to re-heating very well.

We had at least six really large meals out of it, but what I think I’d do next time is to cut it all up, but cook half and freeze half. I think two smaller frys are better than one big one.

Also, don’t be concerned about the lump of fat, I’m sure it’s really nice fat and even though it looks massive in my hand a) I have tiny mouse hands and b) it’s very thin. It does add a lovely taste and because the sauce goes floury and potatoey it sort of melts into a suspension. You wouldn’t know it was there, if you hadn’t seen this picture.

I can’t wait to go back to the Shire to get me some more fry!

If you’re interested in the cuisine of Lincolnshire you can visit the Lincolnshire Sausage Assocation website – I’m already planning an October Sausage Festival trip – maybe to tie in with Mum’s birthday? Nothing says “I love you, thank you for nurturing me” than a superfluity of sausages!