Archive | April, 2012

Nose to Tail Fortnight

30 Apr

Nose to Tail Fortnight is something taking place across London restaurants from TODAY until Sunday 13th May. It’s encouraging people to eat the whole animals. Different restaurants have bought whole animals to cook all of, or are doing special tasting menus. This is its first year, so its not spread country-wide. it is run by Ethical Eats, who are a London food network so I guess it figures. However, I don’t feel like I could ignore it at this stage in my offal-eating world. So.

I am going to attempt t eat my way along the animal. In two weeks. Only using less used cuts and offal. Can it be done?

I should say I’m going to start from the tail up. That is because I forgot what the fortnight was, got some veal tail out the freezer, then realised. So tail forwards it is. I’ve got trotters for tomorrow. I’M GOING TO TRY AND SOURCE SOME TESTICLES. However, despite making a scrappy list of animal body areas, I’ve not really planned this. Lucy, not planning soemthing down to the last detail? What sorcery is that?

This is how I am going to track my progress. It is not species specific:

Take up the gauntlet yourselves and buy and cook some offal these first two weeks of May!

Foodie Penpals the Second!

30 Apr

Foodie Penpals is a great project run by Rocksalt where you get paired with two different people – one of those sends you a box and you send your box to the other one. This is the second month’s results. If you fancy getting involved then drop Carol Anne an email.

The lucky recipient of mine was Monique at What I am Up to! Monique lives in Germany, so full in the knowledge that the postage would probably cost me some, I did cheat a little and raided my own cupboard for some of her prizes. I hope they were enjoyed! If you are wondering what I sent, do check over to her blog.

My partner was Hannah. I think I’m right in saying much of her food action happens upon the Twitter, so give her a follow @hansyquirk. I am very lucky foodiepenpaller as for the second month running I got an amazing package! But first, my reveal:

Ah, so dramatic! To be honest, I was pretty excited. I’d already had a good feel of the envelope and really couldn’t feel what was in there. So carefully I extracted my goodies and read my card and recipe!

Here’s what this lucky blogger was sent:

And what do we have here? Most excitingly there was a Morcilla which is a type of Spanish black pudding that also has rice in it. Meat in the post! Most excellent! I’d mentioned that I was quite into loose leaf tea so Hannah sent me some cherry flavoured green tea. They come in those teapig shaped teabags! Posh green tea. It was also nice as this time two years ago I was in Japan enjoying all the cherry blossom –  Hannah must be a mind-reader. Further to that assertion, I also got sent some rose and violet dark chocolate. Flower chocolates are my absolute favourite thing, so I was a bit ‘Golly, how did she know?’ My last treats were two packets of Green Pea Garlic Snacks. They are well delicious. I am also rubbish at going to the Chinese supermarket so I would have never got these for myself and they are well tasty. Look out for them.

The following day me and Dogsnooks Daz had the morcilla fried with some of his friends eggs for breakfast:

You can see the grains of coooked rice quite clearly. From the Leeds City Centre Farmers Market a couple of months ago I got some Spanish black pudding (made here) and that was fiery, so I was expecting the same. Instead it’s almost a sweet blood pudding, packed full of flavour. When I eventually make my own blac pudding I’m going to try and channel some of this verve into it.

Perhaps the best thing that I got was a recipe. A very pertinent recipe. A very offally recipe. TRIPE!

Or Trippa alla Romana, as it actually says on the recipe I was very kindly sent.

I’d been meaning to put my toes into the world of tripe for quite a long time. I’ve only knowlingly had it once, on a hotdate at a Chinese restaurant where my date was trying to Jackass me by ordering tripe and expecting me to go EW! Good job it was a first date, as I soon put him right. As I ate all the tripe. Stealing from his chopstick. Surprised that One fizzled out? No, me neither, put on the path to this One, who really is the One!

Since I started offalling, I began to feel the burden of the tripe quite a lot. I want to eat it. I like it. But where to start? Do I begin traditionally with tripe and onions? Do I return to the oriental? Well Hannah’s recipe came to the rescue. An Italian tripe recipe. Italian food is practially English food anyway, and by force of going to the shop, but not actually buying all the ingredients on the recipe, it got made a little Blightier. (Btw, I do NOT read the Daily Mail; I DO own a pair of leggings covered in Union Jacks – make of that what you will.)

I understand that in some places tripe is quite hard to come by. In Leeds we’re very lucky to have one of the last dedicated Tripe Shops open in the market. *whispers subliminally* “don’t muck up the market, Leeds Council”. Naturally I went there for my lovely tripe! Look out for a saucy dietary tip-off from their web-page!

That is the tripe shop counter. I also discovered they sell pig windpipes (you have them with salt and vinegar) and pig stomachs (you have them with salt and vinegar). There is also dripping, white pudding, black pudding and some other things … sounds like my kind of place! Lunch anyone?

I’m sure Hannah can give you her original recipe, but here is my interpretation!

I needed 400g of pre-cooked tripe. Luckily the Tripe Shop only sells cooked and bleached tripe. YOU DON’T WANT GREEN TRIPE. That’s uncleaned tripe. So it’s still covered in half-digested grass.

Here’s my nice big piece of tripe. Tripe-alicious! To the bottom-left corner you can see the THICK SEAM. I was asked the question of whether I like it? I didn’t know, so I was given a little bit. I also got a bit of honeycomb (that’s on the right in the middle). Different tripes, for differents stripes?

440g cooked tripe cut into strips, 2 sticks finely chopped celery, 2 medium carrots diced, 2 cloves smoked garlic crushed, 3 juniper berries, 200ml stock, 1 can chopped tomatoes, 2 tsp tomato puree, several dashes of Maggi seasoning, parmesan

Heat some oil in a pan, add the garlic, celery and carrots until they soften down a little. Add the juniper berries and cook for fifteen minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes and the puree.

Stir in the tripe, the stock and the Maggi.

Season. Simmer it all together for 45 minutes. The sauce will thicken. When cooked down, grate parmesan on top and serve!

And there you go! It was very tasty and delicious. Tripe is more a texture than a taste we decided. Bearing that in mind I’d quite like to run with that and make some Japanese style tripe. I think tripe tacos would also be good. I’m pretty converted to the tripe. So thank you Hannah, for giving me a push towards to the tripe!

Foodie penpals is a great thing to be involved with! So get on board! Again, if you want to sign up, go here!

Doing things properly!

23 Apr

I was delighted when I found this little volume it a second-hand shop in Fakenham in Norfolk. I’m not sure what it was called, but I know it had moved some distance to its new premises there. It sold some books, some furniture, records, coins and miscelleany. The man was valuing a home-made exploding warship when I was in there. The explosion was caused by a mousetrap! But I digress …

I really love cookery books from the 1970s and 1980s. This gem was published in 1984, fulfilling the niche in the cookery bookmarket. It was designed “for those who are buying (or thinking of buying) their first slow cooker, as well as the expert” – something for everyone you may say. In the introduction, it’s still women who do cooking. Men can’t. Wrong sized hands. My favourite section is about Who uses a slow cooker? and it lists Students, People out at Work, Mothers and Old Folks. So most people, right? Not fathers though. You couldn’t say that EVERYONE uses a slow cooker. Not yet, anyway.

The other reason apart from the sexism that I love these books is because they often have several offal recipes. Some of which have a continental influence! *Gasps*

So to dip my toes into the “Properly Explained” world of Slow Cookery, I started with a liver recipe.

I’m still working out my relationship with liver. I really like it, in all the species, but it is very much an offal you have to treat with respect. Ox-tail you can do what you want with and as long as you cook it long enough, it’ll be lovely. Liver, I believe, could turn against you if you’re not kind to it.

So I gently stroked my lamb’s liver and whispered to it: “If you could become one of the recipes from Slow Cooking Properly Explained, which one would you like to be?” And the liver said “I would like to be Liver Austrian Style”. Who am I to refuse a dead organ’s last wishes?

Liver Austrian Style

LOW 3 – 10 hours

1 lb sliced lamb/pork liver, 300ml milk, 25g butter, 1 finely chopped onion, 100g sliced chestnut mushrooms, 1 tbsp flour, 1 tsp salt, black pepper, bouquet garni, 300ml stock, 3 tbsp cream

If your liver isn’t fresh or you are worried about the quality of it then you’ll need to soak it in the milk for 8 hours before cooking it. Put it in a bowl, cover with the milk and refrigrate for 8 hours. When you’re ready to use it, drain it, discard the milk and pat the liver dry with kitchen roll.

To make the dish: in a large pan gently fry the onion in the butter until softened but not browned. Add the mushrooms and cook for a further minute on a low heat. Toss the liver in the flour and brown it quickly on both sides, stirring to keep the meat separate. Add the seasoning, bouquet garni and stock. Bring to the boil, stirring consistently until sauce has thickened. Transfer to the slow cooker and cook for the recommended time (above). Just before serving remove the bouquet garni, stir in the cream and serve with wither buttered noodles (?) or rice! I served ours with kale not carbs.

What you can also do is just throw everything in the slow cooker (apart from the cream) and it all cooks fine. I did this because there were no clean pans and I was too tired to wash one.

As a note on liver, if you look carefully in the picture above, you can see holes where the veins ran through the organ, They need removing before cooking. Here I am putting my left index finger through one. This was lamb’s liver that we used. Just saying. That means their veins are the size of our fingers. GIANT LAMBS roaming Wensleydale, bleating that not enough people eat their organs after they die. I did my duty. It was good.


The Versatile Blogger Award

22 Apr

See Carol Anne, I’ve not forgotten …

Quite some time ago my friend Carol Anne nominated me for this award because she is very kind. It gave me a very big boost early on in blogging year. Carol Anne runs RockSalt which is a very good foodie blog and you should go and check her out while you’re in the vanguard of fashion because I feel sure she’s going to hit the big-time i.e. Guardian Food Page. So you have been prodded in her direction.

So, with blog awards come rules. For this award, those are:

  • Thank the person who nominated you and link back to them in your post
  • Share 7 things about yourself
  • Pass the award on to 15 bloggers

Thank you very much for my award Carol Anne. It is very kind of you. You’re the shiz!

Now, to share seven things about myself? If you’re reading this, you probably know me quite well already, but I’ll and dredge up some HILARIOUS TRUTHS.

  1. When I was a young girl, my ambitions when I grew up were to be either a hairdresser, an airline pilot or a virgin. Now this is amusing because I regularly get old off by the hairdresser for doing my own, I’m pertrified of flying and I’m still not sure what the last one means …
  2. I worked for many years in a Fish and Chip Shop. My induction to that particular trade involved having my hand grabbed by Mick the Fryer, dipped in batter and plunged into the hot fat. The time in the fat seemed like an eternity, but was in fact milliseconds. Still I can say, to sound well tough, that I deep-fried my own hand. Grr. Look at me guns.
  3. Both my little toes have dual-toenails. There is a normal one and then to the side are little baby toe-nails growing from the same root. So like hooves?
  4. I was convinced for many years that the song ‘Bandages’ by Hot Hot heat was in fact called ‘Play that Jazz’ Not as silly as it sounds now is it. I had such utter conviction in my interpretation of the title that I would regularly request ‘play that Jazz’ at indie nights and often wondered why the DJ didn’t listen to my request. Because, Lucy, you were not in a speak-easy.
  5. I am incredibly clumsy. despite the fact I was born on a Tuesday I am not full of physical grace. Violent, sudden and jerky movements, lack of fine motor control and a general lack of realisation of my own strength mean that both me and the Daz are covered in bruises. He regularly goes OW when I hug him. I spill a lot of things. Even my cat is clumsy – he recently fell out of bed.
  6. To combat this, I have excellent peripheral vision. I can spot a heron at fifty paces behind my head. I can always watch what I’ve knocked over and predict the parabola of its trajectory quite accurately.
  7. I carry at least seven bag-for-lifes around with me at all times. Last night to go out for my friend’s birthday I was minimal and had my hand-bag (large size, purple with gold elephants) and then two extra bags – canvas (Hereford Cathedral) had stuff in I’ve been kleptomania’ing the last few days, the second (Diamond Jubilee, Queen wearing yellow) had tripe, celery, shoes, half a tub of hummous in it. Sometimes my boyfriend refers to me as The Bag Lady (not in a Mulberry way), and says I look like this: (please stop before 58 secs, ignore the orange commentary, and he doesn’t mean Jennifer Connolly, but the other one)

So there you go, if you’ve never met me, you will be forgiven in thinking that I am a confused, battered, be-hoofed, deaf, clumsy, lasar-eyed tramp. Maybe Louis Theroux will make a documentary about me?

The fifteen bloggers I am passing this award onto are listed below. They are all people I like, people I think are trying to better the world or people who I nick ideas off all the time.

  • Dog Snooks is a really funny blog about snooker. It’s full of funny jokes even if you don’t like snooker. I do like snooker and I do like this. Daz has a theory he expounds at great length, that you can make comedy out of anything and this is his arena for proving that.
  • Diary of my Body is a GOOD THING. It’s a blog collective of women writing about their experiences in learning to love their bodies and who they are. If you are a person with an ounce of soul you should have a look and listen to the stories these ladies have to tell.
  • Plate Britain is a new blogger like me. They are eating only British produce for a year to try and eat more sustainably in terms of food miles and where our snacks come from. I wish I’d thought of the idea. Good luck!
  • You have to cook it right is an American blog all about respecting your ingredients and letting them shine in the dish. I found some great advice on venison here. Do check the archives!
  • MotherEagle is my friend Katie’s blog. She is a needlewoman extraordinaire and I can’t wait for her new etsy collection to come out featuring her bad-ass embroiderings. I’ve got my eye on snapping up her anatomical heart when it comes on sale – ‘heart is a wet organ’ come have come straight from here!
  • Miss Pybis is beautiful artist I know. Her art and drawing stands apart from anyone else I’ve seen and I can’t wait to make my fortune so she can cover my house in beautiful murals.
  • Life in Harmony and Balance belong to my life-coach friend Steph. A lot of wisdom is contained within these pages, so be prepared for even a casual read to reveal things you almost thought about yourself but couldn’t quite get the words. If you want life-coaching get in touch with her.
  • Renegades of Junk and Pound for Pound are both written by Daisy. RoJ is about her charity shopping adventures – thrift chic! PfP is about her charity weght-loss odyssey. Do give her a sponsor as she’s raising money for the British Heart Foundation.
  • Debbie Osborne ArtDebbie’s Homemade Home and Mailmaker are great artistic blogs run by Norfolk-based Debbie. I’ve seen her studio. It’s inspirational.
  • Jennieishappy is the blog of my foodie penpal giver for last month. She’s got fingers in many pies and takes some lovely photos. Don’t know what foodie penpals is? Have a gander back to Rocksalt above!
  • Something Missing – Julia had the fortune (?) to receive my foodie penpal parcel last month. Her blog tackles the questions raised when you ned to make something sugar-free, wheat-free, dairy-free and so on. Have a gander.
  • Monique writes a lifestyle blog What I am up to – she got my foodie penpal package for this month. We’ll see what she thinks on the 30th!
  • Trunch Lane features forgotten corners of Lincolnshire. It’s brilliant. It shows you there’s more to the Shire than just pork products.

And lastly, my favourite blog of all: Being Dad Today – if you don’t shed a little tear, then you’re not a human. it’s a brilliant and very touching blog about parenting. My dad was absent, so I love reading about Bob and his daughters!

Offal loves you! x

Surprise Deer Kidney

18 Apr

I blame Bambi. Everyone who I told at the pub that I’d eaten venison kidney the night before pulled faces and squirmed. Bloody Bambi. Making me seem like a heartless carnivore. I’m not, I’m just a normal person trying to think more about the how and the what in meat-eating.

On Saturday I went to the Headingley Farmers Market. This was exciting and also expensive. Mostly because Daz and I got very excited about more goose eggs and fancy mushroms and we wanted PIES. We bought two types of sausage and basically all the deliciousness, apart from fish. We looked at the fish and said ‘ooh fish’ but then decided that we didn’t need any for this week.

Here are our pickings:

They do all look good don’t they? The part I was most excited about was the Venison Man from Round Green Farm near Wakefield. I had seen that they were on the list of attendees, so the night before I had emailed saying would they have liver, because I was doing this project and my friend Sophie had said it was well good. I didn’t get a reply, but I wasn’t to worry as when we got to the stall I was asked for the first time in my life “If I was the offal lady?” and I said yes. Not only was the gentlemen really knowledgeable and interested in what I was doing, but he also had liver, AND venison kidney “on the off-chance that you’d come”. I really think that is very kind and thoughtful and if you are buying venison you should it buy from them. We also bought Wild Boar sausages. They are delicious too. What I was most excited about was my surprise kidney …

Kidney was one of my first offals in January – do you remember Kidney is dense? I’ve eaten pork and lamb kidney and I ate rabbit kidney on holiday last year in Greece, but never venison kidney (I’ll use the proper name now I’ve shocked you with a bit of a Banbi reminder). If truth be told I’ve never really eaten much venison – I guess I’ve never thought to buy it myself and in restaurants it’s always been in the above £15 a la carte area, which is an area I try to steer clear from. What I can say is that venison kidney is delicious. It is far better than lamb kidney (which is meant to be tops) and I urge everyone to have a go.

The kidneys from Round Green Farm were firm and succulent the next day when I cooked one (so they keep well – this is a plus after a kidney went foul on a 20 minute car journey a while ago – it was from Sainsbury’s FYI). And gamey. And lovely.

I wanted to keep the kidney recipe paired down (after all the essential oil excesses – see I can show restraint).

I mixed a couple of tablespoons of plain flour with salt and pepper and some smoked paprika, following advice found on Youhavetocookitright (a really good blog too). Then I cut the kidney in half removed the white core (I am getting much better at this) and dredged both halves in the flour mixture. I heated some butter in a pan and fried them on each side for about 3 minutes each (meduim-high gas heat).

I added a few shakes of Henderson’s Relish – mostly on a whim – you could use Worcester Sauce, or even tabasco, or even leave it out.

After the frying I put them in the oven to keep warm while I added some bouillon to the pan and reduced it, whilst scraping off the delicious flour and kidney bits, to make I suppose a jus! I think it was really a thin gravy.

Here it is cooking down, you really want only a couple of tablespoons of it to be left. When that was done I put the kidneys on a plate with some savoy cabbage and poured my cooking liquor on top. Ten minutes tops from cupboard to plate. Brilliant.

And there you are. A blurry camera phone picture of my delicious dinner. I think venison kidneys are my new favourite type of kidney. Cooking them quickly means they cook almost all the way through with just a bit of pink, so they are juicy and delicious.

I think the secret fear people have of kidneys is that they will taste of urine. I’m pretty sure some do – I’m sure I’ve bought them, but with these (and you can pretend I’m whispering) THERE IS NOTHING OF THE URINOUS ABOUT THEM. Really, if you’re thinking of putting your fingers into the kidneys waters, venison kidney is the way to go.

I have also been promised a brain …

This old of heart of mine …

13 Apr

After Valentine’s Day Heart Steak, the heart steak was casseroled. I am a big fan of the slow cooker. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that if you can’t slow cook it, I’m not interested, but sometimes I feel pretty close to that.

Another part of my cookery love is using aromatherapy essential oils in baking (and other recipes). You need to be careful to only add really small amounts, else the taste is super strong, but I’ve made a lot of very successful shortbread – frankincense and lavender were both pretty well received! Cakes also benefit, and rose absolute though very expensive gets that rose deliciousness spot on. In England, we get the therapeutic benefits from using the oils on the skin, whereas in France the benefits are gained from ingestion. I’ve not done this, and I don’t think anyone should without proper advice and guidance. Highly diluted, I’ve found they work well, however I’ve not experimented beyond tiny* amounts of fennel oil in curries. Continuing on with my romantic theme I used vetiver and jasmine oil. These are both relaxing scents and can act as aphrodisiacs. Ooh errr … For more on the essential oil, see good old Neals Yard.

So, in a classic Lucy fashion, chuck all these ingredients into a slow cooker:

2tsp paprika, 1 tsp crushed juniper, 1 drop jasmine oil, 1 drop vetiver oil, 2tbsp jasmine flowers, half pint pale ale, 250g sliced chestnut mushrooms, 1 diced turnip, 600g sliced veal heart (approx)

Cook on high from morning til evening.

Devour. Maybe with some rice. Or mash.

If you don’t have a slow cooker, treat the ingredients like a normal casserole. The strips of heart will need a good four hours of solid casseroling.

There was so much heart casserole, that my beloved and I had to come up with new ways of eating the casseroled heart. One was to make lunchtime tortilla wraps sometimes in a burrito style. Take a wrap, add some salad and some sour cream, maybe some green tabasco, add the heart strips, wrap and nom. Delicious.

I am going to experiment further with cold offal. I’m all over the cooked tongue, but have always disliked pate (bleurgh), do you think a solitary cold kidney would be nice? Do you have any cold offal recipes?

*Tiny means dipping a cocktail stick in, taking it out, then stirring it through the sauce, then discarding. Much much less than a single drop. See Aroma-essence, Gritman and  Essential Oil Cookbook. You can make mean flavoured shortbreads by adding one drop of whatever oil to the creamed butter and sugar part of the mix. Do be careful. The essential oil cooking tips have been fine for me and my friends, but our stomachs aren’t sensitive. So you watch out. Or get in touch if you have any questions.

Pork chaps … not: pork, chaps?

12 Apr

A pork chap is a pig cheek. They seem to be having a bit of a moment and you can buy them pre-packed in my local Morrisons. You can however buy just packs of pig skin in my local Morrisons. Either it is offal central in Kirkstall, or there are lots of trainee tattooists fuelling demand. It is good though. You can get 3 for 97p. I’m sure this isn’t actually very bargainous, but heigh ho, fuel the conglomerates we must!

This recipe I made up entirely out of all of my own head. I say this, because as I am reviewing the ingredients, it sounds … well, a bit weird. However I do know it was delicious. TRUFAX.

Here I am holding a pig cheek, next to my cheek. Whatever will I think of next?

I am also doing an oink at this point. My face doesn't always have such a sultry pout on it

This was another piece of slow cooker magic. Slow cookers are magic. Everybody needs one! You can even bake in them!

Ingredients: 6 pork cheeks, 4 tbsp flour, 2 tsp caraway seeds, 1 tsp sugar, knob of butter, half tsp nutmeg, 2 chopped carrots, 2 sticks chopped celery, 2 bay leaves, 1 tsp caraway seeds, 1 tbsp japonica jelly, half a pint of Lahloo Smoky tea (or another lapsang souchong) that has been brewing for at least 30 minutes, 100ml red wine.

  1. Brew your tea. I used 1 tbsp to a teapot and had a cup while I did the rest of the preparations.
  2. Mix flour, 2 tsp caraway and sugar in a bowl. Dip cheeks into mix so they are well covered.
  3. Melt butter in a frying pan, then fry the cheeks on each side for til they are sealed.
  4. Transfer all frying pan contents to slow cooker.
  5. Add vegetables and other ingredients to slow cooker, including any of the flour mixture that is left over. (Make sure the tea has brewed for long enough.)
  6. Cook on high for about five hours. The cheeks will just melt away into the sauce.

I also made apple dumplings to go on top. You follow the dumpling recipe on the suet packet, but add a chopped apple to the mix. You then put them in about an hour before you want to eat. So this was after 4 hours of cooking:

Looking back on this recipe, it seems I’ve brought up a few questions i.e. white wine with pork? a tea-based casserole? what is a japonica? why has the stew gone purple? veg in sticks not rounds in a stew? To you, I say, well I steal someone else’s words, whose I can’t quite remember, but, to you say “What is that? A rule? A convention? HIIIIIIIIIYAHHHHHHHH” *motion of karate chopping wood*

When you cook the face of an animal, you need to take some risks.

Happy Valentine’s Day

9 Apr

Just so as we are clear, in case you haven’t guessed, I am not very good at writing things up the day I get them. I invariably cook something, take pictures and all of that and then start writing and stop. It is compounded by a continual and wearing loss of phone data cables. This has lessened somewhat since I learnt you could use your kindle cable for that task (if you have an old nokia like me).

With that pre-amble out of the way, make way for the Valentine’s Day Veal Heart …. tah dah!

So I got this heart from Alternative Meats when they were on 2 for 1 – I do like to sniff out a bargain. I looked around for a long time to try and find a recipe that I wanted to do. Stuffed heart and braised heart kept coming up, but I wanted to try something different. Some bloggers mentioned that you could grill veal heart like steak and that it was super delicious. For this check out Alex Cardoza’s blog. Heart steak sounded like a good Valentine’s meal to me! I do really like the synchronicity of eating heart on the day of love too. (I know I missed world kidney day, maybe i’ll find out when world tripe day is?)

Things you have to remember with hearts are that they are very lean. They have chambers. They also have veins and bits of ligaments n ting. Sinews. Heart is sinewous. You could start a Seamus Heaney poem with that line.

So basically, you have to sort your heart out. (I have now segue-wayed into Carrie Bradshaw *sigh*) I’m not an expert of offal butchery. The pigs I used to joint and roll were all free of these accoutrements, so I wasn’t really sure where to begin. I knew that there would be plenty of heart and I just needed enough for two nice steaks. The rest would casserole (more of that later). What I did was basically try and open the heart out, removing sinews as I went.

You do need a sharp knife and to spend some time playing your heart, so you can work out where the central wall is. Cut along that and you should see something like the view above. Clean those sinews out, then cut the other side of the central wall. It will look a bit like this:

She wrote a book called Odd Bits - guess what that's about? And her blog is super interesting

You then want to flatten it out, and then cut the central wall away – this can go to the casserole side. Then find the evenest areas of the heart and cut two steak sized pieces. These you will then grill or griddle or you could I guess fry them too.

There are two things I would do differently next time:

  1. I would make sure the heart was all at room temperature, because it had de-frosted, it was still quite cold in the middle, which meant when I grilled it the heat didn’t permeate all the way through.
  2. Don’t treat it just like it’s a fillet steak. It’s not. It’s denser and meatier and it’s not steak. I like to cook a fillet steak quickly on a high heat both sides so it’s very rare in the middle. I would lower the heat slightly next time so it cooks a bit further through. I think if you cooked it as if you wanted it medium rare, it would still turn out rare. Not the still beating version my beloved and I had.

As you can see in the picture, I also grilled some aubergine. I roasted some potatoes in goose fat (mmmmmmmm … goose fat). We had some purple sprouting broccoli too. This was my finished Valentine’s Day meal:

Accompanied by the beautiful rose that was purchased for me, by the love of life! (He must be that as he didn’t even mention the over-rarity of the heart.) There’ll be another heart recipe on it’s way as these two steak used maybe a third of the heart, so as they say, watch this space!

Also I don’t know how I’ll top this next year, so any ideas are welcome – what did you cook for Valentine’s?

And last but not least, this meal won me a competition from the Lahloo Tea facebook, so you should look at their website and buy some deliciousness. I won the Wild Rose tea. Thank you, Lahloo!

Scallops! (That’s not an offal, you cry!)

4 Apr

I went to see my Mum in Norfolk yesterday and because I am her poor daughter, she gave me half a bag of her supermarket scallops as a treat. What a lovely Mum! On the way home (4 hour journey) I heard ‘Costing the Earth’ on Iplayer. The episode is linked below and looks at how the Southern Ocean around South Georgia has its fish stocks under the tightest supervision and control in the world.

Costing the Earth

As I was cooking tonight, I felt quite uneasy. What if I had through thoughtlessness and excitability, forgotten follow some of the first discoveries I made with this blog (ah, the eel episode)? Where was the packet? Under some DISGUSTING mank in the bin – not going there again. Quickly, I went to get my kindle to check my pdf of the Sustainable Fish Guide. Alas, my kindle broke on Monday and the new one isn’t set up for wireless yet. Now, my scallops are close to being overdone. Oh woe!

Reader, I ate them. With the promise to check about scallops in my engorged post-“Chilli Scallop and Pattypan Squash Pasta” coma. You’ll be glad to know, that the Marine Stewardship Council lists all the fish and seafood products that it lends its label to. The label looks like this.

Keep your eyes peeled for it – if you are at all concerned about whether your fish is sustainably sourced – if you’re not that’s OK too, but I hope you’ll start to notice it more over the coming years. The label means that the fish comes from a Marine Stewardship Council certificated fishery. This means that every fishery that wants the label must be a sustainable one. The guidelines go along the chain of sale, so a producer has to ensure that only MSC sustainable fish ends up, for example, in their fishcakes. I think this is all very interesting. However, one thing to bear in mind is this DOES NOT COVER FARMED FISH. However, I did read somewhere, that a mark of good fish farming practice is being introduced.

I was lucky. My scallops were from a MSC cerificated Tesco packet.


The MSC website is very detailed. There is a page dedicated to scallops under the ‘Fish you can eat’ byline. What I am going to look out for now is that scallops I buy come from the Isle of Man. Food miles isn’t something I think about a huge amount (and I know I ought to), but I saw this new blog today from someone who is dedicating themselves to only eating British food for a year (including spices!). As a result I’m going to try and bear things like that more in mind. Eating, if you think about, is very complex!

There are lessons to be learnt from Alice! We should be more like Mother Oyster than the Walrus …

Greek Chicken Soup

1 Apr

I’ve not eaten this in Greece, nor actually asked any of my Greek friends whether it is at all Greek, but it was taught to me by a Greek Cypriot who was my boss in the chip shop, and since then has been called Greek Chicken Soup.

It cures all ills, whether they are emotional (I was in a mega grump a few days ago) or physical (D Dizzle got a bad flu virus), and is super delicious. It makes a nice summer soup – I’ve never really got my head around cold soups – but some of this kind of warm is very refreshing.

Part soup, part risotto, it does take some time to prepare as the goodness is all in the stock that you make. If you’ve just thought “oh I’ll just use cubes”, then you’ll miss out on a lot of Getting Better Power. Just saying. But the beauty of this is in the holistic power of the chicken meat, skin, cartilage and bone. A whole chicken carcass, post-Sunday lunch works well. I learnt to cook it with chicken wings. Chicken thighs work nicely too, especially if you’re a lover of the dark meat. But my favourite way to make the stock is with these bad boys:

As an aside at this point, I did run a competition on twitter if you could guess correctly what this was. Twitter fail! I don’t think I have enough twitterlings yet, so if you’d like to, feel free to add me – look to the right. If you’re pon the case of twitter, then feel equally free not to, but bear in mind you might be missing out! But Facebook win, and MotherEagle a prize will wing it’s way to you soon!

By the way, that is a chicken neck. Not a penis, or tripe, or tapioca. Neck. From the African butcher in the market. Chicken neck is a dark meat too.

Here is not a recipe, but more a guideline to making your own Greek Chicken Soup. Adjust times and ingredients accordingly. It is a very forgiving dish.

  1. Take 1 lb of chicken – necks, legs, wings, thighs, a carcass – a cocktail of the above. What is important is the bones in it. So breast is no good. Place in a pan and cover with water and bring to the boil. This is going to simmer for a few hours (at least two) until the meat falls off the bone when gently teased with an utensil.If you feel the water is getting low, top it up as it definitely does not want to burn dry.
  2. When you think you’ve got to that stage, place a colander over an empty mixing bowl or pan and strain the chickeny broth through. What you need to do now is separate the meat from the bones. I use my (clean) fingers. With necks, you won’t get every single tiny scrap off, but that’s ok. Reserve only the meat, the boiled skin doesn’t taste that nice in the soup and anyway it’s already given a lot of its fat and nutrient to the stock.
  3. Now you should have a bowl of stock and a bowl of meat.
  4. Take a heavy-bottomed pan and put a slug on oil in the bottom. Finely chop an onion and fry it until it’s translucent. You might want to add a little garlic, you might not.
  5. Add two fistfuls of PUDDING RICE. Yes that’s right, the rice used for the making of the rice pudding from scratch. If you can’t get it or don’t have it, you can use risotto or paella rice. I imagine you could use barley. But nothing long grain nor indeed basmati. They are not appropriate here. If you feel like carb-loading, put three handfuls in. Stir it all together.
  6. Add the meat, stirring.
  7. Now, you need to ask the question, how lemony do I want this? If the answer is pretty lemony, then zest one lemon now (you’ll need the juice of two in total) and add that to the pan.
  8. But what of my delicious stock? Now is its moment of glory. Add it back to the pan. The top it up (if you need to) with water so that it’s all covered.
  9. Add the juice of two lemons.
  10. Simmer and stir for about twenty minutes.
  11. Decide how liquid you would like it – if it’s a bit too risotto-y, add a bit more water.

It should, according to my taste, be melting and have enough stock left for you to have some soupy spoons and some foody spoons, maybe a bit porridgey in consistency?

It tastes even better the next day.