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What to do if you don’t like offal

30 Dec

This whole journey has been about me trying to make a change in my life, to balance what I saw as something wrong with how I viewed and ate meat. I am eating offal for a year to balance out my ‘meat debt’. I’m lucky. I like offal. Some people (some friends amongst them) don’t. I thought it was about time I did a post for YOU. My valiant readers who follow what I’m doing even though you don’t like looking at the web page.

I believe there are two important parts to eating meat. The philosophy you use and the practicality behind it.

In the western world we are all  used to eating meat when we want and pretty much however much of it we want. As an undergraduate student I regularly bought the well cheap mince and chicken in the packets in the supermarket, making the excuse of “I’m poor, I can’t afford quality meat”. What I was eating was from badly looked after animals, filled with artificial drugs and probably killed in an unfriendly abattoir where their bodies filled full of fear hormones just before their death. Not very tasty. What I didn’t realise was that BEANS, LENTILS and CHICKPEAS are all much cheaper and also excellent sources of protein. If you’re using the poverty excuse, I have done too, and appreciate it. However think about how you can shop differently …

There’s the psychological factor there as well – if it doesn’t have meat in it, it’s not a meal. Going off to uni for the first time, I would have probably agreed. Now I think a meal can be whatever you want it to be.

My offal journey has been over for a while now – but the changes I made have continued on – I eat much less meat in general and have a “think twice” rule while shopping – it goes something like this (in my stream-of-consciousness). “I really fancy mince, where am I? Morrisons. I’m not buying the frozen mince.  [First though] Hmmm. The fresh mince looks dubious. Sweaty. Sweaty mince. Sweaty, unhappy mince from animals I don’t know where from and where they died. Do I really want mince? I probably just want protein. What other protein would I like? [Second thought] Tofu? Not today! Quorn? Quorn mince exists. Bolognaise is back on the menu.”

My lasting advice would be to always think twice about what you put in your body.

KFC

29 Jan

Dear Offallygood Friends,

I ate it. I had the most delicious chicken bucket EVER. It was very tasty.

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The wrapped packages are corn on the cobs! Obviously, the flash wasn’t on. Ooops!

Below: Obligatory GET IN FACE SHOT …

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In all seriousness, now that I’m back to eating meat. Like not feeling guilty about having lasagne with mince, or chicken thighs. I feel a bit bad. I’m pretty sure the cows that died for my Morrisons lasagne didn’t live a skippy-happy life. Don’t get me wrong – it is delicious, but the sour taste in my mouth comes from ethics. Perhaps Offfallygood has turned me vegetarian after all?

One idea I am nursing is to be vegetarian all week, then eat some well-chosen meat at the weekend. Maybe from a meat box that we freeze?

To me, I just don’t feel very happy with this carnivorous liberty I have now. I don’t want really to eat meat that I’m not confident in. I guess the legacy I have now is much more of a conscience about food. I started out to relieve my offal debt – and I have totally done that pound for pound – however I do feel much more a responsibility to make low-impact choices, to try and live increasingly respectfully and to try and offset decisions I feel are neccessary but bad.

I’m sure lots of people already live this way, but all this blog has ever been is a chronicle of journey. The offal year has closed. I’m looking forward to the future, but won’t need to share it as often. Yes I have a few drafts that I’ll be sending out and when I cook my penis, you’ll be the first to know, but for now this is a offally grateful, offally humble, AU REVOIR.

 

P.S. In case you’re worried – my vegetarian cooking is just as experimental as my offal cooking – tonight Triple* Celery and Walnut soup.

*celery, celery seeds and celeriac … I love celeriac

 

Six weeks left!

15 Nov

I realised today that I had six weeks and four days left in my offal adventure. I’m pretty amazed that the end is drawing so close so quickly. I still have posts to write up and projects in the pipeline. I even still have offal to try! The offal freezer drawer is two thirds full still. Decisions, decisions …

What I am doing today is sharing the things I’m going to try and make in December (once I have my job applications, lectures and articles out of the way). Really I want to pick your brains, avid reader, and see if there’s anything I’ve left out.

  • BRAINS … I’m not a zombie (and I not sure I get the zombiefication of popular culture), but I do want to eat some brains. I think maybe a venison brain? If not it will have to be a pig brain.
  • PIG STOMACH: the Tripe Shop in Leeds market sells them. You’re meant to eat them dressed in salt and vinegar. That seems like ultimate offal to me. I do however, enjoy a challenge. If I eat them all can I call myself a Yorkshirewoman?*
  • CURED KIDNEY – so I am made pancetta, and am clearly now a curing goddess. I’m going to try and salt some kidney. I don’t know where that will take me, but I’m willing to find out.
  • Real MINCEMEAT. I don’t think that’s particularly offal, but it is pretty medieval. And festive. And I love Christmas. I *will* get unbearable; I like the John Lewis adverts; I own TWO Christmas jumpers (not even ironically).

What else? What else have I discussed and tweeted and forgotten to write down? What would YOU do, if you were me?
And just to get you in the mood, here’s a photo from two years ago, of me getting intimate with the YULETIDE BEEF …

 

*I would never do that. I am totes Lincolnshire, through and through.**

**I hope my insides don’t look like the inside of Lincolnshire which would be mostly brussel sprouts, sausages and illegalr migrant workers.

 

Noffal

8 Nov

Noffal means Not Offal, which is a term I coined when I was shopping today. I posted last about losing my offal mojo, but trying to not make a big deal out of it. Some people were concerned that I was abandoning my project and had hunkered down to steakdom. Don’t worry. Let me alay your fears. I’m still not eating regular meat – but am probably now an ethical pescatarian (?) – what I mean by that is I will eat fish, but only ones classed as 1,2 or 3 on the Marine Conservation list. Tuna is out. Cod is out. Tilapia is IN LIKE FLYNN. I am also dipping my toe into tofu and its philosophy.

Tofucianism has been a concern of mine since I heard a BBC Radio 4 food programme that discussed the impact of soya on the world. It was bad. I had tofu guilt. Basically soya is produced in a lot of developing countries who cut down their natural resources (like rainforest) to make room for the soya. Most of the soya, however, does not go to Alpro (who say they use sustainable soya) but to make cheap animal feed – particularly for cattle. This concerns me because basically I don’t want to be the wanker at the farmer’s market asking producers if they feed their cattle soya. Minefield. But a very thought provoking programme, which you can still listen to here.

So, what was in my shopping basket today? (One Sunday paper always used to have a feature where they judged  the celebrity by their shopping basket – so judge me? Or informed opinions on what else I could be doing please)

I also bought some anchovies in oil. What keeps striking me in my use of the sustainable fish list is how you have to be really sure of the geographical area of where your fish come from. With anchovies, you should only have them from the Bay of Biscay, not from the Portugese coast or the north-east atlantic. Equally, the fishing method is important. If you search for salmon – sea caught salmon is a no-no, but organic open net farmed is a 1. (I am still learning about farmed fish, and understand that there are a lot of concerns, but bear with me as I am a beginner.)

Sausages are allowed. An initial straw poll asked the question and the answer was a majority YES, because of course traditionally sausages were where all the BITS were used up.

The other thing that has been inspiring my Noffaltarian flight of fancy is my weekly veg box. I may do one of those ‘look at my veg box posts’ in a bit, but at the moment, suffice to say, I like it. I always have veg now. No excuse.

So what other vegitarian/fruitarian/raw/vegan treats am I missing out on?

Tears of Christ and the Fifth Quarter

12 Oct

Last week, my beautiful life partner took me for a surprise dinner to Salvo’s Restaurant. Salvo’s is a restaurant that I wanted to go to since I moved to Leeds really – everyone said how amazing the food was and my friends who had been to Italy said how authentic it was too. This however, was no usual night at Salvo’s, but a night of offal feasting!

Needless to say, the food was amazing. Each course surpassed the previous one and there was a lovely chatty atmosphere. I got to eat some NEW OFFAL and got some lovely ideas to bring home to cook too. If a night like this is done again, I’ll definitely go, because it was totally delicious.

Our menu came with some historical notes:

This is one aspect of Roman cooking which derived from the practice of paying the slaughterhouse workers of Rome (the most modern slaughterhouses in Europe were found in the Testaccio distrct in the 19th century) with some of the less noble parts of the beast which were then often sold on to the local hostelries. The skills and knowledge of the Roman cooks created culinary masterpieces from the cheapest ingredients, refining ‘Cucina Povera’ or the cooking of the poor, to gastronomic heights.

And so to dinner*:

Sopressata alla Toscana

Typical ‘insaccato’ from Tuscany made with the tongue and other pig bits, served with mustard fruit

What an elegant way to begin an Offal Supper, the mustard fruits were like spicy glace fruits and the ‘insaccato’ was delicious.

Crostino Toscano

Roughly chopped chicken livers with anchovies, capers and white truffle oil on toast

Amazing. Anchovy and liver is awesome.

O muss’ e puorco sorpressata

Pressed pig’s head with red chilli and amalfi lemon, watercress salad.

Nasturtiums always get my vote, so I was sold even before tasting. Post devourment, this was my favourite dish. Citrus cutting through the pork, so very delicious. Tongue-tingling in the best possible way.

Zuppa di lenticchie con cetechino di Modena

Umbrian lentil soup with cotechino sausage. Originated in Modena and now traditionally served at Christmas, but borne out of hardship in the 15th century, the pigs rind is stuffed with minced lean and fat pork and cooked slowly.

Daz’s favourite. Served with some fresh shaved fennel to help cut through the richness.

Risotto con midollo di vitello

Risotto with veal bone marrow

New offal to me. Marrow in the risotto, as well as in the bone. Plus I loved delving in the bone with a teaspoon. (I couldn’t believe that the people near us didn’t eat theirs – I almost asked if I could have it, but felt I ought to be more decorous than that.)

Rognoni trifolati al senape

Lamb’s kidneys in grain mustard sauce with barone sourdough.

Yum. I ran out of things to mop the sauce up with. Again I restrained my gluttonous self from actually licking the plate.

Linguine con aglio, olio e animelle d’agnello

Pasta with garlic, olive oil and chilli, served with lambs sweetbreads alla pizzaiola

At this point I was so excited by each course that I kept forgetting to snap a photo. It was better presented before I dived in. Alla pizzaiola is with tomatoes and capers according to the staff we asked. Capers appear to be an ingredient I’m not using enough of. Again, gorgeous.

Coda alla Vaccinara

Old Roman style oxtail with celery and pine nuts, enriched with bitter chocolate, pecorino mash.

Lovely. I would have never thought to serve a chunk of oxtail as a cut in its own right. Lovely sauce and the cheesiest mash ever.

Here I am eating the prickly pear fruit brought round to freshen all our palates before dessert. Gip (one of the owners I think) brought it round and explained that he imported it to sell, but ate most of the stock himself! I’d never tried it – I would say to me it was a bit like a cross of watermelon and carrot, but a little drier than that would sound. Daz (who hates fruit) manfully tried it, but it wasn’t his cup of tea. I’d go for it again.

Sanguinaccia

Pig’s blood and chocolate pot with chilli almond shortbread.

I was pretty excited to see this on the menu as it’s a pudding I’ve been meaning to make all year. Very tasty.

Thank you very much Salvo’s for making such a delicious dinner. I loved all the courses, the service was lovely and the atmosphere great. I was also really intrigued to see quite a mix of different people there too – offal is clearly a universal love! If you’ve not eaten there yet, GO, I don’t think anyone would be disappointed!

*Please note, my pictures were taken on my phone – for clearer, professional shots of the food, please go to the Salvo’s website.

Lincolnshire Haslet – Nose to Tail Fortnight Day 14

16 May

Wow. The last day of nose to tail fortnight and my eating along the animal challenge.

How do I feel? Full of meat. I’ve got a craving for cauliflower.

How far along the animal did I get? All the way, baby!

Here is the full nose to tail body part list: pig head, cow foot, pig lung, cow heart, deer kidney, chicken liver, cow stomach, lamb testicle, pig trotter, cow tail, sausages and caul fat.

Haslet seemed a fitting way to end my nose to tail fortnight. Here is what wikipedia says:

Haslet, also spelt ‘Acelet’, is a porkmeatloaf with herbs originally from Lincolnshire, England. The name is derived from the Old Frenchhastilles meaning entrails[1].

In Lincolnshire, haslet (pronounced hayzleht locally), is a meatloaf typically made from stale white bread, ground pork, sage, salt and black pepper.[2] It is typically served cold with pickles and salad, or as a sandwich filling.[citation needed]

Basically it is offal and off-cuts ground up with sage, salt and pepper; the pressed out of it; wrapped in caul fat; then baked. I haven’t tried to make it myself, mostly because Hargreaves of Spalding make the best ones and I try to alway have one in my Leeds-based freezer. It freezes really well and defrosts gently over-night.

I like to eat the end slices by themselves. As well as eating it cold, you can also fry it up and have it warm. A very versatile pork product indeed. The top should be a darker colour (due to the baking). If you look carefully at the picture above, you can see the pattern of the caul fat on the top. The caul keeps the haslet bound together.

In my sandwich on Sunday, I added fresh sage leaves and a few leaves of Jack-by-the-hedge. That made an excellent sandwich.

Don’t buy the stuff from the supermarket deli counter. It is minging. If you do, I’ll play you this Cyndi Lauper clip very early in the morning, so you faint from over-exposure to Shaggy. That’s real threat.

If you’d like to try a proper one, it can be arranged. You can either find a proper Lincolnshire butcher (if he doesn’t rub his hands together, he’s not the real deal) or send me a message and I can be your dealer.

Another Lincolnshire delicacy to try is Stuffed Chine. Shaggy loves it.*

 

*I imagine he does.

Real Jelly – Nose to Tail Fortnight Day 13

15 May

This post is actually a bit of a swizz. Sorry. I made this a week ago, but I knew I would be away at the weekend (Dilston Physic Garden, since you ask), so scheduled this post to go on today. My real day 13 will involve going to a Herbology Room (yeah that’s right) and learning about herbal medicines, rather than stewing the foot of a cow. Sozbad.

Anyhow, I’d read a recipe for making your own jelly in ‘Odd Bits’ from the great Jennifer McLagan. I had also seen cow feet for sale at the African butcher. 2 + 2 = four jellies, or something. The first thing you need to do is ask your butcher if you can have/they can get you one or two feet of a cow. They come hairless. And are also naturally meatless. The butcher should use their band saw/cleaver to cut them into pieces for you. I just got one foot. Here is my big bag of bones:

It was pretty heavy in all honesty. Need to invest in a granny trolley for Bone Shopping Trips.

So to make jelly from scratch, it’s pretty easy and basically involves stages of boiling and straining. I’d never done this before and was slightly haunted by something I read in a Jacqueline Wilson book where the vegan mother of a step-daughter made her seaweed jelly from scratch when she was ill and proper jelly was what the child wanted, but the step-mother wouldn’t compromise on her values and well the seaweed jelly from scratch wasn’t a hit. I don’t remember the book. Anyway, I didn’t want to be the person making bad jelly from good morals.

IF YOU HAPPEN TO TRY THESE INSTRUCTIONS, PLEASE PAY ATTENTION TO THE INSTRUCTIONS OF KEEPING/DISCARDING THE JUICE. IT CHANGES. I FEEL CAPITALS ARE NECCESSARY.

  1. Put feet in a large pan, cover with water and bring to the boil. Strain. Keeping the bones. Discard the juice.
  2. Return to the pan, bring to the boil and simmer for four hours. Strain and RESERVE LIQUID. Leave in bowl to cool.
  3. When cool, skim fat from surface.
  4. Measure your liquid. Put into clean pan.
  5. For every 1 pint of liquid you have – add 3 ounces sugar and 90ml extra liquid (i.e. orange juice for flavour). The extra liquid is not compulsory. Other ways to add flavour include zesting oranges and lemons, adding essences, essential oils, grating fruit in (but not pineapple or kiwi as they don’t set i believe), and so on. I added 90ml orange juice and grated 4 big strawberries in.
  6. Once you’ve added juice and fruit and whatevers, then add the white of one egg and it’s crushed shell. NO YOLK. (Do you see what I did there?)
  7. Bring to the boil, whisking. When boils set aside for ten minutes to settle.
  8. Now strain through a clean tea towel or muslin cloth.
  9. (Optional second* boiling and finer straining will make jelly clearer – just repeat 7 and 8).
  10. Refrigerate until needed.

What I should have done, was DEFINITELY DONE the second fine straining. I didn’t so the jellies were quite cloudy. What none of us anticipated was that the bones give it a slightly milky taste. So the strawberry jelly tasted like strawberry milkshake jelly. It was nice. The other thing I learnt, was that fresh jelly doesn’t keep as long as normal. I took one to work a few days later and it was totally BLEURGH.

Would I make it again? Yes. But for a special occasion and try a more grown up flavour – maybe like hazelnut or almond? Any ideas for jelly flavours? I might try an elderflower or a hawthorn flower … I think a second straining might remove most of that milkiness, so a delicate flavour would work I’m sure. The consistency of the jelly was super velvety.

 

*but not really since you should definitely do it