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Moroccan Stuffed Spleen

9 Sep

Have you ever eaten spleen? I hadn’t until my recent visit to John Penny where I got given a fresh beef spleen to cook with. Prior research from the Offal Club’s page suggested from their experience that spleen was gross. Anissa Helou has a few recipes in The Fifth Quarter for it, which all sound very amazing, so I was excited again. Then I read in Jennifer McLagan’s Odd Bits that she expected that “if you like liver you’ll probably like spleen”. Damned by faint praise indeed. Never one to be deterred I got my spleen out and looked at it. The spleen looked back.

More disturbingly – how filthy was my cooker that day? What a slut! And look how long a spleen is. Long. So what does a spleen do? I always find that thinking about how the organ works can help you get to know how it might be nicely cooked. A spleen:

“… is an organ found virtually all vertebrate mammals. Similar in structure to a large lymph node, the spleen acts primarily as a blood filter. It is a non-vital organ, with a healthy life possible after removal (splenectomy). The spleen plays important roles in regard to red blood cells and the immune system. It also acts as a store of blood in case large amounts are lost. The word comes from the Greek ‘splen’ which is the rough equivalnet of heart – so to be good-spleened in Greek means to be good-hearted. In French, ‘splenetique’ refers to a state of pensive sadness or melancholy.”

Of course that infomation is from wikipedia. Importantly it tells us two things: the first is that as a filter, the texture will be spongy; secondly that if you eat it Greece you’ll be happy, while if you eat it in France you’ll be sad.

Taking the Mediterranean as a theme I used Anissa Helou’s recipe for Moroccan Stuffed Spleen as a guideline to work from, but incorporated EXTRA OFFAL into the recipe. That’s right. Offal stuffed with other offal. Just like a cheap sausage. Or not.

Beef spleens are huge, so I only used half of this one. Due to the nature of stuffing as a premise, I chose to use the fat end. So if you’re cooking along with this, cut your spleen in half, freeze the thin end and then we’ll peel the membrane off the fat end.

Removing membrane from spleen is not very easy. In fact, it’s quite hard for a novice like me to do. There was some fruity language and I cut my fingers a few times. There is an outer one and an inner one (or so it seemed to me). The outer one peels away using your fingers OK.

I tried a few different ways of getting rid of the inner membrane, but the one that worked best for me, was to pinch a bit of it up and to use a knife between the membrane and the flesh to almost chip away at it in small, frequent movements. (There was meant to be a video, but I deleted the wrong file from my phone, so you actually have five second shot of the inner spleen and it’s stupid clinging membrane.)

Once you’ve removed it – or if you’re clever – ask your butcher to do it for you (if you have one), but once it is removed you make a horizontal cut most of the way through (but not the whole way) parallel to the top and bottom of it. Your stuffing will go in this pouch.

Yup, TRIPLE OFFAL STUFFING WITH PORCINI. You can of course see some chopped lamb heart, some chopped lamb sweetbreads and some rehydrated chopped porcini. The porcini had arrived that very day in my foodie penpals package. I mixed these all together with 5 crushed garlic cloves, 1 teaspoon ground cumin and 2 teaspoons of paprika. Then I shoved it in the spleen pocket, rubbed the pocket with oil and baked it in the oven at gas mark 4 for 40 minutes.

This is pre-cooking – looks pretty nice doesn’t it?

Well, by this point, after all this effort, I was very hungry indeed. And how was the spleen. To me, inedible. That was the saddest part, despite loving liver I just couldn’t cope with the texture of the spleen – think liver but with lots of fibres running the wrong way through it. I couldn’t eat mine – I was clearly in France. Daz said it was OK – so he’s in Switzerland (is that half way between France and Greece? I’m thinking diagonally). The stuffing was amazeballs though. If you take one things away from this – heart, thyroid and porcini is a GRRRRRRRRREAT combination.

If I’d got the spleen from a butcher I might have thought that it had been hanging around a while. But since I SAW THE SPLEEN COME OUT THE BEAST THAT MORNING, it can’t be that. I’m plumping for spleen being better slow cooked (so the fibres can melt down some) – I’m thinking maybe some spleen and kidney pudding? Would that be nice? Spleen, kidney and porcini pudding? I have a feeling a slow-cooked spleen has fabulous gravy potential.

But despite the loveoly ingredients, I had to perform a splenectomy on my meal (LOLZ). Have you cooked spleen? I’ll have a little poll of the suet pudding …

And I promise to attempt to cook what you decide!

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Casual Testicle Curry Turned Indian Feast

22 Aug

The Indian Feast part will be focussed on here. The Casual Testicle Curry you will find over at Juls’ blog PepperandSherry. Juls has been a really supportive reader of here and offered lots of encouragement. She also gets a prize for being the first person to ask me write a Guest Post. I am also available for weddings and bar mitzvahs! So if you go over and read my guest post, I hope it doesn’t reflect too badly on Juls’ wonderful blog. Btw she blates loves the offal too.

To start with, I continued my ear obsession and made Sticky Tamarind Pig’s Ear Salad. This was made in pretty the same way as the rest of my pig’s ear salads, but I marinated the ears in tamarind, lime juice, chilli and garlic paste.

Then obvs, we had testicle curry. I invented my new method of de-sacking a testicle using scissors. I’m very proud of it. You can read the whole recipe for the testicle curry over at PepperandSherry (my first Guest Post), but to go with it I made some black cardoman chick peas, some celery seed flatbread and some raita!

All three extras were really simple to make.

The chickpeas were simply one onion chopped and fried, with a can of chickpeas, a can of tomatoes and four black cardoman pods added, then simmered for one hour.

The raita is really a sort of cucumber salad. You mix some white malt vinegar with a tablespoon of sugar and a pinch of salt, then mix them all togerther.

The celery bread comes from ‘Cook, Brew and Blend’ which is a great volume from the old Yard. It mixes a materia medica of herbs with advice for different organ systems, lifestyles, tips on using herbs, tips on making your own products and lots more. I love it. You can buy it here. The flatbread was very simple and went along the lines of add celery seeds to flour, with a bit of water, mix, then roll flat, then griddle on each side.

Then for dessert we had some chilli and lime sorbet that I made a while ago after a FoodiePenpals package. Nowadays I’m the sort of person who just has the perfect dessert in the freezer.

Foodie Penpals the Fifth

5 Aug

My lovely initial penpal had to excuse herself from this month’s participation, so the lovely Lisa stepped in at the last minute and passed the package on that she’d already prepared. Phew! I didn’t want Lisa to have to make a new one for me, so I received the ‘Learn to Bake’ parcel that she’d already put together with a note explaining why things were there, because they meant something to our penpal partner. I found it really interesting (because I’m nosy) receiving what was designed for another person. And it was a lovely package.

So, there are cake decorations, white chocolate, edible glitter, fancy cases, exotic fruit and a book on baking. Also (possibly a nod to the carnivory, was some tikka rub) which I put to good use making a very simple lamb neck tikka:

There’s the lamb neck and some mushrooms all tikka-ing away in the slow cooker (6 hours=curry-tastic). I literally just added the spice, some coconut cream and some water. YUM! And simple.

My package went to Fay, and you can read about how she found it on her blog here. I sent a real mix of things, but for my next one I really want to put a theme together as I’ve now had a couple of lovely Themed ones. Look out, next Foodie Penpal! Look out!

Kidney Rosemary Skewers

11 Jul

What it says on the tin really.

Take two lamb kidneys, cut in half and de-core. Take a long stick of rosemary, push in one side and then back through – it gives very easily, don’t worry.

If you have time let them rest for an hour or two in the fridge, so the kidney get all the rosemary sucked in.

Grill on a BBQ or fry on a high heat2 mins each side (4 if you like your offal well done).

Two ingredients. A whole deliciousness.

More things should be on rosemary skewers.

Amen.

Sweets for my Sweet, Breads for my Bready?

1 Jul

Yup, it was 1994 in our house last week and C J Lewis was brapping around (Shaggy was busy). In his honour we decided to cook Sweetbreads! Yup a NEW OFFAL. One that didn’t even get touched in NosetoTail Fortnight …

This is an offal that we cannot now go and bulk buy. Then there would be many, many, many spare carcasses hanging around. Demand cannot out-strip supply. That is unsustainable. Sustainability is the name of the game!

Sweetbreads are glands. They can either be thyroid or pancreatic ones. I think these were thyroidy ones because they were plumper and roundish, rather than longer and thinner. I do know they came from a lamb. I also know I got them from the website Farmers Choice. Their website is very good, AND postage is reasonable AND you can choose your delivery day. Trufax! I also bought some pig’s ears.

The buying of the sweetbreads coincided with my Mum giving me Mark Hix’s new recipe book. It lists recipes month by month and is good at pointing out what is native and when it is best. There is a bit too much talk about foraging and fishing/hunting/poaching your own meat, not because I don’t find it fascinating, but because the reality of pretty much everyone I know is that doesn’t happen due to location restraints, I think, rather than time. I say this because a few years ago we were all told that there was no point in growing vegetables in cities because you just ended up with really polluted vegetables. It was in the papers – do you remember? I raised this point again on my herbs course at Dilston Physic Garden, as to how much benefit you lost by using herbs that grew in and around the city. Or if by using plants that breathed the same gases you did, whether that made them have a better synergy with you. All that aside, the Mark Hix book is good and should you wish to see what I’m talking about, you can find it here.

He suggests that sweetbreads be eaten in July. This is different to the “Spring” that I’ve read elsewhere. I guess June falls between the two nicely anyhow. Apparently you can do the same treatment with testicles. FYI.

The end bit of this recipe is a bit of a rat-race and you have to do things simultaneously. Just saying. I was a bit shocked in the change of pace from ‘lalalalala just change and soak lalalalalala’ to ‘BOIL, FRY, SIMMER, REDUCE, WATCH ALL THE PANS LIKE A HAWK AS NOTHING NEEDS COOKING FOR VERY LONG AT ALL’. Like you arrived at the Parochial Church Ramble and it turned out to be bleep-tests for ultra-runners.

Just do like a boy scout …

I had 250g of sweetbreads, so had to adjust the recipe, and it fed two people comfortably.

1 medium onion, 150ml lamb stock, 150g podded peas, 100ml double cream (I used extra thick), 1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

  1. Soak the sweetbreads in repeated changes of water until the water is pretty clear. This could take up to an hour (it took us about twenty minutes).
  2. Cover them with water and boil them for two minutes. Then drain and run COLD water over them. You will want to now peel away the outer membrane. It’s very fine (like the layer of cells between onion layers), but is definitely manageable:
  3. Now heat a knob of butter in a pan and fry the onion gently until soft. Add the stock and let it reduce til there is only a few tablespoons left mingled in with the onion.
  4. While the stock is reducing boil your peas for 3-4 and then cool them under running cold water.
  5. Add the cream to the onion/stock mix and let it reduce by a third.
  6. While the cream is reducing, heat a tablespoon oil in a frying pan, season the sweetbreads and fry them on a high heat until each side is crisp.
  7. Remove them from the pan (drain on kitchen towell if you feel the need), then add them to the cream mix along with the peas. Simmer it all together for a couple of minutes.
  8. Serve.

It is lovely and refreshing. VERY SWEET. Who knew meat could be this sweet? Almost like marshmallows, but a bit sweeter. Amazing. Nutty. Sweeter than testicles actually.

Would I make them again? Maybe. Would I order them in a restaurant? Yes. What do I think about the recipe? The peas added too much sweetness, but I’m not sure what you’d match with soemthing sweet, nutty and meaty. Any ideas? I was thinking maybe grapefruit? And lovage? As like a side salad?

Have you eaten sweetbreads? Are you too attached to your thyroid to eat that of another creature?

SoupTuesday Cookbook Swap …

29 Jun

Hello my name is Lucy and I like cooking things and posting things. You would have thought that foodie penpals would be enough for me. Well, you’re wrong. I signed up for a cook book swop too. Hosted by the SoupTuesday blog, you get matched with a person to send to and a person to get from. Oh yes.

This month was the first month so I’m hoping it goes well for everyone. The theme for this month was RETRO. I’ll confess striaght away that I couldn’t find a retro cookbook at home (at least one I was going to give away), so I trundled to British Heart Foundation and found a nice 80s one where you have to add cans of soup to lots of recipes. The reminded me a lot of an earlier but much older boyfriend’s cooking style. Retro indeed.

My cookbook came from Hannah at HomeBakedOnline. She writes a great blog about all the nice things and does it fantastically. It was ‘The Wholefood Cookbook’ by Pamela Westland. It is out of print now, but if you want, you can pick it up second hand off the old Amazon. The tagline is “Natural recipes for health”. Naturally I turned the pages to see if there was an offal recipe … I find all the older cookery books are generally pretty good for offal. There was one for Mushrooms and Liver Provencal. Fate.

So here is the recipe, photographed from the book:

Basically, you quickly fry the liver on both sides, then add it to a simple ragu of tomato, peppers and mushrooms. The herb used is marjoram. You serve it with ‘noodles’ but it is really tagliatelle!

My liver stack, waiting to enter the ragu

 

Part of the joy of the cookbook swop is being reminded in these recipes of things you’ve not seen for a while. I would like to know what happened to the savoury loaf? You know the ones NOT BREAD but things like asparagus and parmesan in a loaf tin, or a stripey one with carrot and fennel or whatever. Because I haven’t seen one for a while (especially not in a restaurant), not only am I going to resurrect them (Surprise Offal Loaf!), but I feel sure they will be the latest great food trend.

I’ve also enjoyed the 80s food photography in the book.

There is what the book reckons my provencal liver should look like. And here is what it actually looked like:

Note the two pieces of roast potato. What a nice extra. The best thing about this swop and the recipe I chose, is that it introduced me properly to the pairing of offal and pasta. I had been dubious after reading other recipes, but am pretty sold. I’ve also really liked the tomato liver sauce. And the fact that one herb (marjoram) is the star. I know I can get herb happy and toss them all in and I think its a good change for me to think consistently about single culinary herbs.

I hope there’s going to be another cookbook swop, so do get involved!

Lamb’s Liver and Orange?

6 Jun

This is a recipe I stole off of Nigel Slater. You can find it here. The title there is Lamb’s Liver with onion and Seville orange relish. Or as I realise now Marmalade Liver. Paddington would like that?

I was staying at my lovely Mum’s and she ever-so-thoughtfully bought us some lamb liver (which is the only offal me, Mum and my brother like). I could have just dusted it in flour and cooked it simply, but to be honest I’ve had quite a lot of floured offal in the past few months, so wanted to fancy it up a bit.

Unlike the modest beginning of this post. It is actually a pretty delicious recipe. So if you’re cooking liver, give it a go.

You will need:

Lamb’s liver for 3. Also salt and pepper, fresh sage leaves and 1 tsp mustard seeds.

4 onions, 25g butter, 2 tbsp olive oil, 1 orange (preferably Seville) zested and juiced (you add the zest and jucie, not the whole fruit), 1tbsp cider vinegar, 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar, 6 prunes chopped

  1. Cut the onions into quarters or rings and cook slowly for half an hours in the butter and oil so they go lovely and soft and gooey.

    You can see I mixed it with using red and white. Danger!

  2. While that’s going on put some salt, your mustard seeds, some peppercorns and your lovely fresh sage in your pestle and give it a bash.
  3. When the onions are as soft as you want, basically add the rest of the ingredients. Originally I used prunes and honey, but that was a bit too sweet. So don’t use honey. this is the voice of experience. This will be a sauce to go on top of your liver. So keep it warm while you cook your liver.
  4. Season each side of liver with your sage/pestle mix of seasoning. Fry/grill your liver on boths sides on a high heat for 2 minutes each side. I like my liver pink, longer if you don’t.

    Frying one side …

    … frying the other

  5. Serve with some nice vegetables and enjoy. I dry-fried some extra sage leaves to use as a garnish. Posh!

    our lovely Emma Birdgewater strewn table!

    My plate

    Mr Pink Liver!

    Fakenham Flollop for Pudding?

I would definitely recommend broadening your offal horizons. Get some liver down you! This Jimmy’s Farm or whatever programme (I’ve not seen it, just followed the resulting twitter threads) seems to have got people talking about offal and whether you should eat it. My biased answer is that yes, you should. It’s lovely if you cook it well. There reasons over ethics and sustainability that I shouldn’t have to say. Mostly I think it’s a matter of respect. If you eat meat, you should respect the animal. That includes eating its organs. Get over your squeamish selves.

The excuse of “It’s societal” is often rolled out. ‘Societal’ gets changed by being PERSONAL and endeavoring to live your life by the ethical standards that you choose. And that stands if you’re vegan, or meatatarian, or offaltarian, or only eat balloons. Once you consider what your own standards actually are, your own choices become much clearer. Just give it some thought …