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Roast Head of Pig – Nose to Tail Fortnight Day 9

8 May

So I roasted the head of a pig today. It was meant to be done on Friday, but I’m at work now, instead of at home, so we brought the piece de resistance forward.

Here is Arthur. He is sitting in the sink, waiting to have his ears and nostrils scrubbed and to have a shave. Like a recalcitrant husband (that’s you Willie Thorne).

I can tell you that pig’s noses feel lovely. You need to prepare your head. This means shaving off bristles (I used a Bic razor) and then scrubbing the inside of the ears to get the wax out. I found an old toothbrush was an excellent tool for that job. In truth, Arthur didn’t need very much shaving or scrubbing. I did think he had very big ears though.

And his little number was on the back of his ear too:

There are lots of recipes online for the roasting of a pig’s head. Basically you put it in the oven for about five hours, covering the nose and the ears with tin foil about half way through. Temperature about Gas Mark 4 (but on the warm side of that).You can rub some spices into his skin and the flesh at the back of his head. I chose some cajun spice mix from the health food shop. I then basted the head all the while with a mixture of honey and water about every hour while it was cooking. I’m not sure whether that was actually a good idea.

Here he is with his little ear-and-nose-cosies on.

Got quite the tan, hasn’t he?

So what do you do when you’ve got your roast pig’s head out of the oven? Well, if you’re me, panic a little. When I worked for the Hog Roasting doing bits of butchery, the pigs almost alway arrived headless. If they did have a head, it was to be cooked separately generally because it was a Filipino Christening. (A bigger Filipino population than you would imagine in Lincolnshire.) So I umm’ed said I’m not sure a few times. Then got busy with scissors, a knife and a fork.

I was tipped off on twitter that the meat in the temple was the sweetest, so I pulled that out. Then I found some lovely juicy meat that ran along the snout. Then I went in for the cheek. We’ve had cheeks before (post here), but what I didn’t know was that they were under a thick layer of fat. In fact fat was encountered pretty much everywhere I looked on Arthur’s head (apart from his ears). Much more fat than I could really cope with to be honest. Maybe if I’d cooked him an hour longer more of it would have melted but there was quite a lot. Also, I couldn’t find a way of getting into the skull to get at the brains. Poor planning.

Anyway, Daz and I both had a plate each of very tender meat. The best bits were the temple and snout bits.  And now I have half a pig’s head to recycle into more edible things. I would say brawn, but I’m going to saw that for later in the year. I’m sure I’ll think of some things.

What would I do differently next time? Cook for an hour longer. Get the butcher to split the head in half and roast two halves. Score the skin so Arthur II looks a bit like Darth Maul. No honey. An apple in his mouth. LOLLLLLZZZZZZZZ.

In all seriousness, nothing I’ve cooked so far has brought me closer to the animal. Arthur has eyes (AND EYELASHES – I couldn’t bring myself to shave them) and a face and I’m sure he had a personality in whatever farm (since I bought him for £2.50 at Bennets butcher in Leeds market, I’m not sure it was a skippy-happy farm, but the local vs. organic is an issue that repeats) he grew up in. Now I have him, I’m not going to waste him. Even though the bits that are left aren’t, perhaps, to my taste.

But then, that’s what this is all about, isn’t it? Being less wasteful, encouraging myself to be more creative and eating in a sustainable manner. Most of all, being responsible for all the meat I put in my mouth and making sure I make the right decisions about it. I’m sure Arthur would agree!


That was Arthur, agreeing from a chopping board in Beeston.


Venison Kidney – Nose to Tail Fortnight Day 8

8 May

What a lovely bank holiday dinner! At the bottom of the plate you can see my venison kidneys, then clockwise is garlic kale and mushrooms, fruity red cabbage and roast potatoes. It did seem a little odd to have such a Winter plate in May, but I think we had our 3 days of summer in April, so I guess we’re looking to Autumn now.

I’ve said before how beautiful I think venison kidneys are. I definitely think they are the place to start a kidney odyssey with. I floured these and then fried them for a couple of minutes each side. Delicious.

One thing I did note was that because these ones had been frozen (I think this is right) they were harder to de-core. Next time, I’ll de-core them and then freeze. The freezing didn’t change the texture of the meat or the taste, but just seemed to entrench the core a bit more. Or these were firmly cored kidneys. Something to think about though.

Have you noticed freezing make a change in some meat?

And here’s where we are along the carcass!

Five species now!

Roast Veal Heart, stuffed with Spring, wrapped in Vine Leaves – Nose to Tail Fortnight Day 7

7 May

Yesterday we had quick-cooked veal heart. Today we had slow cooked veal heart. Me and Mr Stupendous Snooker think that this is the best veal heart recipe we’ve done yet.

For me it was a couple of firsts. I’d never roasted a heart before. I’d never made stuffing from scratch before either. Neither had I put a bin bag on the floor to do cooking and baking on so I didn’t miss very much of the snooker.So this was my set-up:

What you can see on the floor is a bowl of Spring stuffing, a crock pot, a heart , a lemon, a packet of breadcrumbs (I am bad), a grater, tomato puree and the round things to the back are raw cookies, waiting to go in the oven. I thought the bin bag idea was GENIUS.

To the recipe – if you don’t have a heart that you’ve already taken the chamber walls out of, then do so. Or get your butcher to do it. If you haven’t and don’t want to do it yourself. Don’t worry, you can put the stuffing in each chamber and have a multi-chambered heart. Like a tomb. If you need to trim any tubes or gristle from your heart, do so now.

Next make the stuffing. I called it Spring stuffing because I wanted really fresh and zingy flavours to go with the taste of the veal.

You want to mix together:

  • 100g breadcrumbs
  • zest of 1 massive lemon and its juice
  • 1tbsp tomato puree
  • a few shakes of Magi seasoning (or Worcester or soy sauce)
  • 1 heaped tsp dried parsley
  • torn leaves of most of a supermarket basil plant
  • one large mushroom (grated on the zester)
  • one stick celery (ditto)

Mix it all together, it will go a bit sticky. If you don’t think your lemon is large enough (look at the corker in the picture), then use two.

You will now need a packet of vine leaves and string.

First stuff the cavity/ies of your heart. Hold it together in your hands and then gradually wrap vine leaves around it. If you’re having trouble holding it together, tie it up with string. Then wrap the vine leaves around it. The vine leaves will help to keep the heart moist while it is roasting in the oven. If you don’t want to include them, wrap the heart in bacon and make sure it is covered with foil.

So wrap the vine leaves around the heart. I used most of the packet, you want the layer to be quite think so the leaves closest to the heart impart all their flavour to the meat. We’ve done this vine leaf trick before on pheasants and it really does make them lovely. You could do it on a chicken!

Then tie everything together with string again. I went for the three strands approach, you can use as much as you like.

Pop it in your pan and roast in the oven for 2 half to 3 hours. The temperature should be a Gas Mark 4 (190C).

And that’s what you end up with. I carved it laterally, so the slices had stuffing in the middle. YUM! We ate some with kale and broccoli in the evening and there was enough left for both of us to have cold for lunch the following day.

Six meals. One heart. True Love.

Or something.

Stir-fried Veal Heart – Nose to Tail Fortnight Day 6

5 May

Now we moved more towards the middle of the animal, things are going to get cooked in a less linear order. This is because I am defrosting a lot of the offal now (there was a freezer accumulation) and it all depends on what I pull out.

Now we are in the innards of the animal, and pretty much all we’ll eat over the next couple of days will be organ-licious. The variety, however is hugely surprising.

Before we get to the veal heart of the matter – a word about lunch. Today we double offalled. Oh yes. Two organs, one day. All the win. For lunch we chicken liver curry. This was one of the first things I cooked with offal and because I live in the curry-capital that is Leeds, spicy chicken livers are on a lot of menus. Today we had a curry that channelled a bit of Africa as I used again some of the spices that I got sent in my first foodie penpals package. Today I used the Hot Chilli Pepper (it is super hot) and some Cameroon Pepper (which tastes a bit smoky). These along with ginger, chilli flakes and garlic made something pretty hot (but not too hot for me). I didn’t take a picture because for me now, it’s a pretty normal thing to cook and I’m sure I’ve made it and not blogged about it. It was good. It looked like a typical tomato-based curry, but with chicken livers in.

For supper, the Beautiful Man and I were slightly more adventurous and chose to make a couple of meals out of our de-frosted veal heart (from the lovely Heaves Farm Veal). So there’ll be another post about the Grand Plan tomorrow. I’ve cooked heart before (it was 2 for 1 when I got the hearts) so this time I had an idea of what I was meant to be doing. The heart has several chambers and for dinner tonight I was taking out the meat that makes the walls of the heart and chopping it up for stir fry. Most hearts you buy (I am led to believe) are already slit so the abattoir vetenery officer can check the animals health. This makes our job easier. Key to understanding where to cut is handling the organ, understanding where the chambers are and where you need to cut. Again, like the testicles, it’s quite intuitive.

Once you’ve cut the chamber walls out, slice them fairly thinly, bite-sized pieces I think. Then I marinaded the meat. I think this helped to tenderise it.

For the marinade:

1 tsp minced ginger, 1 tsp ras el hanout, 1 tsp harissa, 3 tbsp orange juice, 1 wedge of lemon squeezed in.

Mix all these together with the heart in a bowl. Leave to stand for twenty minutes.

All there was then left to do was make some egg-fried rice (this was incidentally the first time me or the Wondrous Male had made egg-fried rice – all the experiementation) and stir-fry on a high heat the heart for five minute or less.

So there you go. The exciting thing that I’m taking away from this is that heart can be lovely if you just cook it fast. After Valentine’s Day (which was good) I felt like I’d lost a bit of my heart confidence. But it’s back now! So, next time you’re making stir-fry and shopping in Morrisons put up a pack of heart there.

Just so you haven’t lost track of our pace along the animal – here is my up-to-date diagram again:

As you can tell, I’m not a graphic designer, or any sort of artist. The green bits are testicles. (The lady cow is now a gentleman cow btw. I don’t think that’s because too much offal was eaten. That was BSE.) There’s an extra species listed type listed too! Hurrah!

Honeycomb Tripe – Nose to Tail Fortnight Day 5

5 May

Day 5 was always going to be a busy day because we were having tea at Daz’s Mum’s house. SO we just wanted a little snacky lunch. After cooking tripe a few days ago, there has been demand from some quarters for MORE TRIPE! So I went back to the tripe shop and chose my tripe carefully.

After some research, last time we had blanket tripe. This time I thought we should try the other sort they sell, which is honeycomb tripe. I really like how it looks – a lovely geometric pattern. It also makes an amazing sound when you rub it with your fingers! Organic percussion? The meat orchestra? Rocky makes a good noises when he punches beef? Me and Sly in a meat duo?

NB: My youtube channel is called goodlyoffal. Apparently I have one now, because wordpress wouldn’t let me just upload a video. Watch that space too?

Daz had wanted me to make the same sauce as we had before. I stubbornly wanted to try something different. So the recipe we used was:

200g honeycomb trip sliced thinly, 1 onion sliced, 4 large (but not field) mushrooms, quarter teaspoon harissa, 1 tsp ginger paste, 2 tsp honey

Add a little oil to the pan, cook the onions down a bit, add the mushrooms, sweat them a bit more. Add the harissa, ginger and honey. Stir and then turn the heat down. Put a lid on the pan and let it all cook together for about ten minutes. Add the tripe and stir with the lid off now. After five minutes, add the can of tomatoes. Simmer for another ten minutes, season and serve! We ate it with some crunchy bread.

What I did realise whilst I was cooking this is that a lot of my recipes start with onion (or celery if I’ve run out of onion). Is this the case for everyone? I’m starting to feel I’m in a bit of a cookery groundhog day … suggestions welcome. As Daz pointed out though “a lot of recipes in the world start with celery and onion” so maybe that’s ok.

If other news, I did an amzing thing, which was to JUICE SOME CLEAVERS. Cleavers you might know by other names such as Stickybud and Goosegrass. It is an amazing detoxing herb. I drink it dried in tea, but was isnpired by this post by herbalist Lucy Jones to harness the goodness another way. Also I have wanted to play with my juicer for a long time. I can tell you that juiced cleavers tastes a bit like grass. I’ve frozen it in ice cube trays to add to post-sport smoothies.

What other things are good to juice?

Lamb’s Testicles – Nose to Tail Fortnight Day 4

3 May

If you’ve come here from the FemaleDom website. That’s OK, but please can you sponsor my half marathon, before you get your greasy mitts on my testicle pictures?

£1/$1/1 euro would make an extra hundred pounds a day for good causes. You can do it anonymously.  I dare you:

Also, it just goes to show that a well-meaning, ethical endeavor can be highjacked for porny porn porn … *le sigh*

So we had testicles for tea. They come from the back-end of the animal – see we are working our way along. I testicles are a bit more out there than tripe even, so despite being super excited, I was also a bit wary. The excitement meant that I did exactly what I did yesterday and woke up really early and had two false postal alarms before the delivery man came with a big box.

The delivery man said he was very glad I was in the house. I said I was very glad to get my testicles. He looked uncomfortable.

Keevil and Keevil were the testicle-suppliers that came up when I googled ‘buy testicles’. A lot of other things came up, including testicle implants. I can say that when I emailed yesterday panicking that they hadn’t arrived, they were very nice and have been very kind on twitter. Have a look at their website – they have meat boxes themed by London borough – apt since their actual premises is in Smithfields (which I learnt yesterday was one of the first places that Huguenot silversmiths settled after fleeing France in the 1600s)! What I liked best was their very low post and packaging. So many online meat suppliers either insist you buy over £40 or charge £20 just to deliver. You can’t try the product if you have to fork out stupid money just to get it sent.

And here, they are my bag of testicles:

I think the smile on face here is meant to convey a) Gosh four! I thought I’d only get too and b) I bet my hair looks very bouffe in these pictures. Bonus testicles are always good. Yes that is puffy bedhair. You can also see my pyjama top covered in strawberries. I am that glamourous. Look at those lovely balls. Hmmmmm …

So now I had the testicles what was I meant to do with them? There was some conflicting advice. On the one hand Jennifer McLagan advised to soak them overnight, skin, poach, re-poach and so on, which all sounded very good but time-consuming. On the other Anissa Helou said you could do that, or just skin them and use them as they were. The latter advice suited me better because Daz had to go to rehearsal so tea needed to be made with some fair haste.

Daz is my very supportive boyfriend, but he wasn’t entirely convinced that eating testicles would be a delicious thing. He did say he would try them, and I said that was fine, if he didn’t like them then we had sausages to quickly fry. But he does get an award for being a Big Brave Boy.

So, how do you prepare a testicle? Basically, the testicle lies within three membranes and you need to cut it out them before you can use it. Below is a step-by-step photojourney of the de-sacking, but basically you use a knife to make a small nick, widen it with your fingers (there is a tearing sound) and then to in effect, turn the ball-sack inside out.

Step 1: Membrane the first. Pinch the skin of the testicle up and put the point of your knife in to make a little cut. Then make the cut wider, using your fingers or a knife, to then turn it inside out.

Here we have both testicles inside-outed, to the side I think is the tube that take sperm to the penis and some other biology. I wasn’t sure whether I should eat it or not, so erred on the side of caution. (The other two testicles are in the freezer, so I might experiment with those.)

Step 2: Sack the second, do exactly the same. Here you can see me pulling the membrane away with my fingers. If you push a bit with your finger, then pull it comes away pretty nicely.

Step 3: Membrane the third. This one is the trickiest. Your really have to use your fingers (or maybe a spoon) to push the membrane and the body of the testicle apart. If you don’t do that, the flesh will rip and you won’t have a lovely smooth edible bollock. So go gently, teasing flesh and sinew apart.

And this is the testicle that you have to cook with. It is soft and also a bit like one of those jelly tube things that if you squeeze it shoots out your hand. Gel-filled and purple? No? Anyway, they are slippery and I dropped one. BUT I caught it with my knees. Offal Save!

I know these instructions are quite long, but it’s quite intuitive when you get going. There are instructions from Anissa Helou here and Jennifer Mclagan’s view here and a much more exhaustive account in ‘Odd Bits’. I don’t have Fergus Henderson’s books yet, so I don’t know what he thinks, but I’m sure he likes them.

So now I had some testicles, what was I going to do? I found a lot of recipes that recommended crumbing and frying them. I thought this sounded a good idea because most fried things are nice, and frying isn’t too heavy a flavour so the flavour of the testicles (which I was told was mild) comes through. I sliced the testicles into rounds holding on firmly but not tightly and then I chucked some spelt flour, some ground black pepper and the zest of half a lemon into a bowl and covered the testicles discs in the mixture so they were covered both sides. They only take a minute to cook each side, so I got my vegetables ready and then cooked the balls at the very end.

Here are my lovely little testicle fritters, they look pretty good don’t they? The taste is lamby, but in a mild way. So even if you don’t like lamb, I think you’d like these. The texture is like one of the quenelle dumplings – like a REALLY firm mousse. They do leak some juices. I don’t *think* its jizz.

And here was our final dinner. If you are interested in the vegetables: to the left we have kale steam-fried with ground ginger, red chilli and half a lamb stock cube; to the right stir-fried purple sprouted broccoli with wild garlic* wilted over the top just from the heat of the pan. The punchier flavours of the vegetable went really well with the creamiest of the testicles. Bit of lemon to squeeze. Tortilla – mostly because Yorkshiremen have to have bread at every meal.

And here’s my favourite little Yorkshireman, digging his testicle fritter!

That IS a nice face he’s doing. Apparently lambs testicles are a very potent aphrodisiac. Just saying. The other thing I’d like to say is please don’t all rush out and buy shed loads of testicles so that they are the only type of meat being demanded and whole carcasses are thrown out in the street. At the moment I think they disappear at the abattoir most of the time and then get turned into things we don’t know about (can anyone enlighten me?). It’s much better that people buy them for what they are and treat them with respect. (Even if that respect is turning them inside out three types and frying in hot oil. Still respect.)

Would you eat a testicle?

Have you eaten a testicle?

Don’t worry, I will try to even out the gender balance and find an udder or a womb.

*We FORAGED the wild garlic today, down in Kirkstall near the Aire. There is quite the crop far down on the banks. I also got some nettles and some cleavers for JUICING! *tries not to look like a smug Guardian reader*

Nigerian Trotter Stew – Nose to Tail Fortnight Day 2

2 May

The first thing to understand is that a stew is Nigeria is what we would call a sauce. Understand? Good.

In working my way along the animal, after the tail, the toes seemed like the next appropriate spot to move to. There’s recently been some good trotter chat on twitter, so if you want to keep abreast of that, you’d better give me a follow! Acting on the advice of Luke from the restaurant Dough, then disregarding it somewhat (sorry), I slow cooked my trotters in water with four cloves for six hours on high. This makes the most amazing stock. However, I made a beginnners mistake and realised after I’d removed the elbows that what I had were not chunky back trotters, but slimline fore trotters – that equals less meat.

Another thing to note. Always buy your trotters from the back end of the pig. Not the front. No joke.

Then I had a massive bowl of stock with lots of bones and bits of pig in it. I went through the bowl, removing the bones and breaking the skin up and removing any bits of cartilage that I didn’t think would be good to eat. I then had a smaller bowl of meat (included skin and tendons and all the bits, because of the slow cooking they are ALL GREAT TON EAT) and a bigger bowl of stock.

A soupcon of trotter pour monsieur?

Now, time to make my sauce. I got the recipe from my first foodie penpal Jen who runs the Sharing Supper Club. I read it and then did it slightly differently. I must learn to concentrate whilst cooking.

So for a Nigerian stew – which means what? You need:

1 onion chopped, 1 can chopped tomatoes, quarter teaspoon cameroon pepper, half a can of stock, fresh thyme

I cooked the onion tomatoes and spice together for about fifteen minutes, then blended them to smooth and returned to the pan and added some of the bowl of pork trotter stock.

Then I had Nigerian stew. The thyme goes on top as you serve it.

It is very easy. I got the spice from Jen, but if you live in Leeds you could get it from one of the African shops in the market. I almost bought some dried smoked shrimps today – any ideas for them?

I then added my bowl of trotter meat and stirred it all together.

It goes to a really lip-smakcing sauce. We had a few spoons of it with some rice (cooked in the rest of the pork stock) and a couple of tortillas.

Lip-smacking is the word. Even Daz’s friend Bill who shuddered when Daz showed him a picture of the trotter in our fridge, liked it.

Testicles tomorrow! I’d better not balls them up! ho ho *crawls into a corner*