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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

 

Serious Business

28 Nov

It turns out that writing about sustainable eating is a serious business!

I’ve been invited to give a talk VERY SOON. I was invited by the Anglia Ruskin University’s Global Sustainability Institute. You can find all the deatils here and if you find yourself in Chelmsford on Monday 3rd December – please feel free to come along!

If you’re a regular reader, let me know if there’s anything I *need* to include … Topics I’m going to trot through include why I took this journey up, the changes I’ve had to make (Arthur the pig’s head will undoubtedly make an appearance) and why it is important for us to all think in an engaged manner about what we put in our bodies!

 

 

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?

All’s quiet on the offal front …

6 Nov

I think after ten months of being offaltarian, I’ve hit the offal wall. Some may say it was inevitable, or indeed that it should have happened in March, but there, I’ve said it: my offal mojo is deflated. I’ve bought soya spread instead of lard.

So, Offal – like Ross and Rachel – we’re on a break. I am the Ross and am going to get into bed with chickpeas and lentils and hot photocopier ladies for a while; you, Offal, are the Rachel and will be cross with me when I return to you – especially when I’m honest about the roast chicken I ate at my Mum’s the other week. It was sexxxy. But I thought of you the whole time …

I’m not making a big deal of it – all relationships have their peaks and troughs – and our relationships with food are the same. Food fads, celebrity diets, Hugh F-W’s new series, we all like to suddenly embrace the novel. After this year, brassicas feel a bit novel. I’m a bit in love with my veg box.

For a while I blamed being SUPER BUSY – working away, doing yet more job applications – I’ve too much of a headache, Offal – it’s not you it’s me …

I love Offal long time. We will get back together. We just need a little time right now … besides there’s well loads of game at the butcher:

YUM

YUM

GET IN MY

ETHICAL

TUM

Review: Energex Plus

19 Sep

A slightly anomylous post I know, but a while ago I was sent some Energex Plus capsules to try and review. I wanted to try them because as well as be interested in all of the meat, I am also interested in all of the herbs, supplements and healthy eating things. I might not follow them all the time, but I do find it all FASCINATING.

The Energex Plus capsules appear to basically be a herbal ProPlus. They are however sugar-free and as well as providing a caffeine hit, they also act as a supplement for 100% of your RDA of B vitamins. I was very intrigued as to what would supply the caffeine hit – I should have guessed it would be guarana. I think they are vegetarian, but you should double check that if its a crucial factor for you.

At the time that I received these in the post, I was going through a caffeine-free period, so didn’t take them. I was very run down and because caffeine (along with many other things) can inhibit your immune system, I put the coffee and tea away for a while.

However, now I have a dissertation to write, an overdue academic article and lots of other things to write, concentration is at a premium. I want to get it all done, but sometimes the voices start singing and the last thing you want to do is sit at a desk and do thinking and typing.


They are very big though … it’s the size of a finger joint. Having swallowed one, I can see how easy it would be to swallow a bit of finger!

To the verdict: having tried it on several occassions I can say that it does work and it does pep you up, but it is not for me. The first time I used it I was volunteering and inputting infomation to a database. I felt a bit blocked, so took a capsule hoping for a ‘lift’. I did have more energy, but very little attention-span. Not to be deterred, I tried it again whilst working at my desk and a similar thing occurred – my internet-distraction-ometer went through the roof!

I gave the issue some consideration. I think they key issue is that I’m probably not as tolerant of caffeine as I used to be, so a whole tablet is simply too large a dose for me. I put this hypothesis to the test and took a capsule at work (I am a shop assistant amongst other things) and the physical aspect of standing and moving seemed to counter-act the jitters.

Luckily there’s a neat line you can break, so you only take a half. Interesting that the inside isn’t green but pale brown, isn’t it? Green is a ‘friendlier’ colour.

To sum up, if you’re active and used to caffeine, these will probably make a great alternative to espresso/Red Bull/ProPlus or whatever else it is you use to keep awake and focussed. I think they are more effective than the caffeine tablets I took when I was studying for my finals. From a health perspective, I wouldn’t take them if you’re ill (you don’t want to go over the edge) and I’d think closely about how much caffeine you consume regularly before taking a whole one. All in all a good product that I think will work well for lots of people. You can buy it here for £8.95.

The versatility of Cold Oxtail – part 1

11 Sep

Apart from cooked sliced tongue, it’s quite hard to find offal that will go in sandwiches. You can’t even find a ready-made sandwich with offal in (unless you’re counting sausage, but then they invariably have ketchup in which I just can’t stomach). Kidney sammich, anyone? To remedy this I slow-cooked a lovely oxtail with the express purpose of using it cold. Oh yes. You can’t keep me in that box. I’m not Schroedinger’s Cat.

Here is my lovely ox tail from Walsingham Farm Shop – a present from my Mum – and you should definitely visit if you’re in Norfolk. I meant to take a picture of the label (which specifies some details about the beast that provided the tail), but forgot – however there is a great page about their suppliers on the website. This sort of transparency in origin is what was emphasised in my abattoir visit. Yet I do remember, growing up in Lincolnshire, it being perfectly normal to know who farmed the animals you were eating (and you probably wouldn’t trust a butcher who couldn’t tell you).* I decided to add some flavours and chose black cardoman, tamarind and mugwort. I shouldn’t have put the mugwort in as the stronger flavours swallowed it up …

Then you cover it all with water and I slow cooked it on high for about six hours. The next step was to separate the meat from the stock, and then the bones from the meat. You will have a jug of beefy, taily deliciousness and a bowl of juicy, beefy meat.
I put both of them in the fridge and waited to use them.

The first thing I wanted to use was the delicious stock, so I had a stab at making a beef noodle soup. Of course, all the fat had risen to the top of the stock, so I scraped a lot of it off, used some to fry my peppers and put the rest away for later use.

It had set into a jelly (because of the lovely bones) – with a nice spicy layer at the bottom of thicker gravy. It all goes in! I really wanted to taste the stock, so kept the rest quite simple. I fried some onion and peppers, then added some rehydrated seaweed, the stock and the noodles, then boiled it all together so the noodles were done. Added some spinach at the end, bob’s your uncle. I put a blob of harissa in the middle too.

A lovely meal, from a jug of stock and some cupboard bits and bats.

If you don’t think about making stock already – please do try it out. You can ask your butcher for some bones, or use leftover ones (a perfect example is an eaten around chicken carcass). All I then do is boil it for a number of hours until all the bones come away from each other  (I don’t know if that’s a professional way to judge it, but it appears to work for me). You can add veg and things, but I tend to be a stock purist. Sieve it to get the bones n ting out, then you can either use it within a week, or freeze it to use at your leisure. Risotto totally is best with homemade stock. And it’s really good for you – lots of trace elements are kept in bones, so real stock can help boost your immune system! If it sounds like a faff, kept your eye out for reduced fresh stock in the supermarket, as you can freeze it ready for risotto o clock!

I can hear you asking, what else did she make with the ox tail? Stay tuned for part 2!

*I am aware of the quotation marks around “normal for Lincolnshire” – this can be seen to include tracing six generations back with strangers (you never know who you are related to) and every tenth house having a surplus veg stall outside.

I *heart* the John Penny Abattoir

2 Sep

I went to visit an abattoir. Then I went and got a new tyre for my car and then volunteered at the museum. Then I went home and had spleen for tea and watched Clash of the Titans (original) and then went to bed. The important bit was the word ABATTOIR.

Basically, since I’m a massive celebrity now (*pinches salt and hopes that one man coming to work to say he’d heard me on the radio counts*), the lovely Kate at John Penny invited me to come and look at their processes. So lovely are John Penny Meats that they invited me long before my celebrity stardom, when I was just a lonely carnivore searching West Yorkshire for some udder.

So first of all I should say THANK YOU to them for being really kind and showing me all around the site. I should also say – if you have a feeling of trepidation about reading further – don’t because my experience was overwhelming positive.

John Penny is a family-run farm, abattoir and meat wholesaler. Not only do they raise their own animals, but all the animals they do kill spend time on their pasture around in and around the Aire valley. They are dedicated to producing ethically-sourced and expertly processed meat. They are a very open business (hence the invitation) and take pride in the fact that there is a clear transparency in what they do. In my opinion they appear to be setting an amazing benchmark – not just for other meat producers to follow – but we can all learn from their standards of quality and sourcing. They run a campaign to get people to return to shopping at a local butcher. Do, please, devote some time to their website.

I said to my boyfriend the night before “I hope it doesn’t make me vegan” – not because I am against veganism (I am definitely pro) – but because I hoped it would be a positive experience. I pulled into the car park at 7.20 am and crossed my fingers.

The tour of the abattoir took place in reverse. I was shown around by a lovely man called Clive, who was in charge of the abattoir. This means that you’ll see what I saw, which was from the packaged product through to the babes in their mangers.

The first task I had to do was to suit up – cover my hair, my clothes, get some white wellies on and remove all my jewellery. I also had to pass my own ‘health inspection’ to make sure I hadn’t suffered from any recent illnesses. I passed. All would be well.

The first area Clive took me to was the chilled storage area where the packaged meat is kept until it shipped out.

By the time I got there, most had been loaded to lorries and taken away. Open your mind’s eye and imagine just how much meat they could be in there. Lots. More than is in the offal drawer in my freezer. In here, Clive explained how the labelling system they have works: each animal has its personal passport number which is fed into the system when they go into the abattoir. Checked and double-checked, this system not only keeps track of individual animal as they are slaughtered and butchered, but reams of other information as well. This code is transferred to the meat packs, so that a butcher anywhere in the country can then access the information themselves. As we’ll see there are lots of stages, so keeping provenance attached to the animal needs a lot of care.

The next room we saw was where carcasses were being turned into the large joints that get sent to butchers (which then become our steaks and chops). Here the men wore chain-mail and had very sharp knives. The pace of work appeared incredibly fast to me.

The next few rooms were where the half carcasses wait, hanging, until the butchers are ready for them. The scale is monumental. Beef cattle are massive.

What was interesting, was that to continue to ensure that the provenance of each animal is kept, each of these sides has seven labels put on it with the same information, so each section retains the information through to the end processes. Doesn’t the meat look beautiful too?

Another interesting thing is that you can still tell whether they are male (steer) or female (heifer) long after all the reproductive organs are removed. If you look at the one above on the left, there is a bulge of fat next to the hind leg (they are hung up by their hind legs). This fat means it is a heifer. (On a personal note, having been called a fat heifer at primary school, the still-slightly-sensitive-nine-year-old prefers the much less professional term of lady-cow.)

In this picture you can use a bone in the middle of the carcass that looks a bit like an elongated and bent butternut squash. This is the *snigger* willy bone. That’s how you tell the difference. The caracass above is a steer. I’ve deliberately not used the word ‘boner’ at any point. Deliberately.

From these cathedrals of meat we headed along to the production line, where the animals are slaughtered, skinned, disembowelled and health-checked. There’s a lot of action going on. It appeared to me that each person had their role in the process and it was a well-oiled machine. I tried to stay out of the way as much as I could.

This is just part of the line of slaughtermen that do all the things to the animals. The gentleman in the middle is Glen. He was very deft at getting the intestines out of these lambs. He also gave me a lovely smile.

I shouldn’t have been surprised at how well-organised and defined all the roles were, but I was a little. I think that’s because a lot of the information that is popularly received puts the word ‘slaughter’ in a very negative way and depicts abattoirs as chaotic places. To be honest, all the premises were far, far cleaner than my house, people were constantly sweeping, tidying and sharpening knives.

Two vets are at work at the abattoir all the time as well. One inspects the chest organs of every animal, whilst the other ensure the animals are looked after to the highest standards.

Here, the vet is inspecting the organs for disease. John Penny require such high standards in the stock that they buy, that finding any sign of disease in one of their animals is extremely rare. Apparently, the farmers that do sell stock animals to them work very hard to make sure the animals are to a standard that John Penny will accept.

When I tried to take the picture, the vet stepped backwards. Photography has never been my strong point. However I do like the disembodied blue gloves feeling some lights up in a bit of carcass steam. Atmospheric.

Clive was at pains to stress to me that certainly at John Penny, nothing is wasted from the carcasses. Someone buys the hides to make shoes with. The bovine penises are shipped to the Far East. A lot of offal goes to the other side of the Pennines (apparently Lancashire is an offal hotspot). Everything, from every animal goes somewhere.

And then we get to the killing.

I’m not squeamish, so I hoped I wouldn’t be squeamish about this. I wasn’t. The anatomist in me found it fascinating. The carnivore in me wasn’t bothered (I’ve known all my life where meat comes from). The animal-lover (who once owned 16 animals at one time in a bizarre post-heartbreak petting zoo) thought that the respect shown to each animal was really very beautiful.

First I saw some sheep die. A few at a time are led into a pen and then they are stunned individually, hung up by a back leg and then their throat is cut. It’s a very calm process. So concerned was Clive that I might upset and stress the sheep that I had to stand behind a plastic curtain, peering through. (I’m not that alarming surely?) In spite of the fact, other sheep were being stunned in front of them, the others really didn’t seem concerned. (I imagine they were too busy puzzling over the peeping Tom in the corner.) The kill happens so fast that it is seconds between the stun and the throat-cutting and death. I can think of far worse ways to go. (I am not advocating cannibalism.)

The scale of the deaths of the cattle is greater. Cattle are huge. Again, all I saw was respect, a swift death for each animal and an extremely efficient butchering process. The slaughtermen are raised up on platforms to work, because cows are so big. It was amazing to see. Then Clive and I journeyed round to see the living animals.

Stress makes animals unhappy. Pre-death stress makes meat taste sour due to hormone releases. For both of these reasons, great pains have been taken to ensure that the animals are kept as calm as possible before they die. I saw the guys checking ear-tags as gently as they could to minimise upset. It is also the reason that stock animals have months if not years in the Penny fields before being slaughtered, so that they can recover from quite long journeys from the farms they were born on. I also saw the cattle truck John Penny has. It is plush. I wouldn’t mind a ride in it.

I choose to eat meat. I choose not to shy away from where it comes from. To me, it is a case of being honest with myself and thinking about the factors behind what I eat that I find it important. I think sustainability is important and animal welfare. The journey of this year has been about trying to renege my ‘offal debt’ and make up for a lifetime of not eating animals in a holistic manner. If you asked yourself the honest question of ‘do you trust where your meat comes from?’ can you say yes?

I’m not perfect, so my answer would be No. Sometimes I eat sausages from the ‘Spoon at the end of the road. They probably contain more mechanically recovered meat than anything else. I am trying though. What is great to see is that at the other end of the food chain, much greater efforts are being made to look after animals to a high standard and deliver a quality product.

I said to Kate (slightly dazed at the end of a long morning): “That was really beautiful”. It is. From the rhythms of the slaughtermen amongst the machinery to the cows chewing cud in the fields behind, there is a lot to be said for visiting where food you eat is produced and seeing that other people put as much care and respect into it, as you would  like to imagine.