About Me
I'm a Melbourne boy, hailing from St Kilda with one ex, one current wife and four kids. Love the outdoors and making new discoveries. I cook a lot at home (cheers from wife) and do some preserving, mostly jams, pickles and fruit liqueurs. This is the diary of a cooking journey.

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Thursday, March 16, 2006
Gie her a Haggis
Nose to tail eating is the new catchphrase. Nothing is to be wasted from an animal; for instance, there is the old saying that the only part of the pig not eaten is the oink. Waste not, want not.

Sounds great, doesn't it?

Until you think about what it really means. Look, I'm an offal lover, it's just that I don't love all offal. As youngsters our family was traumatized by our dear departed mother's love for lambs fry. It was a fry up of onions, bacon and lambs liver. In the hands of a sensitive cook, it would most likely be a wonderful dish; in the hands of my mum, it was something else all together. Mum was from a generation of cooks that held meat wasn't cooked until it was well done and then some.

We all know now that liver should be cooked until just pink, mum cooked liver until it was completely tough and inedible. We kids would sit there and chew and chew and chew, but it didn't help. Different strategies were developed to get around eating liver. My sister M would hide her liver under her seat cushion and remove it later, which worked well until the day she forgot to remove it. My brother and I would stuff as much liver into our mouths as possible, when an overwhelming urge to go to the toilet would strike. It would be only half joking to say that mum could have made her fortune selling her lambs fry to a shoe manufacturer, it was far tougher than anything else on the sole of a shoe.

It is only recently that I have actually bought liver to cook at home. My butcher slices liver into pieces only three or four millimeters (1/4") thick, cooked over high heat for a couple of minutes, it has no time to toughen.

Other offaly bits I have trouble with are heart and lungs, though the Scots have managed to find a way to make it palatable, good enough to write a poem about it. The preparation is another story, I watched Nick Nairn turn green then vomit while making it, But in his defense, it was being made from scratch, like from a live sheep. There is no more hands on than that. I notice that Magictofu has no such problems with heart.

In the program I was watching, the chef was extolling the virtues of nose to tail eating and was demonstrating various bits of lamb offal. There was of course the liver, which he cooked whole until rosy pink, then sliced thin, lamb sweetbreads, which looked absolutely delicious pan fried and lamb testicles.

Now here is the crux of the matter, what would you rather eat sweetbreads or testicles? Sweetbreads sound great, testicles do not. I've eaten both and there isn't a lot of difference in texture or flavour. The poor testicles are in need of some marketing spin if they are ever to gain acceptance. In fact a whole lot of offal ought to be renamed. Black pudding sounds nice, blood sausage does not.

But the fact is, in Australia at least, offal is getting harder to obtain. Very few butchers carry it, and it usually has to be ordered. Fresh sweetbreads can't be had, only frozen, trays of brains have largely disappeared, as has tripe, not a kidney anywhere. Chicken shops are a different matter, just about every part of a chicken can be purchased, gizzards, hearts and livers included.

My feeling is that this campaign will fail. I gave my son some tongue, which he thought was very nice, until I told him what it was, whereupon he refused to eat another piece. Offal is a vestige of another time and place, that has largely disappeared. Nowadays meat is king and only people with a strong interest in food will be bothered with offal. It's a real shame.
  posted at 9:34 am

At 5:33 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We were brought up on offal. Sweetbreads, heart, the works. Tongue sandwiches with pickle. Brains are great. I've never had testicles but we had plenty of kidneys and I imagine they'd be similar.

Mum cooked liver exactly the same way as yours, I think it was something to do with health and hygiene advice given out in the fifties - cook everything until it's almost burnt just to be on the safe side.

Calves' liver is great seared for just a couple of minutes and eaten with onions cooked with butter, lemon juice and nutmeg.

At 9:44 am, Blogger Ed said...

You know, I can never understand why Haggos makes people so squeemish it's just a wonderful spicy mince. What gets me is tripe. I will eat it but don't enjoy it. And being a tactile deviant will eat tongue as long as I can avoid the rough texture of the skin.

At 9:44 am, Blogger Gigi said...

My mom cooked liver the same way as well; I do believe it was a health and hygiene issue. Massive amounts of ketchup couldn't kill the wretched taste. I still tend to steer clear of it, although I've had some that I quite liked.

I have to admit a distaste for offal in general, although I'll try anything once. But given the choice between sweetbreads and testicles, I'll probably take kale... :)

At 1:22 pm, Blogger neil said...

Hi Kitchen hand, ah, the good old days, we loved brains too, fried in a breadcrumb coating. I'm still taking liver one step at a time, it was no joke to say we were traumatised by it.

Hi Ed, tongue should be peeled prior to eating, after a long slow cook - I've seen up to seven hours at 80 c - let it cool just enough to handle, then skin. If it gets too cool it's much harder to do.

Hi gigi, I know what you mean, if you don't grow up with it, properly cooked, it's too hard to approach. It's only the foodie in me that let me try liver again.

At 12:33 am, Blogger Pille said...

Did you really see Nick Nairn go green & vomit? Yikes..
I'm happy to eat chicken liver, especially in a pate. Pork or beef liver is fine, too. I like boiled tongue in a salad or on my sarnie.
But I get a bit squeemish about eating kidneys, lights, hearts, sweetbreads (can't actually say I've tried them). Don't even know why, just do. Should try again..
However - all that hidden in a good haggis (MacSweens) is perfectly fine:)
Chicken gizzards!? I hope to track some down in Edinburgh soon - my mum used to make a lovely chicken gizzard stew.

At 1:28 pm, Blogger neil said...

Hi Pille, yep, he sure did and he was brave enough to leave it in his show, but he's like that, which I admire in him. If your looking for a starting point for a few of the things you mentioned, try sweetbreads. They need to be soaked to remove any blood, briefly blanched, peeled of any membrane, then maybe breadcrumbed and fried, I'm sure you will like them.

At 3:19 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

tongue cooking sooooooooo long?
Add some papaya seeds or papain from the drugstore adds no taste but will lower cooking time.
Ever tried unsalted meat tenderizer?
That is papain and ??? other things
less water low heat and cook to a tender texture. and salt and condiments after that.
love all these food
coming from the carribean it used to be poor people food, now you pay a lot to get them, depending where you live.
Have a good cooking

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