Echo’s of our past’s love-affair with offal resonates in an older generation who well remember consuming, with great pleasure, delight and no hesitation what so ever: tongue, kidneys, sweet-bread, intestines, liver, brains, heart, testicles, bone-marrow …. nothing was wasted. Food was too scarce to discard the organs and turn them into dog food. In any case our ancestors knew, what we seem to have forgotten or have chosen to ignore, the most nutritious part of an animal are their organs – liver in particular.
Try telling that to the kids. This generation is way too squeamish to honour the animal by eating the best, most nutritious, parts. Offal repulses them. It’s too flavoured. It’s just too yucky … too “offalish”. Whilst many traditional eating habits are easy to rehabilitate offal, seemingly, is not one of them.
I confess it was one of the aspects of traditional cuisine I resisted for as long as possible. Then, without realising it, I devoured veal kidneys in a mustard and cream sauce served with tagliatelle. I had ordered it in a small French bistro having just recognised the word “veau” and in total ignorance of the meaning of “rognon”. It tasted so good – the usual off-flavour that I associate with kidneys was absent. This is because if prepared correctly – and there’s nothing like a small unknown French bistro to prepare food correctly – many of the intense flavours associated with offal can be all but eliminated.
Strong and sometimes bitter tastes can be reduced considerably by soaking the offal in either buttermilk, soured milk or lemon juice for several hours before cooking. The acid helps draw out anti-nutrients and bitter flavours. This is a practice our ancestors would routinely have done without question. If you prepare offal you soak it first to improve flavour and texture. According to Fallon a long soak releases many of the impurities present in offal leaving the most nutritional parts of the meat left for us to enjoy and benefit from. Our modern rejection of offal is a classic example of how contemporary palates reject the flavour of nutrients having becomes so attuned to the uniform tastes of artifice. Anything beyond the accepted taste of MSG or sugar challenges our taste buds since we have such little experience of the flavours our ancestors took for granted. It is also a sign of how we have become completely disassociated with where our food comes from.
Slabs of protein wrapped up in cling-film give rise to the illusion that we are not eating a slaughtered animal at all and that we are somehow absolved from the act of killing an animal. Yet if we eat meat would it not be best to honour the slaughtered animal by eating the most nutritional part not just the flesh that gave the beast motion? Is there nothing more contemptuous and disrespectful to the animal that gave its life to us to reject all of it and become squeamish at the site of liver, kidney or tongue?
If you have a young family start serving the children offal from as early an age as possible. Our ancestors did so with no hesitation or qualms which meant that the next generation learned to appreciate these tasty meals early on. Teen-agers and husbands are a much harder target audience. By then their tastes will have been attuned to standard processed flavours – so begin early!
Veal or pork liver (approx. 150 gr per adult serving)
Juice of one lemon or a some butter or soured milk.
1 cup of flour.
Salt & Pepper.
2-3 large onions Lard and Butter
Soak the liver in the lemon juice for at least one hour preferably longer. The lemon juice helps neutralise the otherwise bitter flavour of liver and helps release impurities.
When ready to cook rinse the liver under running water and pat dry.
Coat the liver in the flour and place to one side.
Heat a large frying pan with lard.
On a medium heat fry the liver on both sides for around ten minutes on both sides.
Place the cooked liver in a heated oven.
Cut and slice the onions long-ways and fry in butter until they have turned a caramelised brown.
Cover the liver in the onions. Serve with mashed potatoes and creamed spinach.