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Pig snout recipe

10 offal ingredients to try

by Great British Chefs Thursday, April 10, 2014

Nose to tail eating became popularised by the legendary Fergus Henderson who said "it would be disingenuous to the animal not to make the most of the whole beast; there is a set of delights, textural and flavoursome, which lie beyond the fillet." We give a rundown of ten offal ingredients you really should try, along with a rating for the squeamish!

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Pig’s Ears

Ugly, unappetising and unloved, you’d be forgiven for thinking that pig’s ears were fit for dogs and dogs only. But chew on these facts for a minute: pig’s ears have been eaten for millennia and all over the world: the Spanish make tapas out of them, the Japanese pickle them and in Brazil they are often added to the national dish of Feijoada.

Squeamishness rating: 8/10

Uses: Great for boiling and then frying – make sure to remove the cartilage first. Serve with cleaner softer flavours.

Beef Cheek

Door stopper-thick and as exercised as Mo Farah’s trainers, beef cheeks transform into a cumulous mess of rich, tasty meat once braised. Their flavour is beefy but more intensely so, well worth cooking if you can source them.

Squeamishness rating: 1/10

Uses: Need to be braised for a long time to soften their fibrous texture, red wine or a beefy stock should do the trick. Serve on creamy polenta or gnocchi.

Calf sweetbreads

Sweetbreads may sound like the English version of brioche but are truly nothing of the sort. They are in fact the thymus or pancreas of, commonly, a lamb or calf – though many still wrongly believe they are testicles or brain. Sweetbreads enjoyed a resurgence on high-end and gastropub menus earlier in this decade, but the resurgence has started to tail off now. Yet while their ‘season’ may have come and gone – and food really is as ephemeral as fashion – their succulence and toothsome taste certainly have not.

Squeamishness rating: 6/10 Uses: Particularly prevalent in starters or canapés, but can be used as one component of a dish. Perfect for a spring salad or risotto. Sweetbreads are really easy to cook; often poached and then fried.

Chicken liver

Many people remain squeamish about eating liver from a chicken, I daresay chickens would be slightly reluctant to eat ours too, knowing how we treat them every weekend. But, despite its cheap price, chicken liver is a princely cut and should convert the most naying of naysayers. It’s packed with vitamins too.

Squeamishness rating: 4/10 Uses: Often blended and used to make chicken liver parfait but can be used for so much more. Serve on a rosti a la Galton Blackiston or on sourdough with a light, dressed salad. Can be cooked quickly in a pan.

 
 

Ox tongue

You need a bit of mind over matter when cooking with ox tongue, as in its uncooked state it’s not exactly Scarlett Johansson. But once the preparation and cooking are out the way, you’ll be free to revel in its fatty, nutrient-rich goodness. A cut to watch out for over the next few years.

Squeamishness rating: 9/10 Uses: Scrub it before using. Often slow-cooked to tenderise, or boiled before being fried to crisp up. Also suits being pickled or pressed.

Duck heart

There’s so much to enjoy about duck hearts - the flavour, the texture, their bloated sausage-like appearance – that it’s easy to forget you are eating an organ. To be fair, flavour-wise they are not the most ‘offally’ ingredient and can be enjoyed by offal-phobic palates. You’ll need a lot to make a meal out of them though, as they are only nuggety.

Squeamishness rating: 4/10 Uses: Can be cooked very quickly on a high heat or for a long time in liquid. Pair with sweet or tart flavours.

Lamb kidney

Many people will happily eat kidney in a steak and kidney pie or faggots, for example, but baulk at the thought of eating it denuded. It is a shame because kidneys are rich in nutrients and flavour, and poor in terms of financial cost. Top tips: use ultra-fresh kidneys and be sure to remove the outer membrane and white core before cooking.

Squeamishness rating: 6/10 Uses: Fried quickly, they can be paired with anything from creamy mash to broad beans. For something different, throw in a curry or serve on bruschetta. To soften their flavour, poach in milk before frying.

 
Eating brain will test the resolve of any offalite – and sadly it looks just how you would imagine.

Pig's head

If there is one thing Fergus Henderson should be proud of, it’s that he has made it acceptable, some would say voguish, even, for chefs to serve up this brutish cut. Yes, modern chefs are embracing the humble pig’s head. One of Tom Kitchin’s signature dishes is rolled pig’s head with langoustine, while Matt Gillan certainly doesn’t hold back in his pig’s head recipe, serving up the snout as a garnish. While many will find that touch a little gruesome, it does illustrate the multitude of ways this glorious ingredient can be harnessed.

Squeamishness rating: 9/10 Uses: Is often used to make brawn (also known as ‘head cheese’…) – a jelly made from the shredded dark meat found in the head. Head should be braised slowly until the meat is nice and tender.

Lamb’s Brain

Eating brain will test the resolve of any offalite – and sadly it looks just how you would imagine. In France, though, fatty, protein-rich brain is often considered a delicacy. So if you ever see cervelles on the menu be brave enough to give it a try – it just might surprise you.

Squeamishness rating: 10/10 Uses: Try poaching in a red wine and stock poaching liquor or frying in butter. Another good option is to crumb and then deep fry. Serve with a punchy accompaniment like salsa verde or horseradish sauce.

Oxtail

Far from being an afterthought, cooking oxtail is in fact immensely rewarding - the meat is thriftily sourced and thoroughly tasty. Who knew? Well, many of us according to Waitrose – who say demand is currently outstripping supply… better stop typing then.

Squeamishness rating: 3/10 Uses: Needs to be slowly cooked in a liquid to keep it moist at all times. A good trick is to refrigerate overnight once cooked, then skim off the fat the next day and reheat.

 
 

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