Put your hand up if the word ‘offal’ sends you into a fit of dry retching. There we go, don’t be shy. You’re far from alone. What is it about that particular category of meat that causes so many people to run and hide their head in a cupboard until the threat has passed? Is it the texture? The flavour? The smell? All three? Or perhaps because it has undeniably come from another once living, breathing organism? You can pretend that a piece of steak is a funny looking vegetable or that the cubes of chicken in your curry are magical titbits of protein and flavour, but a brain, well that’s a different story. I’d wager a bet that if you don’t like bones in your meat, you most definitely shirk from the idea of offal. And I must admit that the concept of eating a brain is a little confronting, if not downright nauseating. I think it has something to do with fact that you yourself are able to think about the topic whilst munching away on a fellow animal’s thought powerhouse. I don’t know about you but that a) prompts the reaction “ick” and b) gives me an unexplainable (and most likely sympathy related) headache. But hang on, I actually want to delve into the good things about offal. Yes, would you believe it, there actually are. Let’s get started shall we?
If you can fling yourself off the whole “oh my god I’m eating a heart/liver/kidney” thought train, then that’s a promising start. If that’s still too revolting to even contemplate, then begin with baby steps. The age-old trick of disguising kiddie’s vegetables works quite well. And to be honest, if you eat sausage rolls or Mrs Mac’s pies, then you’re probably already consuming a multitude of various – to use the correct culinary term – ‘edible organs’. When I was about 13 mum served us a steak and kidney pie. It was scrumptious. A day later I was perusing the fridge – a pretty frequent habit at that age – and came across the left over pie. Why, a piece of that would go down quite nicely I mused. One problem, it was still in the original packaging. “Muuuuummmmm” I wailed, “you fed us kidney……eewwwwwwwaaarrrrgggh”. Funny thing is, the pie tasted damn good until I knew what went into it – it just goes to show that some things don’t taste nearly so bad when you’re kept in the dark about their contents. Furthermore, if it’s actually cooked in a manner that does the organ justice it’s far less likely to look, and taste, quite so evil. The image to the right is of veal sweet breads. They look quite unassuming right? Almost like pop-corn chicken. Huh. Not scary at all. The key is to disguise the offal adequately and & treat it with a little care.
Still not taken with the idea? Then consider the health benefits – offal is high in protein (at least as much as lean meat), as well as other nutrients such as iron, zinc and vitamins B, A and C. And not only is it nutritious, it’s light on the purse. Offal is cheaper (most of the time) than it’s lean prime cut counterparts.
At this point you may be thinking that it’s all fine and dandy for this girl to preach the benefits of offal, when she’s a vegetarian. Let me assure you that if I did go back to eating meat I’d try my darnedest to start with offal. That may seem like a big leap – from no meat to the ‘gorier’ end of the spectrum. But let’s be blunt, the animal is already dead as a doornail and it’s a given (well I hope to god this is the case) that all the ‘attractive’ bits will be consumed, so why not prevent waste and go with the less popular option – offal? Obviously not all liver/heart/kidneys/tripe/tongue and so on is thrown away, but I’m inclined to say that a higher percentage finds its way into composts, dog food, rubbish bins and the like. Maybe I’m wrong, and I hope I am, but until I see a solid statistic to refute such an inkling, I’ll stick by it.
Still not convinced? Well, I’ll forgive you on some accounts – if it’s the texture/smell/flavour that you find repulsive then that’s fine – at least you’ve tried it. And if you’re unlucky enough to have been in the close vicinity of stewing tripe then I doubt you’ll ever want to see/smell, let alone eat, any type of ‘edible organ’ ever again. Even if it’s the last food item on earth. In my book tripe is an exception to all of the above – it’s revolting on all accounts. But if I have managed to somehow lessen the twitch associated with offal, go forth, be brave and try it.