‘Offaly’ Good!

I, of course love vegetables and fresh salads and could certainly live on them without feeling even remotely deprived. Having said that I am totally not a vegetarian – I love good meat and fish, however I am not interested and I certainly don’t feel comfortable eating either meat or fish that has been reared in cramped, inhumane conditions all for the sake of providing cheap food.

Every animal and bird deserves a noble end. If we kill an animal for food then we should at least do them the honour of using every possible bit, served up as a nourishing celebration in a restaurant or on the family table. Every scrap from the nose to the tail can be utterly delicious once we understand how to cook the cheaper cuts and the ‘variety meats’ as Americans delicately call offal. The latter is so inexpensive every butcher in the country has a surplus because so many people are squeamish about unusual bits of animal. The mere mention of offal has many people wrinkling up their noses in disgust. We don’t know what we’re missing. If you feel brave enough to try something other than the recognisable prime cuts – this is the very best time of the year, for lambs kidneys, sweet breads and liver so chat up your local butcher. Lambs are still young and milk fed so the offal is sweet, tender and mildly flavoured. Sweetbreads are even less familiar but soooo delicious. They can be either the thymus or pancreatic gland (maybe you don’t need to know that!).  Isaac’s Restaurant in Cork city has been serving them on their menu in recent weeks much to the delight of some Californian foodie friends. Canice Sharkey kindly shared his recipe with me.

Food costs continue to rise yet we still waste more food that would feed whole nations. Seeking out offal is one good way to live better for less.

 

Lambs liver with Crispy Sage Leaves

 

Serves 4-6

 

1 lb (450g) lambs liver

white flour seasoned with a little salt and freshly ground pepper

1 clove garlic, crushed (optional)

olive oil

12-16 fresh sage leaves

 

Cut the lambs liver into slices (1cm) thick.   Dip into seasoned flour and pat off the excess.  Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a frying pan, add the crushed garlic if using and cook for a few seconds and then add the slices of liver.   Sauté gently for 2-3 minutes on each side, remove while they are still slightly pink in the centre.

Add another tablespoon of olive oil to the pan, add the sage leaves and allow to sizzle for a few seconds until they crisp.  Pour the oil, juices and sage leaves over the liver and serve immediately.

 

Isaac’s New Season Lamb Sweet Bread Salad

 

Serves 4

 

250g (9oz) lamb sweetbreads

 

1 small carrot

1 onion

2 celery stalks

25g (1oz) butter

bouquet garni

600ml (1 pint) homemade chicken stock (see recipe)

 

seasoned flour

beaten egg

fresh fine white breadcrumbs

 

Rustic Potatoes (see recipe)

 

Hazelnut Oil Dressing

3 tablespoons hazelnut oil

1 tablespoon wine vinegar

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

 

A selection of mixed green leaves

 

50gr roughly chopped toasted hazelnuts

1-2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley

 

To prepare sweetbreads.

Put the sweetbreads into a bowl, cover with cold water and let them soak for 3 hours. Discard the water and cut away any discoloured parts from the sweetbreads.

 

Dice the carrot, onion and celery and sweat them in butter; add the bouquet garni. Then add the chicken stock and bring to the boil.

 

Poach the sweetbreads gently in the simmering stock for 3–5 minutes or until they feel firm to the touch. Cool, then remove the gelatinous membranes and any fatty bits carefully.  Press between 2 plates and top with a weight not more than 1kg (2lb) or they will be squashed.

When cooked leave to cool. Then slice length ways and toss in seasoned flour, beaten egg and fine breadcrumbs.

 

Next make the dressing.

 

Whisk all the ingredients for the dressing together in a bowl.

 

Next make the rustic potatoes (see recipe).

 

To Serve

Pan-fry the sweetbreads in olive oil and a little butter, till golden brown, very important that they are crispy and take on an almost nutty flavour.

 

Toss the salad in the dressing – just enough to make the leaves glisten.  Divide between the plates the potatoes and roughly chopped toasted hazelnuts. Place the sweetbreads on top (allow 3-5 pieces per person) and sprinkle with lots of freshly chopped parsley.

 

Rustic Potatoes with Rosemary

 

Serves 4 approximately as a main for 8 for a salad

 

900g (2lbs) old potatoes

3-4 tablespoons extra Virgin olive oil

rosemary sprigs

1-2 cloves chopped garlic, optional

sea salt and freshly ground pepper

 

Wash and peel the potatoes and dry well. Cut in 2cm (3/4 inch) cubes.  They need to be even otherwise they will cook unevenly.  Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Heat the olive oil in a non-stick pan over a high heat, add a few sprigs of rosemary and the potatoes.  Toss to coat the potatoes. Cook on a medium heat for about 20 minutes, tossing regularly, not too often or they won’t get golden brown and crusty.  Towards the end of the cooking time add the chopped garlic and toss with the potatoes but be very careful not to let it burn or it will ruin the whole dish (add more olive oil if necessary). Serve in a hot serving dish with a few fresh sprigs of rosemary sprinkled over the top.

 

Salad of Warm Sweetbreads with Potato Crisps, Anchovies and Wild Garlic

 

Sweetbreads are definitely a forgotten treat. The salty tang of the anchovies in this recipe gives another dimension and adds lots of complementary flavour without compromising the sweetness of the sweetbreads.

 

Serves 4

 

4 lamb or 2 veal sweetbreads

1 small carrot

1 onion

2 celery stalks

25g (1oz) butter

bouquet garni

 

600ml (1 pint) homemade chicken stock

a selection of salad leaves (little gem, oakleaf, sorrel, watercress and wild garlic leaves and flowers)

plain flour, well seasoned with salt and freshly ground pepper

beaten organic egg

butter and oil for sautéing

 

For the Dressing

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1⁄4 teaspoon Dijon mustard

salt and freshly ground pepper

 

To Serve

homemade potato crisps (see recipe)

4 anchovies

wild garlic flowers (or chive flowers depending on the season)

 

To prepare sweetbreads.

Put the sweetbreads into a bowl, cover with cold water and let them soak for 3 hours. Discard the water and cut away any discoloured parts from the sweetbreads.

 

Dice the carrot, onion and celery and sweat them in butter; add the bouquet garni. Then add the chicken stock and bring to the boil.

 

Poach the sweetbreads gently in the simmering stock for 3–5 minutes or until they feel firm to the touch. Cool, then remove the gelatinous membranes and any fatty bits carefully.  Press between 2 plates and top with a weight not more than 1kg (2lb) or they will be squashed.

 

Prepare the salad.

Wash and dry the lettuces and salad leaves and whisk together the ingredients for the dressing.

 

Slice the sweetbreads into escalopes, dip in well-seasoned flour and then in beaten egg. Sauté in a little foaming butter and oil in a heavy pan until golden on both sides.

Toss the salad leaves in the dressing, divide between 4 plates and lay the hot sweetbreads and then potato crisps on top of the salad. Sprinkle with chopped anchovy and wild garlic flowers or chive flowers and serve immediately.

 

Homemade Potato Crisps or “Game Chips”

 

Making crisps at home is definitely worthwhile – a few potatoes produce

a ton of crisps and nothing you buy in any shop will be even half as delicious. A mandolin is well worth buying for making crisps – but mind your fingers! When these are served with roast pheasant they are called game chips.

 

Serves 4

 

450g (1lb) large, even-sized potatoes

extra virgin olive oil or beef dripping for deep-fat frying

salt

 

Wash and peel the potatoes. For even-sized crisps, trim each potato with a swivel-top peeler until smooth. Slice them very finely, preferably with a mandolin. Soak in cold water to remove the excess starch (this will also prevent them from discolouring or sticking together). Drain off the water and dry well.

 

In a deep-fat fryer, heat the oil or dripping to 180ºC/350ºF. Drop in the dry potato slices a few at a time and fry until golden and completely crisp. Drain on kitchen paper and sprinkle lightly with salt. Repeat until they are all cooked.

 

If they are not to be served immediately, they may be stored in a tin box and reheated in a low oven just before serving.

 

Butterflied Lambs Kidneys with Rosemary

 

Serves 4 as a starter, 2-3 as a main course

 

In season: best in late spring early summer

 

8 lambs kidneys

8-16 tough rosemary sprigs, stripped of most of the leaves but leave the tip intact

salt and freshly ground pepper

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon rosemary, chopped

 

8 flat mushrooms

4 slices country bread

 

Remove the skin from the kidneys just before serving. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Cut from the base, open out, but keep attached at the top so they are butterflied. Remove all the core, skewer each kidney with one or if necessary two rosemary sprigs. Season both kidneys and mushrooms with salt and freshly ground pepper. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with chopped rosemary. Grill or pan-grill the kidneys and mushrooms on both sides until cooked through, 3-5 minutes. Serve on toasted country bread.

 

Lambs Liver with Beetroot

 

Serves 4

 

Alistair Little introduced me to this delicious combination.

 

1 lb (450g) Spring lamb’s liver, cut in (1 cm) slices

15g butter

seasoned flour

1 lb (450g) cooked baby beetroot

16 fl ozs (475ml) homemade chicken stock

5 fl ozs (150ml) cream

salt and freshly ground pepper

a squeeze of fresh lemon juice

 

Garnish

coarsely chopped parsley

 

Serves 4

 

Cut the beetroot into (5 mm) thick batons.  Toss the liver in well-seasoned flour. Melt the butter in a hot frying pan, and as soon as it foams add the liver in a single layer.  Seal quickly on one side then on the other. Transfer to a plate. Deglaze the pan with stock, boil for 1-2 minutes, add the cream and beetroot, and allow to bubble for a few minutes until the beetroot heats through. Taste and add a squeeze of freshly squeezed lemon juice if necessary. Return the liver to the pan and simmer for 1-2 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately on hot plates.

Hottips


Gluten Free Cooking with Rosemary Kearney Part 1 – half day course ideal for those on a gluten-restricted diet who face the dilemma of longing to taste ‘real’ food. You’ll learn about a whole range of tasty and easy-to-prepare dishes including gluten free sweet and savoury pastry, crackling salmon with coriander pesto and gluten free raspberry muffins. Suddenly cooking for coeliacs will become a pleasure not a chore. Lots of advice on alternative suitable ingredients and lots of baking tips will help take the mystery out of successful gluten-free cooking. Ballymaloe Cookery School on Saturday 9th June 2012 at 2:00pm to 5:00pm €115.00 – 021 4646785