ArchiveMay 8, 2022


What are we like?  We’re happy to eat a steak, a chicken breast or a chop but present someone with a salad of gizzards and hearts, or a spleen sandwich and they’d rather starve – where’s the logic but offal certainly engenders a feeling of disgust in many.  I’ve just had a delicious bit of flash fried lambs’ liver with lots of fresh sage leaves for supper. 

It’s wonderful to see that A O’Reilly’s Tripe and Drisheen Stall in the English Market in Cork City still survives at a time when people seem to be more and more squeamish.  I love tripe too but not so much of a fan of the traditional Cork tripe and onions, I rather prefer the Spanish or Italian way of cooking it to melting tenderness in a rich tomato sauce.   

Cork has been a trading port right back to the time of the Phoenicians, the last port of call to stock up before the ships crossed the Atlantic.  Many of those employed in the provisioning trade and abattoirs were part paid in offal SO up to relatively recently Cork people ate more offal than any other part of the country.

Wander through the lanes in the English Market and you’ll find tripe and drisheen, the traditional blood pudding, skirt, kidneys and bodices and tongue, pigs, trotters, tails and ears, livers, hearts, kidney and sweetbreads in season.
But as impressive as that sounds, we’ll lap up cheap sausages, cured meats and pâtes and yet turn our noses up at liver, kidneys, not to speak of a juicy bit of pig’s snout.  In London however, sweetbreads are now three times the price of steaks and quite rightly so.

Fortunately the Eastern Europeans and now Ukrainians appreciate the variety of meat and have many treasured ways to cook it.  Well I love offal; in our house we didn’t look down on offal, we celebrated it like any other cut of meat.  This is the best time of the year for lambs’ liver, kidney and sweetbreads so rush to your butcher, get their advice and have a delicious feast for a few euros, twice as much nourishment for half the price of a steak.  Organ meats are some of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet.

Tripe and Trotters with Chorizo

There are loads of people who don’t like tripe, but the Spanish influence of chorizo and tomatoes in this recipe lend the dish flavours that woo many tripe-haters.

Serves 6–8

2 fresh pig trotters

1kg (2 1⁄4lb) honeycomb beef tripe, cut into thin strips


2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

1 garlic clove, chopped

1 large red pepper, sliced

salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tomatoes, peeled, deseeded and chopped

1⁄2 teaspoon chilli powder

250g (9oz) cooked ham, chopped

250g (9oz) chorizo, sliced 5mm (1⁄4 inch) thick

4 tablespoons parsley, chopped

Put the pig trotters into a deep saucepan. Cover with cold water and bring to the boil, then cover and simmer for 2 1⁄2 hours. Drain. Put the trotters back into the saucepan with the tripe, barely cover with fresh water, add some salt and cook for 1 1⁄2 – 2 hours, or until tender and the meat is almost falling from the bones.

Remove the trotters from the liquid. When cool enough to handle, remove the bones and discard. Chop the meat coarsely and add back to the tripe.

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan. Add the onion, cover and sweat for 4 – 5 minutes. Add the chopped garlic and pepper, season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Add the tomatoes and cook for 5-6 minutes, or until soft. Add the chilli powder, ham and chorizo. Stir well and cook for about 20 minutes. Add this mixture to the tripe and trotters – add a little more cooking liquid, if necessary, it should be soft and juicy. Taste, correct the seasoning, add the chopped parsley and serve.

Salade de Gésiers

When I go to Paris, one of the first things I do is seek out a little bistro or brasserie that serves salade de gésiers.  The French could teach us a thing of two about using every scrap.  Chicken gizzards or hearts are also super tasty. 

Serves 4

8 duck gizzards cooked in duck fat *

100g (3 1/2oz) French beans

duck fat for frying

4 duck hearts (optional)

salt and freshly ground pepper

a selection of salad leaves

For the Dressing

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 small garlic clove, crushed

salt and freshly ground pepper

1⁄4 teaspoon Dijon mustard

To Garnish

sprigs of chervil and wild garlic or chive flowers (if in season)

Remove 8 pieces of duck gizzard from the duck fat.

Whisk together the ingredients for the dressing. Blanch the French beans in boiling salted water for 2–3 minutes; drain, refresh in cold water and drain again well.

Heat a little duck fat in a frying pan over a medium heat. Remove the gizzards from the fat. Slice each one into 2–3 pieces and toss in the hot fat until hot through and slightly brown at the edges. Slice the duck hearts, if using. Season with salt and pepper and cook quickly in the duck fat.

To serve, add the French beans to the salad leaves. Toss in some dressing to coat the leaves. Divide between four plates and scatter the hot duck gizzards and hearts (if using) on top with the garnish.

*Duck Gizzards Cooked in Duck Fat

Cooking gizzards in duck fat gives them extra succulence.

duck gizzards

duck fat

Cut the lobes off the gizzards and wash and dry.  Put into a casserole and cook with duck fat.  Cook on the lowest possible heat (use a heat diffuser mat on a gas jet) for about 2 hours, until a knife goes through the meat easily.  Store in a sterilised Kilner jar or bowl covered with duck fat for several weeks in a cold place. 

Lamb’s Liver with Crispy Sage Leaves

The robust flavour of sage is great with lamb or veal liver, so keep a sage plant in a pot near your kitchen door. Sage leaves crisped in olive oil make an irresistible garnish.

Serves 4

450g (1lb) very fresh spring lamb’s liver, cut into 1cm (1⁄2 inch) slices

plain flour, seasoned with salt and freshly ground pepper

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

12 fresh sage leaves

Lamb’s liver toughens very quickly once cooked and it really just needs to be shown to the pan, so wait until your guests are sitting around the table before you start to cook.

Toss the liver in well-seasoned flour and pat off the excess. Heat half the olive oil in a frying pan and add the slices of liver. Sauté gently for 2 – 3 minutes on each side. Remove the slices while they are still slightly pink in the centre.

Put the remaining olive oil in the pan, add the sage leaves and allow to sizzle for a few seconds until crisp. Pour the oil, juices and sage leaves over the liver and serve immediately. Even if liver is perfectly cooked, it toughens very quickly if kept hot

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

The elongated sweetbreads that are found near the throat and the more esteemed round ones found next to the heart, which are sometimes called heartbreads, are connected to form the thymus gland, which disappears in mature animals.

Calf’s sweetbreads are the most highly prized; they may be sautéed, deep-fried or briefly braised.  Lamb’s sweetbreads are cooked in the same way.

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 chips 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 chips – 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


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 180˚C/350˚F.

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.

A Warm Salad of Lamb Kidneys with Oyster Mushrooms and Pink Peppercorns

Spring lambs’ kidneys are mild, tender and delicious.  If you can’t find pink peppercorns, don’t fret, the well-seasoned tomato dice also embellish the salad.

Serves 4

2-3 lamb kidneys

110g (4oz) oyster mushrooms

1 tablespoon freshly chopped annual marjoram, optional

30 pink peppercorns OR

2 tablespoons of tomato concasse

Selection of lettuces and salad leaves, e.g.  butterhead, iceberg, radicchio, Chinese leaves, lambs’ lettuce or rocket leaves

Vinaigrette Dressing

1 tablespoon sunflower oil

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon wine vinegar

1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard

salt and pepper

Remove the skin and fatty membrane from the centre of the kidneys, and cut the kidney into small cubes 1cm (1/2 inch) approx.

Trim the stalks from the mushrooms and slice lengthways.  Wash the lettuces and dry carefully. Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan until it smokes, toss in the mushrooms, season and fry quickly for about 3-4 minutes, add the marjoram, remove to a hot plate, add the kidneys to the pan and fry quickly for about 2 minutes.  While the kidneys are cooking, toss lettuce in a little of the dressing, divide between the plates.  Spoon the hot kidneys and the mushrooms over the salad immediately they are cooked and if liked, scatter salads with pink peppercorns or with tomato concasse and serve immediately.


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