Offal is often a controversial subject, even among meat eaters, but when it came to singing the praises of offal and game in last week’s ShoppingLabs survey, it was in fact a non-meat eater who set the tone.
The best meat I used to eat would be offal: heart, kidneys, liver. I still remember the taste, and I believe if people are going to eat meat then every part should be used.
Fried in butter, tossed with bacon, lavished with cream, doused in wine … little wonder then that when we asked respondents to conjure up their personal offal and game recipes, the mouth-watering was palpable.
ShoppingLab put a selection of meaty off-cuts and game to panellists, and discovered that most of the meat-eaters had tasted, and liked, most of the meats: liver, kidney, rabbit, faggots, pheasant, venison and ox tongue all had a fairly high rep. But there were sharp U-turns when it came to sweetbreads (where samplers and fans were few) and tripe (most who’d tried it didn’t like it one bit, or wouldn’t even be tempted), and people were evenly split in their opinions of brawn – the high-fat terrine made from the meat of a pig’s head.
Still, each fare has its champions, so in recognition of this we asked you to don your chefs’ hats, and tell us your views on offal and game. Which is the most delicious way to serve ox tongue, for example? Is kidney best smuggled in a pie, or rabbit served cold? Can tripe ever be appetising?
With even an ex-meat eater promoting the virtues of the countryside’s game and offal offerings, our survey partakers were more than happy to submit their favourite flavour combinations and preferred recipes with an eye to persuade their meat-minded peers to indulge in a shared passion, or explore the unknown.
ShoppingLab has picked out some of these recipes, along with some reasons as to why not everyone is keen to repeat some slightly less spectacular taste experiences.
The majority of people who answered the poll indicated they would be tempted to broaden their current meat-eating repertoire, if it were guaranteed that off-cuts and game were lower in fat, cheaper, and locally sourced in the UK. So how are these dishes for starters – Or are they just offal?
Why liver is not always loved: The texture; strong taste; or simply, for one panellist, 'what it is'
For each person take 1 rasher of bacon and 2 lambs’ kidneys, plus small leek and 1 carrot. Chop the leek and dice the carrot. Cut the bacon into small slices and using a sharp knife divide and remove the core from the kidneys. Fry the bacon, leeks and carrot in a little oil until softened. Meanwhile in a separate pan melt a little butter. Sear the kidneys in the hot butter until the juices start to run, then place the kidneys in the first pan with the bacon and vegetables. Mix a spoonful of Dijon mustard with the kidney juices, then add a small glass of port or medium sherry. Mix well then transfer to the other pan. Cook together on a moderate heat for about 20 minutes - Anonymous ShoppingLab panellist
But kidney isn’t everybody’s cup of tea: ‘Kidney is only nice when hidden by other foods’, one respondent remarked.
Why this game-bird isn’t popular with all: ‘I only tried pheasant the once. I believe I probably roasted it in accordance with the instructions on the wrapper. Unfortunately, it contained several lead shots which I failed to spot. One of them cracked a tooth and loosened a filling which subsequently had to be replaced (well after the Festive Fortnight, unfortunately!). That pheasant must've been well-pleased with its revenge! Just thought my misfortune might serve as a cautionary tale to others!’
I love rabbit in a casserole as other methods of cooking can make the meat taste quite dry. A basic ready casserole stock, such as out of a packet, together with a few mixed winter vegetables. Placed in a slow cooker and left to simmer away for hours on end will produce a nice game tasting stew.- Jan Serdecki, ShoppingLab panellist
But some of us just aren’t game: ‘Too many little bones and the image of fluffy bunnies’
Others’ tongues begged to differ: ‘I suppose it's to do with association of ideas. Meat that has spent several years in an animal's mouth, is just not what I want in my own!’, said one panellist, while another lamented ‘the texture. Too chewy’, while another simply warned: ‘Remember school dinners…’
While the name given to an animal’s thymus gland or pancreas has been rather romanticised to hide its true identity, it’s worth noting that meat eaters who have tried them are converts.
Coat with flour after cleaning, then fry in butter until crisp
Still, for some, sweetbreads present a far from sweet prospect: ‘They look gross, and i think they would have an off-putting spongy texture’; ‘They strike me as medieval food for rich people - are they expensive now?’
Tripe does try some constitutions, however: ‘The smell of it while it's cooking, the texture and the taste. It's about the only thing that I Really Do Not Like!’