Organs, glands and body bits

Braised lamb sweetbreads with madeira and French-style fresh peas

Today was an offaly good day. Kaboom-ching.

When I think about it, some of my favourite foods are made with offal. Haggis, faggots, foie gras, pâté. And black pudding too, if blood can be considered a form of offal. There are so many offals and many I haven’t tasted yet. I remember eating liver sometimes as a boy and I hadn’t really eaten it for years until friends cooked a lovely curried liver recently. There were odd occasions when Roberta asked me to try the liver she was devouring—usually in Austria. I’ve tried lung, again in Austria. Calf’s brain too. This is a texture thing; it’s like foie gras. Caul fat is splendid, and useful. Beef heart has this rich beefy taste. Yum. Intestines generally aren’t for me but I did have an Andouille sausage while travelling around France and it was delicious. I’ll eat sweetbreads but they can be too rich for me depending on how they’re cooked and served. Roberta goes nuts for them. And that’s not a pun. Because, just in case you were wondering, sweetbreads are glands and not gonads. Typically the thymus and pancreas. Ok, ok, technically, testicles are glands and are served as sweetbreads in some countries. There comes a time, I think, when you stop worrying about what you put in your mouth.

Ris d’Agneau Braisé au Madère avec Petits Pois à la Française were the best sweetbreads I’ve ever had. Mirepoix was sweated in butter. The sweetbreads were added and BROWNED in the pan. Deglazed with madeira, veal stock added with a bouquet garni then braised in the oven with the lid on. Later the vegetables were discarded and the sweetbreads reserved while the liquid was reduced to a glaze. The end result, sticky, melt in the mouth sweetbreads with such a depth of flavour.

Chef’s tip: If you ever read “coating consistency” in a recipe the way to test for it is to coat the back of a clean metal spoon then drag a finger across the widest part. If the liquid now at the top doesn’t run into the gap you have a coating consistency.

`Fried lamb kidneys with compound butter

The lamb kidneys on the other hand sucked ass. Big time. Rognons d’Agneau Grillés avec Beurre Maître d’Hôtel. Sounds fancy but really just phooey! They smelled of wee and marinating them in oil and herbs did nothing to improve their flavour. But it was the texture that turned me off—imagine Playdoh with a bit of hosepipe.

If there was any redeeming part, it was the compound butter made with parsley and lemon juice. Compound butters are great. Easy to make and can be portioned then frozen.

Chef told us one butter everyone should make at least once in their lives is Beurre Café de Paris, a flavoured butter for grilled meats perfected in Geneva in 1930 by a certain Mr Boubier. The problem is the original recipe is a guarded secret. Helpfully, those kind folks at Eatwell 101 have had a crack at it.

Lamb kidneys with their fatty protection

Peeled lamb kidneys

To end on a high note so to speak, the Foie de Veau Sauté à la Lyonnaise aves Pommes Sautés was also amazing. Sure, on paper it reads liver and onions. In your mouth it’s just WHOA! Cooked pink, the meat is succulent with actually very little discernible liver flavour. It’s not that the liver has no flavour, more that it’s very subtle. A piece of liver topped with sweet sticky onions and the acidic zing of Beurre Noisette laced with white wine vinegar is a perfect mouthful.

Pan-fried calf liver with onions and pan-fried potatoes

Incidentally, this is the last savoury entry before exams next week. I have 3 more lessons before then on desserts.