One trend, three trailblazers

Three ways with: offal

Chefs are leading the resurgence of using animal organs to create inventive and delicious dishes.

26 September 2018
chefsingredientsmeatmenurestaurants
Devilled kidneys on toast from The Bell

The trend

  • Last year, the sales volume of chilled offal in the UK amounted to approximately 142,000 tonnes, a rise of more than 10,000 tonnes on the previous year, according to Statista.
  • Offal features in cuisines from all around the globe – from Asia to South America. In Europe, the French are arguably the biggest consumers of offal. Popular dishes include foie gras and cervelle (brains).
  • Offal tends to be a dense source of vitamins and nutrients, including vitamin A, vitamin B, vitamin D, omega 3 and iron. Liver is the most nutrient dense and a powerful source of vitamin A.

Two years ago it appeared that offal – the collective term for the organs of butchered animals – might have been on its way towards extinction. Research from the National Food Survey revealed that consumption in the UK had fallen a massive 90% in 40 years.

While it's true that offal has fallen out of favour in domestic kitchens, it's a different story in professional ones, with chefs increasingly showing diners how liver, kidneys, heart and tongue can be turned into tempting dishes.

“It's such a shame to give an animal a life and then slaughter it to only use prime cuts and throw away such glorious ingredients,” says Tom Noest, head chef at The Bell Inn Langford, where he has a revived an old British classic: devilled kidneys on toast.

It isn't just British restaurants championing offal, however. Henry Harris' The Coach serves a French dish of calf’s brain, black butter and capers, while Southeast Asian restaurant Smoking Goat introduced 'offal Monday' last year, giving diners dishes like suckling pig liver Isaan-style nam tok (meat salad) and a spicy fried lamb kidney with Thai chilli paste called nam prik pao.

Fast-casual restaurants are also in on the act. Growing restaurant group Sticks’n’Sushi serves duck hearts that have been grilled over charcoal and garnished with teriyaki sauce. 

Aviv Lavi, executive chef at Middle Eastern restaurant Sarona in London, who added a chicken liver dish to his autumn menu, says he would have an 'offal only' restaurant if he could. While that idea is probably a step too far for even the most adventurous of diners, as more chefs embrace the use of offal, surely it shouldn't be long before it comes back into food fashion again?

 

The trailblazers

Tom Noest, head chef at The Bell Inn Langford, makes devilled kidneys on toast that feature on the breakfast, lunch and dinner menus: “It is an old British classic

that we have adapted slightly by cooking the kidneys in a spiced dredge mix. We prep the lamb’s kidneys by cutting them in half and then toss them in what is known as a dredge. This is a mix of cayenne pepper, plain flour and cumin powder. We fry the kidneys, deglaze the pan with an unhealthy amount of butter and finish with coriander. This is served on a grilled slice of sourdough. Kidneys have the most wonderful comforting flavour that is made even more unctuous by the spices in the dish. The kidneys themselves are semi-firm and crispy on the outside from the dredge, the butter in the dish takes on all the flavour and soaks into the toast. One of the most special moments of this dish is mopping up all the leftover sauce with a nice soggy bit of toast.”

 

Aviv Lavi, executive chef at Sarona in London, features a dish of sauteed chicken livers, caramelised onions and tahini on his all-day menu: “To make the dish I brown the chicken livers for two to three minutes in a very hot saute pan, adding the spice mix which we make ourselves – a blend of ras el hanout, nutmeg, turmeric and other spices –

before mixing in the caramelised onions, which have been cooked in butter and a white wine reduction sauce and seasoned with thyme and garlic. I cook it all for another two minutes then plate it up on a bed of tahini. Chicken livers go very well with the sweetness and richness of the caramelised onions and the savoury and deep flavour of the spice mix. It’s finished with the freshness of the tahini and parsley.”

 

Robin Freeman, executive chef at Borealis and Ekte Nordic Kitchen in London, has a dish of smoked and cooked ox tongue, sliced thinly with pickled beetroot, watercress, mustard dressing and rye bread crumbs: “We've had this dish on since April, changing the ingredients as the seasons do, but keeping the smoked tongue as the main one. It started with tongue, sea buckthorn, wild leek flowers, rye bread crumbs and mustard dressing. The ox tongue is sourced from Swaledale foods in

Yorkshire and they brine and cold smoke it for us. We then cook it sous vide for 36 hours at 64C, but you could also boil it the traditional way with some vegetables for about one to two hours. Once cooled, we peel it and slice it thinly and assemble the dish with the other ingredients. I love the texture and flavour of ox tongue. It works really well with the acidity of the beetroot, and the watercress adds a peppery flavour to the crunch of the rye crumbs.”

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