Offal, the interiors and offcuts of an animal, are the most controversial of all the meats and despite a resurgence over the last couple of decades of “nose to tail” eating, many people still wrinkle their noses at the thought of consuming it. For the rest of us though, there is something about the metallic, almost pungent flavour of certain types of animal innards that we just find irresistible.
When we think of food in Europe, offal is not the first thing that comes to mind. The truth, however, is that each and every country has a few national recipes that use liver, blood, intestines or other “icky” parts of an animal to great success. If you are a fan of matumbo and the Kikuyu blood sausage mutura, then expect to be wowed by the intensity of these dishes.
1. Mollejas Saltadas (Spain)
Mollejas is Spanish for sweetbreads. In case you were wondering sweetbreads are not bread that is sweet. The pancreas of a lamb or a calf is what they are and once you have tried these delicious and delicate nuggets of meat, you are never going back! The Spanish version of cooking sweetbreads involves boiling them with leek and onion, rolling them in breadcrumbs and then frying them in olive oil.
2. Panino con Lampredotto (Florence, Italy)
The name of this typically Florentine dish derives from the Italian for Lampreys and is called this because after boiling the fourth and final stomach of the cow it resembles the inside of one of these strange eel-like looking fish. Once the tripe is ready it is put in a sandwich and covered in a green sauce made out of parsley, anchovies and boiled eggs. Tastes so much better than it sounds!
3. Haggis (Scotland)
The culture of the people of Scotland are famously defined by four things: kilts, bagpipes, whisky and of course: haggis! This savoury dish was traditionally made by stuffing a sheep’s stomach with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices and salt and no Scottish traditional event would be able to go ahead without it. Unfortunately today more often than not the stomach is swapped for an artificial casing.
4. Boudin Noir (France)
Unlike the British Black Pudding which is mixed with oats and other bulking agents, the French are purists when it comes to their Blood Sausage and prefer it to be as smooth as possible. Which still means that they fry an onion and some apples in butter to make it but if you have ever tasted one you’ll know for sure that blood is the central ingredient here. Mutura ain’t got nothing on this one!
5. Libamaj (Hungary)
More commonly known by its French name “foie gras” which translates as “fat liver” it it is a little known fact that the Hungarian version of this famous Goose and Duck liver dish is just as good if not better than its French counterpart. This smooth and creamy dish tastes best cooked whole with sauteed onions or made into pate’ which is then sliced and put on toast.
6. Rigatoni con la Pajata (Rome, Italy)
This classic Roman dish is not for the feint hearted but if you can get over your revulsion it really really is worth tasting at least once in your life. Pajata is basically the uncleaned intestine of a calf or a lamb that has not yet been weaned from its mother’s teat. Cooked in tomato as a pasta it is without a doubt one of the top three best pastas Italy’s capital has to offer.