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Meats That Resist Categorization

Kishkes - Ruth Abrams
Great Balls of Tripe! - Astrid Bear
Stuffed Camel - Alice Gomez
Offal - Jay Reay
Elk Enchiladas - Peter Theune
Fondue - Marian Van Til
Saffron Sheep-tail Stew - Susan Wenger
Spam - Randal Allred
             Spam Fritters - Adam Quinan
Calf's Liver - Peter Burke
Drunken Stir-Fried Beef with Green Beans - Doug Essinger-Hileman
Jamaican Jerk Beef Kebabs from Cooking Light
Joe's Special - Rebecca Dwan
Pies with Birds
             Gerry Strey
             Starlings On Polenta from The Nero Wolfe Cookbook - Alice Gomez
             Rook Pie - Martin Watts
Les petits vol-au-vents à la Nesle
Lights - Ray Martin
My Experience With Tripe - Lois
Liver Portuguese Style - Chloë Parrott
Leopold Bloom - James Joyce in Ulysses
Organ Meats - Lois
Organ Meats - John Marmet
The Way To A Man's Heart Is Through His Kidneys - Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
Philadelphia Pepper Pot - A Recipe

Kishkes - Ruth Abrams
According to Claudia Roden, who is admittedly weak on her Eastern European recipes, the ingredients in kishke are:
1 large onion, grated
4 tablespoons raw chicken fat, grated or finely ground
salt and pepper
3/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons matzah meal
and a large beef intestine cut into 3 8-inch lengths
You mix the other ingredients. together and then stuff them into the cleaned intestine and boil 10 minutes in salted water before you cook them in a stew. (Why flour and matzah meal? You got me, that's just the recipe she collected.)
According to Jane Kinderlehrer, the author of the (completely lunatic) Cooking Kosher the Natural Way (1983)
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 carrot, grated
1 large onion, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup veg. oil
1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons paprika
Blend it all in the blender and roll it in foil with the ends sealed up like a real kishke (weird!) and bake it 45 minutes on each side.
How is the second recipe like the first? Well, they both sound kind of gross. But I'm sure the one with chicken fat tastes better.

Great Balls of Tripe! - Astrid Bear
I simmered the tripe until tender, but ran out of time that afternoon to finish the dish before dinner, and put the tripe away for the next day. I'd been out of suet, and we'd talked about Crisco maybe being a substitute. The first batch of tripe simmering liquid had quite a bit of fat on the top, so I strained it off and put it to chill in a pie pan, getting plenty of heart stopping goodness.
Next day, took the tripe out of the fridge, cut it in half to save part in the freezer for guests next week. Turns out this particular type of tripe (it wasn't honeycomb, but some other stomach entirely, being sort of furry in texture) has a fatty layer between the meaty layers, so there was even more fat than I needed. Chopped everything up and mixed it according to "Lobscouse" (food processors, wonderful things), put it to chill. A little tricky to form into balls, but they did hold together, get their flour coating, and get fried up to a golden brown in a generous pan of oil.
Three out of four liked it enough to take seconds and thirds, so I'd call it a success. Next time I think I'd not flavor it with nutmeg and mace, but go straight at it with garlic, and maybe some red pepper. But really very tasty, a delicate little mor

Stuffed Camel - Alice Gomez
In a cookbook called "International Cuisine," presented by California Home Economics Teachers, 1983 (ISBN 0-89626-051-8), you will find:
Stuffed Camel
1 whole camel, medium size
1 whole lamb, large size
20 whole chickens, medium size
60 eggs
12 kilos rice
2 kilos pine nuts
2 kilos almonds
1 kilo pistachio nuts
110 gallons water
5 pounds black pepper
Salt to taste
Skin, trim and clean camel (once you get over the hump), lamb and chicken. Boil until tender. Cook rice until fluffy. Fry nuts until brown and mix with rice. Hard boil eggs and peel. Stuff cooked chickens with hard boiled eggs and rice. Stuff the cooked lamb with stuffed chickens. Add more rice. Stuff the camel with the stuffed lamb and add rest of rice. Broil over large charcoal pit until brown. Spread any remaining rice on large tray and place camel on top of rice. Decorate with boiled eggs and nuts. Serves friendly crowd of 80-100.
Shararazod Eboli Home Economist, Dammam, Saudi Arabia

Offal - Jay Reay
I made an offal mistake leaving out the tasty bits. But in Blair's People's Britain (being nibbled away at the edges to boot) in which Brussels rules, okay guys? we are not allowed to buy chops with the kidney still naturally embraced, as of yore. Liver, if lamb's or calf's, lightly fried in herb butter and served with golden fried onions over leek champ is too good for a mixed grill, which should be hearty. Heart, although excellent when stuffed with rice and mushrooms and well braised, is also not appropriate. Tripe and sweetbreads are superb dishes in their own right.

Elk Enchiladas - Peter Theune
1 1/2 lbs. ground elk
3 beef bouillon cubes dissolved in 3 cups hot water
3 Tbsp. margarine
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
3/4 tsp. salt
12 9-inch tortillas
In large skillet brown elk. Drain, rinse well, and set aside.
In same skillet, melt margarine. Blend in flour and salt. Stir in bouillon and water mixture all at once; cook and stir till thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat; stir in sour cream and 1/2 cup of cheese. Stir 1/2 cup of the sauce into the elk. Dip each tortilla into remaining hot sauce to soften; fill each with about 1/4 cup of elk mixture. Roll up. Arrange rolls in a 13x9x2-inch baking dish; pour remaining sauce over. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake, uncovered, in 350o oven about 25 minutes or till bubbly

Fondue - Marian Van Til
In my view, fondue is still one of the Great Inventions of the World. (There used to be--maybe still is--a wonderful and cosy, just-below-street-level place off Lincoln Park in Chicago called Geja's (pronounced gay-ha's) Wine and Cheese Cafe, which specialized in fondues of all kinds, and employed a classical or flamenco guitarist during dinner.)
But for home use:
Start with hot peanut oil in the fondue pot to cook the main course(s): chunks of beef, chicken and sausage, whole mushrooms, broccoli and/or cauliflower, tiny red potatoes, green and red pepper, or anything else that appeals and will stay on your fork(s). (For pigs, or impatient types who grouse about eating a few bites at a time, using two forks per person works wonders.)
Then chocolate fondue for dessert [with strawberries, peeled orange slices, grapes, banana pieces, any other fruit for dipping. With hot, dark espresso. Later: cheese fondue [with French and/or other types of breads and more grapes] and a couple of bottles of good wine.
Great fare for an intimate party! Or intimate anything. Relationship counselling, indeed!
The time the fondue takes necessitates conversation, and with the appropriate semi-darkened room, fireplace roaring, and classical music recordings at hand, you see my insistence that fondue is, indeed, a Great Invention of the World, albeit best in fall or winter.

Saffron Sheep-tail Stew - Susan Wenger
Here's a contribution for the listswains' companion cookbook. The book excerpt is from Hussein, by Richard Patrick Russ. The recipe is my 1999 facsimile.
"Zeinab was also a surpassingly good cook, which made her household love her more than any amount of beauty would have done. It was firmly held by all those who had tasted it that the saffron stew she made from the tail of a fat-tailed sheep was equal to any food this side of Paradise. She had inherited the recipe for this dish from her mother, who in turn had had it from hers; it had come with her to Mustapha, being of great worth. Indeed, it was this stew that had brought Mustapha to her in the first place, as he had eaten it one evening in the house of Wali Dad, and had asked who had cooked it."
Recipe for Saffron/Sheep-tail Stew
3 pounds sheepmeat from the tail of a fat-tailed sheep, OR boneless lamb cut into 2-inch pieces WITHOUT trimming excess fat
4-5 juniper berries, crushed
3 mashed cloves of garlic
1 cup white wine
2 medium onions, peeled and chopped
2 cloves mashed garlic
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed saffron threads
1 cup water or white wine
8 ounces pitted dates
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons slivered almonds, toasted
3 dead rats (optional but not recommended, except for historical accuracy for O'Brian lovers)
Stir together the juniper berries, garlic, and wine. Marinate the lamb in the mixture for at least 12 hours. Drain, reserving the marinade.
Heat vegetable oil in heavy large dutch oven over medium-high heat and saute onions and garlic. Season lamb with salt and pepper, add to Dutch oven and
brown, in batches if necessary. Add spices, reserved marinade, and water or wine. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until lamb is tender, about 1 hour. (Note: for English palates: you may simmer an additional two hours).
Remove lamb and onions from the pot. Reserve 2-3 dates for garnish; add remaining dates and honey to the sauce in the Dutch oven. Simmer sauce 5 minutes, mashing dates coarsely with back of fork. Add more water or wine if sauce is very thick. Return lamb mixture to Dutch oven; simmer until heated through about 5 minutes.
Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to platter. Top with slivered almonds and reserved dates. Garnish with dead rats, if desired. (6 Servings)

Spam - Randal Allred
On behalf of my fellow islanders, I duly register our objection to the use of SPAM as a metaphor for unseemly and unwanted Internet junk mail. The actual product, being the national dish of Hawaii (which has the highest per capita use of the delectable canned viand), is a gourmand's delight when prepared properly and with the right flavors. My mother--a farm girl raised in Arizona--simply sliced off a glistening slice right out of the can and put it on my sandwich. No doubt my palate has been traumatized for life. In Hawaii I was instructed about the proper use of Spam--sliced thin and grilled, with rice and scrambled eggs in the morning, or diced and used in stir fry, with a bit of ginger, scallions, and shoyu. The locals prefer it over ham or bacon. Truly.
It's those nasty Monty Python fellows (sorry Alec) in that Viking sketch who turned the popular media against an otherwise humble and unassuming product.

Spam Fritters - Adam Quinan
Spam fritters (with baked beans and chips (fries)) were a prominent feature of the diet that my Canadian daughter experienced on an exchange trip with some Lancashire Girl Guides a year or two ago. Talk about culture shock.

Calf's Liver - Peter Burke
A favorite here [New Orleans] is calf's liver, usually smothered with onions and bacon, but an old Creole method is to marinate it in beer, preferably Dixie, for an hour or so.

Drunken Stir-Fried Beef with Green Beans - Doug Essinger-Hileman
My son and I are the only ones in the family who like spicy-hot foods. Since my wife and two daughters have been away in the evenings this week, my son and I decided to try this recipe from "Cooking Light" magazine. It is part of their regular column, Cooking Class, which gives recipes on a cuisine of the month, if you will; this month's featured cuisine is Thai. Here is my adaptation.
One begins by making a "drunken paste." Using mortar and pestle, pound together 1/2 tsp of kosher salt and 7 cloves of garlic. Pound into this paste, one item at a time, 2 serrano chiles, 2 tsp coarsely chopped galangal or peeled, fresh ginger root, 1 tbsp chopped fresh lemongrass, and 2 kaffir lime leaves or 1 tsp grated lime rind.
With paste made, heat wok and add a bit of oil appropriate to stir-frying (such as canola). When hot, add the drunken paste and stir-fry for about 30 seconds. Then add 1 lb of flank steak cut into 1/4-inch strips; stir fry for about 3 minutes. Add 2 cups of fresh green beans (cut to whatever size suits your fancy) and stir fry for another minute. Add 1 cup of cherry tomatoes cut in half and a sauce of 1 tbsp sugar, 3 tbsp Thai fish sauce and 1 tsp cider vinegar; fry for another minute or until the beef is cooked as you like it. Finish off by stirring in 1 cup fresh basil leaves.
A couple of notes:
We used 2 whole Querro chiles in the drunken paste since we couldn't find serranos at the grocery store. Obviously, one can adapt the type and quantity of chiles according to taste.
We couldn't find galangal, so used fresh ginger. The article says that galangal is "also called Laos ginger" and "is that distinctive Thai flavor most Americans can't identify." It is found in Asian markets, and is stronger and more astringent than ginger.
We also couldn't find Kaffir lime leaves, so used the lime zest. The article says "kaffir lime leaf is closely identified with Thai cooking for its distinct citrusy aroma. Fresh leaves are hard to come by, but you can purchase them frozen in small bags at most Asian markets."
We also used American basil, not being able to find Thai basil. The article says that Thai basil has more of a licorice flavor than the American.
I heartily recommend this dish. It was quite hot (meeting the definition of hot my father taught me, bringing sweat pouring down my brow), but the hot was only one part of the taste. The meat had a wonderfully "green" taste to it from the lime, lemongrass and basil. Each of these flavors were prevalent in the final dish.

Jamaican Jerk Beef Kebabs from Cooking Light
Jerk is a Jamaican seasoning blend used on beef, pork, chicken, lamb, and fish. Traditionally, jerk is a dry rub, but you can mix it with liquid to form a paste or marinade. Choose yellow plantains with black spots to ensure that they're ripe.
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1 tablespoon ground allspice
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon chopped fresh or 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 habañero or serrano peppers, seeded
1-1/2 pounds boneless sirloin, trimmed and cut into 30 cubes
1 red bell pepper, cut into 18 pieces
2 black-ripe plantains, peeled, and each cut into 9 pieces
Cooking spray
Diagonally cut green onions (optional)
Lime wedges (optional)
Prepare grill.
Combine first 9 ingredients in a food processor or blender; process until smooth. Place onion mixture, beef, and bell pepper pieces in a large zip-top plastic bag; seal. Marinate in refrigerator 20 minutes.
Remove beef and bell pepper pieces from bag; discard marinade. Place beef, bell pepper pieces, and plantain pieces in a large bowl; toss well to coat.
Thread 5 beef cubes, 3 red pepper pieces, and 3 plantain pieces alternately onto each of 6 (12-inch) skewers. Lightly coat kebabs with cooking spray. Place kebabs on grill rack coated with cooking spray. Cook 4 minutes on each side for medium-rare or until desired degree of doneness. Garnish with green onion pieces and serve with lime wedges, if desired.

Joe's Special - Rebecca Dwan
My family version, 4-6 large portions, 10 small portions:
2 pkg. frozen chopped (not whole leaf) spinach
1 lb. ground round (or use half ground turkey for lower fat)
6 eggs, beaten to combine
6-8 cloves minced or squeezed garlic, or more, to taste
Fresh Parmesan to taste
Olive oil
Soften frozen spinach in boiling water; drain, pressing on solids to get rid of excess water.
Brown and crumble meat in a little olive oil (large iron pan is good for this). When just brown, add garlic and spinach. Mix up well, while still sauteing (this will take out a bit of the spinach's moisture). Pour in eggs, stirring to combine. Flip this around until eggs are cooked, top with cheese and pepper. Salt is optional, as the cheese may be enough salt.
You can make it without the meat, but it's not quite the same.
I would recommend making two batches separately, depending on the size of your cooking equipment. Best served fresh, but also good either cold or heated over. Cooks up in 5-10 minutes, so if you could assemble it at the dinner that would be great.

Pies with Birds
Gerry Strey
Nero Wolfe (famous fictional detective/epicure for non US lissuns who may not have encountered him), once a year had a farmer in Brewster, New York shoot a dozen blackbirds or possibly starlings, which were served over polenta.

Starlings On Polenta from The Nero Wolfe Cookbook - Alice Gomez
"Each year around the middle of May, by arrangement, a farmer who lives up near Brewster shoots eighteen or twenty starlings, puts them in a bag, and gets in his car and drives to New York. It is understood that they will be delivered to our door within two hours after they were winged...." (The Golden Spiders)
18 or 20 Starlings
1 cup dry sherry
1/2 pound butter
18 or 20 sage leaves (or pieces of aluminum foil)
Dress the birds and sprinkle them with salt. Let them stand for about 5 minutes, and then sprinkle them with a pinch each of chervil, basil, and thyme - or whatever other herbs you have fresh, except for tarragon and saffron, which are not advised. Melt the butter, and combine with the sherry. Brush each bird with the mixture and wrap individually in sage leaves (or aluminum foil).
Seal the edges tightly to keep the juices in. Grill for 15 to 20 minutes in a hot (400 degree) oven or over coals. Serve them in the wrapping, or arrange on polenta, and pour the juice over each bird before serving. Makes 18-20 birds.

Rook Pie - Martin Watts
6 rooks
pepper and salt
3 hard boiled eggs
1/2 lb of rough puff pastry
1 pint warm water
1 oz butter
1 lb steak
1/2 oz of Cox's instant powdered gelatine
1 oz flour
Wash rooks well, taking care to remove the livers and backbones. Cut into neat joints and the steak into pieces, toss in flour, pepper and salt. Fry the rooks in hot butter and put onto plate, brown the steak, add warm water and simmer 1 hour. Put the rooks into the mixture and simmer for 1 hour longer. Boil eggs, remove shells and cut into quarters. Put the rooks, meat and eggs into a pie dish, pour gravy over gelatine and stir till dissolved. Pour over rooks and when cold, cover with pastry, decorate, brush with a beaten egg and bake 30 minutes. Pour in the gravy and serve cold. If using oven with automatic control, set at No. 8 or letter H.

Les petits vol-au-vents à la Nesle
This recipe was prepared by Carême at the grand banquet at the Brighton Pavilion in 1817.
1 French loaf
2 spoonfuls chicken jelly
2 spoonfuls velouté sauce
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
2 tablespoons chopped mushrooms
4 egg yolks
2 chickens, boned
2 calves' udders
salt, nutmeg
20 vol-au-vents cases, the diameter of a glass
20 cocks'-combs
20 cocks' stones [testes]
10 lambs' sweetbreads
10 small truffles, pared, chopped, boiled in consommé
20 tiny mushrooms
20 lobster tails
4 fine whole lambs' brains, boiled and chopped
2 pints cream
sauce Allemande
Crumb a whole French loaf. Add two spoonfuls of poultry jelly, one of velouté sauce, one tablespoon of chopped parsley, two of mushrooms, chopped. Boil and stir as it thickens to a ball. Add two egg yolks. Pound the flesh of two boned chickens through a sieve. Boil two calves' udders - once cold, pound and pass through a sieve.
Then, mix six ounces of the breadcrumb panada to 10 ounces of the chicken meat and 10 of the calves' udders, and pound for 15 minutes. Add five drams of salt, some nutmeg and the yolks of two more eggs and a spoonful of cold velouté or béchamel sauce. Pound for a further 10 minutes. Test by poaching a ball in boiling water - it should form soft, smooth balls.
Make some balls of this poultry forcemeat in small coffee spoons, dip them in jelly broth and, after draining on a napkin, place them regularly in a vol-au-vent, already half-filled with:
a good ragout of cocks'-combs and cocks' stones
lambs' sweetbreads (thymus and pancreatic glands, washed in water for five hours, until the liquid runs clear)
lobster tails
fine whole lambs' brains
Cover all with an extra-thick sauce Allemande.

Lights - Ray Martin
Lights is lungs, oesophagus (heart sometimes, I think) and all, tripes are the stomachs (four I believe) of beasts, dressed and bleached for human consumption.
Lights of the sheep are the main ingredient of Haggis. Tripe is still, I believe, eaten in France and Italy, and was a northern English delicacy before my time. I ate it as a child, somehow poached in warm milk, and thought it nauseating. Haggis, on the other hand, I quite enjoy.

My Experience With Tripe - Lois The cookable kind.
Well, once I cooked tripe, just to see what the fuss was all about.
You took a big iron pot, layered tripe, onions, and sliced apples, a couple of repetitions, until the pot was close to full. Then you poured in a mixture of wine, calvados and water. Then you covered it, put it in a slow oven and left it overnight.
It was pretty darned good. But so much trouble, I never made it again.

Liver Portuguese Style - Chloë Parrott
from Exploring Portugal
Iscas Com Elas (marinated calf's liver)
I love the name! "Isca" means bait, when it doesn't mean a finely slice of something tasty (normally liver or salt cod). And the "Elas" in this case are the potatoes.
1lb (500 g) calf's liver
2 garlic cloves
salt,white pepper
1 bay leaf
1 Tbs white wine vinegar
half a cup(100 ml) dry white wine
1 lb (500 g) potatoes
1 and a half oz (40 g) pork fat
1 Tbs coarsely chopped flat leaf parsley
Cut the liver into very thin slices and spread out on a large plate (not metal). Chop the garlic finely and sprinkle it over the liver, and season with salt and pepper. Add the bay leaf and pour the vinegar and wine over the liver. Marinate for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight, turning the slices of liver occasionally. Boil the potatoes in their skins. peel and slice them. Heat the pork fat in a frying pan and add the liver slices (without draining them). Brown them briefly on both sides and remove immediately. Take the bay leaf out of the marinade, add the marinade to the frying pan and boil it down. Dip the liver slices in the resulting sauce and arrange on a preheated plate. Coat the potato slices in the remaining sauce and arrange around the liver. Sprinkle on the parsley and serve with a red wine. Cut the lamb into large pieces (each about 2 oz or 50 g). Peel the garlic and chop it finely. Put the meat and garlic together with the olive oil into a large pan, season with salt and pepper, and turn the heat on. Peel and chop the onions and add them to the meat once it has been browned gently all over. Sprinkle on the paprika, add the bay leaves, vinegar and wine and half the bouillon. Stir and simmer the meat for about 30 minutes. Then stir again and add the remaining stock. Simmer for a further 20-30 minutes and season to taste. Put one thin slice of sourdough bread into the bottom of each of eight deep plates. Place the pieces of lamb on top and pour over the thin meat sauce. A young Alentejo red wine goes very well with this dish.

Leopold Bloom - James Joyce in Ulysses
Mr Leopold Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls. He liked thick giblet soup, nutty gizzards, a stuffed roast heart, liver slices fried with crust crumbs, fried hencods' roes. Most of all he liked grilled mutton kidneys which gave to his palate a fine tang of faintly scented urine.

Organ Meats - Lois
When my parents talked about "foods of our mothers", they mentioned stewed lungs, stuffed pancreas, fried sweetbreads and brains, broiled liver, etc. During the depression when they grew up, if it came with the animal, it was 'et. Both their mothers grew up in small country towns, and nothing went to waste, if they could help it.
And when I lived in France at the end of the last century, all those foods were available in ordinary markets and butcher shops.

Organ Meats - John Marmet
For anyone who eats sausage, organ meat is commonly eaten. It is not that we do not eat organ meats. It is simply that we do not eat them in their primal form. Frankly I am a great fan of sausage and am very aware of the stuff that goes into it. Google Liver Sausage and you will see recipes for same with hearts, livers and fat, together with salt and spices. Frankfurters made at home can be high quality meat. Frankfurters made commercially will contain more organ meats.

The Way To A Man's Heart Is Through His Kidneys - Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
from The Guardian
It was the River Cafe's Rose Gray who cured our writer of his offal phobia - now he wants to convert us all.
'Offal' is a loaded word that seems to divide people into two passionate camps. It's not just 'for' and 'against', but 'yuk, never in a million years' versus 'this, truly, is the food of the gods'. While some simply can't stomach this (pun intended), others positively revel in the goriness of it all. Like those who profess a love for well-hung (or over-hung) game, the offal lover often can't resist allowing his (or occasionally her) passion to slide into a kind of competitive macho posturing, as in, 'what's the weirdest bit of an animal you've ever eaten?' I can say this with confidence, because I definitely served a bit of time in that camp.
These days I try to be less stridently and provocatively in your face about offal, because it often seems to be counter- productive. Instead of being won over, recipients of over-enthusiastic offal evangelism may be further alienated or antagonised. What we offal enthusiasts have to remember is that the very good reasons to explore offal cookery are not because it's big, or clever, or makes us tough. It's because it offers a whole extra range of tastes and textures that are unusual and exciting, and quite unlike those of muscle meat, or any other food. It is incomparable and inimitable.
Some feel that the word itself could perhaps do with some improving. The fact that it sounds a bit like 'awful' has not merely led to some very poor puns among food writers (I myself once wrote a proposal for a book called Simply Offal); it has actually led to a subliminal connection between the two words in the collective subconscious of food culture, so that many people think offal really is awful, without ever having given it any kind of chance. For such knee-jerk offal gainsayers it's guilty until proven innocent.
The etymology is uncompromisingly straightforward. Literally, it is off-fall, or fall-off, as it principally comprises the internal organs that fall to the floor when a hanging carcass is disembowelled. Perhaps for many, this crude image is also encapsulated unconsciously, in the sound of the word. Far more than the word 'meat', which has somehow been sanitised over the centuries, the word offal serves as a reminder, unwelcome for some, that sentient beings - usually mammals - must be killed, eviscerated, and cut up before feasting begins.
But I believe we can and should turn these negative connotations on their heads. Just why should a reminder of the animal origins of our meat be so unwelcome? Offal gives us a chance to pay our respects, in a full and holistic manner, to the animals we've raised for meat. The nose-to-tail approach to using the animals we kill for food is a central tenet of the contract of domestication and good husbandry. Waste is simply not acceptable. It's all or nothing.
Even the word-association game can be flipped over. There's positive assonance in the word offal as well as negative, if only you'll allow it in. Offer-full, or offer-all, makes a satisfying counterbalance to off-fall and awful. We are offered a full and eclectic range of foods from a single animal. It's a notion that can, if we let it, take us a long way from the awful and the ugly, into the realms of the tempting and the sublime.
I don't want to force offal down people's throats. I accept that there are strong flavours and challenging textures here which may not be everyone's idea of good eating. And, of course, the risk of aversions is hugely increased when offal is of poor quality, stale or simply badly cooked. We all know people who have vowed never to revisit liver, or kidneys, after traumatic encounters with them in school dinners. I once made that vow myself. The coarse slabs of ox liver I was served up at school were braised to the texture of a giant pencil rubber, with hideous veins like bicycle inner tubes. And they tasted like they'd been marinated in the school urinal. I couldn't get a morsel past my lips without gagging. In the end I persuaded my mother to give me a note containing that magic word, 'allergic'. And I didn't go near a piece of liver for another 15 years.
But when I went to work at the River Cafe, everything changed. Rose Gray wouldn't hear of my alleged aversion. She introduced me to the best calves' liver, dusted with seasoned flour and fried up with fresh sage, served tender and just a mite pink in the middle. There was no not liking it. It was delicious. It didn't even remind me of my former trauma. Now I rank liver among my favourite foods. It's my special treat, fresh from the abattoir, whenever I take one of my own animals to slaughter. Pigs' liver, lambs' liver, steers' liver - all similar but different, all delicious.
It was also at the River Cafe, after graduating in liver appreciation, that I went on to discover the pleasures of sweetbreads, kidneys, tongues and brains. I now consider them all to be great treats - fun to prepare, exciting to cook and an absolute delight to eat. What I learnt was that, far from being at the crude end of the meat spectrum, all coarse textures and intense, visceral tastes, offal also includes some of the subtlest tastes and most delightful textures that we can find in the vast food firmament.
There'll be a staggering amount of meat consumed this Christmas. And consequently a lot of lonely offal left in the butchers' tin trays. So why not do the decent thing, and offer a vital organ a happy home in your kitchen?
Devilled kidneys
If you think you don't like kidneys, or you're not quite sure, this is the recipe that will convert you. It uses a single pan and is ready in just a few minutes. The quantities for the sauce are approximate. You should be feeling your way towards the level of piquancy you want.
serves 2
4 very fresh lambs' kidneys, cut into quarters with the whitish core trimmed out
a small glass sherry
1 tbs white wine or cider vinegar
1 tsp redcurrant jelly
a few good shakes Worcestershire sauce
a good pinch cayenne pepper
1 tbs English mustard
1 tbs double cream
salt, black pepper
Heat a little oil in a small frying pan, add the kidneys and brown for a minute, tossing occasionally. Add a generous slosh of sherry, let it bubble for a moment, and follow up with a more modest splash of wine or cider vinegar. Add the redcurrant jelly and stir to dissolve. Then add the Worcestershire sauce, cayenne, mustard, and plenty of black pepper. Season with a pinch of salt, add double cream, bubble for another minute or two, shaking the pan occasionally, until the sauce is reduced and nice and glossy. Taste for piquancy, and add more cayenne and black pepper if you like.
Serve with fried bread to give a bit of crunch and mop up the sauce, or, for a more substantial supper dish, with plain boiled rice and a crisp green salad.
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005.

Philadelphia Pepper Pot - A Recipe
A basic Pepper Pot recipe is:
2 quarts water
veal or beef bone
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon peppercorns
1 tablespoon salt
2 whole onions
2 pounds honeycomb tripe, well washed
4 potatoes, diced
Bring water, bone, bay leaves, peppercorns, salt and onions to a boil. Add the tripe and reduce heat. Simmer for at least 2 and 1/2 hours.
Remove the veal bone, bay leaves, peppercorns and onion. Take out the tripe, then slice into paper thin strips and mince crosswise. Skim the fat off the top of the stock and return the tripe to the pot and add the diced potatoes. If the soup is too thick, add boiling water to thin. Allow to simmer until ready to serve. It is suggested that the soup simmer for hours in order for the tripe to be as tender as possible.