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Top chef Tom Pemberton on eating offal


Offal and unusual cuts of meat are full of flavour and back in fashion. Here are four delicious dishes to try.

Offal afficionado Tom Pemberton from Hereford Road restaurant

Chef and offal aficianado Tom Pemberton from restaurant Hereford Road in London

Most people unwittingly eat offal when they eat a sausage but squeamishness still persists when it comes to the likes of eating liver, heart or kidneys.

In fact, says Tom Pemberton, chef and co-founder of Which? Local-recommended restaurant Hereford Road in London, offal and unusual cuts of meat are full of flavour and back in fashion.

Offaly good

Delicious dishes

You needn’t be a professional chef to enjoy offal. No specialist cooking equipment or tricky techniques are involved, says Tom, making it accessible to all.

Try these delicious dishes (below), suggested by Tom, and tell us how you get on in the Which? Local forum.

Offal is back on British menus and even finding its way onto supermarket shelves thanks to hard times and celebrity chefs who champion slow and sustainable cooking.

"I think there is renewed interest in offal because it sits well with the zeitgeist for recycling and using everything up," says Tom. "If you’re slaughtering an animal, why not use every bit of it?"

Tom’s affection for offal stretches back beyond the recent resurgence of ‘nose-to-tail’ eating into his childhood. While his siblings turned their noses up at offal, Tom tucked into liver and kidneys prepared by his parents.

"I have always loved the savouriness of offal," says Tom. "It’s strongly flavoured in many ways. I also like the texture."

Traditional, British food

The menu at Hereford Road includes a number of offal dishes, prepared in a British style.

"I love food from all over the world, but it feels good to be cooking British food in Britain – offal is integral to that. It’s also exciting for guests who have never eaten something like a heart or a sweetbread (gland) before," says Tom.


1. Calf livers *

"If people are reluctant to cook with offal, it’s often because they’ve had a bad experience with dry, chalky liver. This is the result of overcooking – liver doesn’t need to be cooked for long.

"After rinsing and removing any vessels or membranes, all you need to do is season the liver and flash fry it in a hot pan with a little oil for a few minutes. Ensure it's cooked through. Liver is delicious with mash and kale or spring greens."


2. Lamb kidneys

Devilled kidneys and mash (Photograph: Gemma Day)

Devilled kidneys and mash

"Devilled lamb’s kidney is delicious. Prepare the kidneys by rinsing in water and patting dry. Remove the hard white core and any outer membrane.

"Mix together flour, cayenne pepper, mustard, salt and pepper and coat the kidneys in the mixture. This adds a bit of a kick. Then fry them. You can add stock, some Worcestershire sauce and perhaps a splash of sherry vinegar and reduce into a sauce. Serve on toast or with mash."


3. Pork faggots

"Faggots are made from a combination of minced offal and meat. Pork lungs (called ‘lights’), kidney, liver and belly work well.

"Mince the prepared offal and meat, or ask your butcher to do this, and mix together. Season well with salt, pepper, mace and sage. Divide the mixture and shape into balls or patties. Wrap each in caul fat (a membrane encasing the internal organs of an animal).

"Then, braise the faggots in the oven in stock until cooked throughout. They’re fantastic with mash and green vegetables."


4. Lamb sweetbreads

Lamb sweetbreads and rolled lamb breast with green beans (Photograph: Gemma Day)

Lamb sweetbreads and rolled lamb breast with green beans

"Sweetbreads are a little harder to find than livers and kidneys but a good butcher will order them for you if they don’t have them in stock. They’re fantastic – intensely ‘lamby’!

"The best way to prepare sweetbreads is to blanch and then fry them. Add salt, lemon juice, vinegar and white vegetables trimmings – onions, leek and celery – to hot water. Simmer the sweetbreads for three or four minutes.

"Remove from the water and allow to cool slightly. Peel away the outer membrane while still warm.

"Then, fry in a pan and lay on a salad of green beans and mint or parsley."


* Note about liver products

The Department of Health advises that liver and liver products (such as foie gras) should only be eaten once a week, and avoided altogether during pregnancy. This is because of the high levels of vitamin A in liver which can be harmful to a foetus.

Elderly people should also restrict their intake of liver to once a week and avoid it if they are taking a supplement that contains vitamin A.