|A nice glass of Amontillado.|
Inspired by a recent Guardian article by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall on both the sustainability, and fantastic flavours, associated with cooking offal, I decided to post about my own recent foray into using these cheap and versatile ingredients. Now I know offal isn’t for everyone – my other half included – but as Hugh astutely points out, “If we kill an animal for meat, surely it’s respectful to make the most of every scrap?”
Last weekend, with my offal-loathing other half out of town, I decided to swing by Edinburgh’s Farmers’ Market on the hunt for some under-used ingredients with which to cook. I was immediately drawn to some tasty looking venison kidneys on the stall of Fletcher’s of Auchtermuchty. Obviously, venison is a great sustainable, free range product and deer offal – such as the kidneys I plumbed for – has a deserved reputation for great flavour.
Having purchased the main offal ingredient for my supper, the next task was to decide what to pair this with. This was a straightforward choice. As I’ve previously mentioned, I am a big fan of Spanish food. My liking of Spanish cuisine has been significantly inspired by the cooking of London’s Moro restaurant, and their first cook book contains a simple yet delicious recipe for “Riñones al Jerez” – kidneys with sherry, to me and you.
Thankfully, gone are the days when – for many people – the word ‘sherry’ conjured up a mental picture of a dusty bottle of the sickly-sweet ‘cream’ variety, that only left the drinks cabinet at Christmas to provide a tipple for Great Aunt Agnes. For a useful beginner’s guide to how great and versatile sherry can be, check out Andrew Sinclair’s blog in The Guardian. For this recipe go for a dark, dry Oloroso, or slightly lighter, amber Amontillado, but in either case make sure the sherry is good quality.
Kidneys with sherry is a dish that is packed with big, bold, rich flavours and therefore needs an accompaniment that can hold its own and provide a nice counterpoint in terms of taste. A vegetable that really fits this bill is chicory. Though approaching the end of its growing season in April, it’s still possible to get decent specimens of this bitter-flavoured leafy veg, and it’s great braised in butter (which adds a nutty tone), a squeeze of lemon juice, and splash of apple juice (which together provide an accent of sweet and sour). The bitterness of the chicory will lessen and take on the flavour of the other ingredients during the course of a slow braise.
So, whether it be kidneys (or indeed any other offal), chicory, or sherry, why not give more common ingredients a day off and try something just a bit different?
- 4-6 lambs or venison kidneys
- 4 tablespoons of olive oil
- ½ large Spanish onion, diced
- 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
- 125ml dry oloroso/amontillado sherry
- A sprinkling of sweet smoked Spanish paprika
- Sea salt and black pepper
Preparation and cooking
- The kidneys should come with the outer layer of fat removed. Remove any remaining external membrane, slice each kidney in half lengthways, and use a pair of scissors to snip away as much as the white gristle as possible. Then slice each kidney into bite-sized pieces (half or thirds depending on the size of each kidney.
- Heat the olive oil over a low to medium heat and fry the onion, stirring continually, until golden.
- Turn up the heat, add the garlic, and fry for 30 seconds.
- Add the kidneys and fry on all sides until sealed (but be careful not to let the garlic burn, or it will make the dish bitter).
- Season with salt and pepper and then add the sherry, reducing the heat immediately.
- Simmer for a minute or two to drive off the alcohol, but do not overcook – it is important that the kidneys are ever so slightly pink, tender and juicy in the middle when served.
- Check the seasoning and serve immediately with the braised chicory and some crusty fresh bread , to mop up the sauce.
- A good knob of unsalted butter (about 25g)
- 2 chicory heads, cut in half along the length
- Juice of half a lemon, combined with the same amount of water
- 1 tablespoon (15ml) of apple juice
- A couple of sprigs of time
- 1 or 2 bay leaves
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preparation and cooking
- Melt the butter in a wide pan – with a lid – on a medium heat.
- When the foaming of the butter subsides, place the chicory in the pan with the cut side to the pan bottom.
- Season with salt and pepper and add the thyme and bay leaves.
- Cook for a few minutes then check to see if the underside of the chicory has started to turn golden.
- Add the lemon juice, water and apple juice, and place the lid on the pan, cooking for a further 15-20 minutes.
- Turn the chicory (carefully, as it will have softened) and finish cooking for a further couple of minutes, to ensure it had fully softened, without going mushy, then serve.
|Chicory, about to be finished.|