Awfully good offal

Subjects: Eating cheaper & healthier, Ethical pork

What is offal?

The word offal originates from the Middle English meaning ‘refuse from a process’ and refers to ‘the entrails and internal organs of an animal used as food’.[1] Edible offal can include the head, tongue, brains, heart, liver, kidney, spleen, stomach or tripes, some countries may even include the feet, throat and lungs.[2]

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Why we should eat offal?

Offal is an inexpensive way to enjoy high animal welfare pork at a low price, making use of the whole animal whilst being healthy and delicious!

Organ meats are very nutritious, providing high quantities of vitamin B12, iron, zinc, niacin, riboflavin, folate and in particular, liver is an excellent source of vitamin A, with more than 100% of your recommended daily allowance in just 100g.[3]

Sourcing your offal

It is very important that you source healthy offal from farms with sustainable farming practices rather than from animal factories. While this is important for all meat choices, organs in particular are involved in important cellular and elimination processes, with the ability to accumulate substances, for example, veterinary drug residues. Often, intensive animal factories abuse the use of antibiotics and growth promoters which can ultimately reside in animal tissues for consumption, threatening human and animal health through antibiotic resistance.[4] To find out more about antibiotics and animal factories, head over to our issues page.

Always look for pork with high animal welfare labels. Check out our website for information about labelling and use our interactive directory to find places that stock high welfare meat near you. To ensure your offal is fresh, chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall advices there should be no strong odour and it will be firm, juicy and wet.[5] Yum!

Recipe ideas

For an economical and delicious recipe idea using offal try Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Paprikash of hearts and livers. For as little as around £4.00 you can purchase 400g of high animal welfare pig’s liver and two hearts, which is enough to feed 4 people!!

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Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Paprikash of hearts and livers (Serves 4)

2 lamb or pigs’ hearts

500g lamb or pigs’ liver

2 tbsp olive, rapeseed or sunflower oil (or lard)

1kg onions, peeled and finely chopped

1 tbsp sweet paprika

1 tbsp smoked paprika (or Spanish pimentón)

2 tsp hot paprika

200ml tomato passata

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cut the hearts in half lengthways and trim out the coarse ventricles. Rinse the hearts in cold water, and pat dry. Trim any coarse sinews off the liver and cut it into four pieces.

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a heavy casserole, add the onions and cook gently, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent. Add all the paprika, stir in well and cook for a couple of minutes.

Heat the rest of the oil in a separate pan and brown all the offal pieces in it, turning occasionally so they colour all over. Add the offal to the onion pot, together with the passata and a small glass of water. Bring to a very gentle simmer and cover. Cook over the lowest possible heat or in a very low oven (120C/250C/gas mark ½) for at least two hours, until the meat is very tender. Check occasionally, turning and adding a little water if it looks dry.

When the meat is cooked, check the consistency of the sauce: it should be thick, rich and pulpy. If need be, cook it for a few more minutes. Adjust the seasoning as necessary. You could finish the dish by stirring in a spoonful of soured cream or, as I prefer to do, just take soured cream to the table to serve with it. Accompany with mash.

For other awfully good offal treats why not trot over to our ‘cooking with cheaper cuts’ for some recipe inspiration?

[1] Oxford University Press. The Oxford Dictionary [Internet]. Available from:http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/offal

[2] Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Definition and Classification of Commodities http://www.fao.org/es/faodef/fdef17e.htm#17.2

[3] Williams PJ. Nutritional composition of red meat. Nutr Diet [Internet]. 2007;64 (Suppl:S113–9) http://ro.uow.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1053&context=hbspapers

[4] Ezenduka EV., Ugwumba C., Antimicrobial residues screening in pigs and goats slaughtered in Nsukka Municipal abattoir, Southeast Nigeria, (2012), African Journal of Biotechnology Vol. 11(57), pp 12138 – 12140 http://www.academicjournals.org/article/article1380883538_Ezenduka%20and%20Ugwumba.pdf

Dipeolu MA., Alonge DO., Residues of Streptomycin antibiotic in meat sold for human consumption in some states of SW Nigeria, (2002), Arch. Zootec., 51: 477-480 http://www.uco.es/organiza/servicios/publica/az/php/img/web/01_21_30_x5notadipelou.pdf

[5] Hugh-Fearnley Whittingstall. Have a heart: Hugh-Fearnley Whittingstall’s offal recipes [Internet]. Available from: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2013/apr/19/offal-recipes-whittingstall