Oliver Peyton caught me at a weak moment. It was during a long day’s filming of the latest series of the Great British Menu. He said. ‘Why don’t you do one of our Friday Night Socials?’ ‘What would I have to do?’ ‘Just cook anything you like?’ ‘Offal?’ ‘Fantastic’. And then I forgot all about it until one of Oliver’s helpers sent me an email reminding of my undertaking. Oh my golly. It’s one thing cooking for a few of your nearest and dearest, quite another cooking for, what was it going to be, 30? 40? 60?
In the end I cooked enough for a mighty army. When I say I cooked, well, I did spend from 9.30 am to 3.00 pm trimming, cutting, dicing and slicing kidneys, livers, hearts, lungs and sweetbreads, but, in truth, the real cooking was done by Gillan Kingstree and his team of skilled practitioners. They hardly broke sweat. I was never not sweating. But it all went out, and do you know, it was pretty damn good. About 30 hardy souls actually turned out to eat iy , but that was fine by me. And there were two delectable young women who not only ate everything in front of them, but then took a fair amount of the left over sweetbreads away in a doggy bag. Civilisation and civility isn’t dead.
An Italian classic. You can find variations almost anywhere. This version is based on one I enjoy almost every year at L’Uliveto in the Abruzzo. Their version has spleen and intestines in it, too.
Ikg assorted lamb innards (heart, liver, lungs, kidneys)
2 dried chillis
2 cloves garlic
sage, rosemary, marjoram, thyme, basil, olive oil, a laurel leaf
Dice the lamb’s innards into bite-sized nuggets
Slice the onion, and chop the garlic and dried chilli. Fry until the onion I soft. Add the sliced lung and cook ten more minutes, adding a little white wine water if need be to keep the pot from drying out. Simmer 10 minutes more and add the liver. Continue simmering for 4-5 more minutes
When all are cooked, take of the heat and mix in all the herbs slowly together with a touch of fine vinegar and lemon juice.
Serve on slices of toasted ciabatta
SALAD OF SPICED DUCK’S HEARTS & LIVERS
FRISEE, CHICORY & SHERRY VINAIGRETTE
1 Endives Frisee
400g duck hearts & livers
1 tbsp of mixed ground spice (star anise, coriander, all spice, black pepper, and cumin)
1 tbsp vegetable oil
3 tbsp sherry vinegar
Roll the hearts & livers in the mixed spices until well coated. Heat the butter and vegetable oil until foaming. Toss in the hearts & livers into the frying pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes, turning over. Add the sherry vinegar. Divide up enough endive to make a decent showing on each plate. Scatter the hearts & livers over the endive on each plate. Season with salt.
BULLOCK SWEETBREADS WITH CARAMELISED ONIONS, CARROTS WITH BRAISING LIQUOR
Veal sweetbreads are v. expensive, even when you can find them. But then I thought, most cattle are killed between about 18-24 months old, when they’re still teenagers, effectively. I reasoned that their sweetbreads would be a) delicious and b) cheap. I was right on both counts. The membrane is much heavier than on conventional calves sweetbreads, but don’t spend hours trying to remove it all. It disappears with long, slow, gently cooking. 1 throat sweetbread per person should be enough.
4 sweetbreads, soaked and cleaned
75 g unsalted butter +
1 tbsp vegetable oil
250 ml sherry
250ml chicken stock
Juice of ½ lemon
Finely slice the onion and cut the carrots into chunks. Heat the butter and oil in a sauté pan or casserole until foaming. Add the sliced onion and fry until lightly caremalised. Add the sweetbreads Add sherry and allow to bubble away for a minute or so. Place the sweetbreads on top of the onion. Add the carrots and chicken stock. Clap the lid on and stew very gently for 2, possibly 3 hours to make sure the membrane has melted sufficiently. Turn up the heat to reduce the juices until they’re as you want them. Don’t over reduce. Add the lemon juice and swirl around. Chop and scatter the origano. Put the lid back on and leave for a couple of minutes before serving up.
Serve with 1 potato the same size & shape as the sweetbread and wilted spinach.
BLOOD ORANGE TART
This is a variation on my sister-in-law, Dilou’s, peerless lemon tart, the finest lemon tart in the world.
70g well chilled butter
6tbsp cold water
Put the flour into a bowl. Grate the butter into it. (This is a brilliant tip, if you didn’t know it). Mix lightly with your fingertips until the butter is well worked into the flour. Add the water tablespoon by tablespoon until you have a nice coherent mass. Wrap in Clingfilm and leave in the fridge for a couple of hours.
Turn the oven on to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
Grease a flan dish generously with butter. Roll out the pastry and line the flan dish with it. It should be thin, but making sure there are no cracks or holes. There’s no need to blind bake the pastry.
Blood orange Filling
2 whole eggs
1 Blood orange
Melt the butter in a pan. Put the sugar into a bowl or food processor. Grate the peel of the orange and lemon into it. Add the eggs. Add them juice of orange and the lemon. Whiz everything. Continue whizzing as you add the melted butter.
Pour the mixture into the pastry shell and bake for 25-35 minutes. Check to see if the tart matches the description above. If not, you can continue baking or pop it under a grill until it does. I would put a tray underneath the tart because, no matter how hard I try, melted butter always seems to leak out and end up on the floor of the oven.
BLOOD ORANGE GRANITA
715ml blood orange juice
zest of 1 orange
Juice of ½ lemon
75g caster sugar (or 75 ml sugar syrup)
Bring the blood orange juice and zest to a gentle heat. Add he sugar and whisk until the sugar has dissolved. If you’re using syrup, you don’t need to do this. Add the lemon juice. Decant into a plastic container and pop into the freezer. Check from time to time to see how it’s freezing. As crystals form around the edge of the container, stir with a fork. Do this at regular internals until you have the perfect granita. The crystals should be quite large but soft. Serve with the tart.