There are times as a cook or chef that we lose track of the places that we have really come from, our obsession is to cook fine food using the best of ingredients and impressive techniques; Usually to impress others when the reality, certainly in the food roots that my chosen passion comes from is the “Peasant” simple food of everyday people. Although that said, most of those base dishes have been swallowed up in the sophistication of taste that we in the west certainly prefers.
Yes I am as guilty as the next in that the judgements I make on the foods I consume are certainly not based on the same values of the subsistence farmers and village people who have generated many of the fantastic dishes I consume with gusto.
I have been digging deep recently looking at some very interesting recipes that come from a time before most of us ever understood that the microwave was a kitchen gadget, and from a place that few of us in the world of internet and mobile phone will ever experience. These dishes are no longer cooked, or if they are then it certainly is not something you will find on any restaurant menu or come to that any kitchen in modern homes. Thats a broad and bold claim but who out there when they go to the butchers has Testes lungs or intestines on their list of things to eat.
I do accept that “Black Pudding” that great british delicacy and liver, heart tongue and various other offal offerings have through millenia appeared on many a British table, but I would suggest that our diet has never accepted brain, testicles and intestines as a great alternative.
Am I ill-informed?
I am more than happy to be corrected in that what follows are a few recipes for human consumption that made me raise an eyebrow and ask myself would I eat that?
Does anyone still eat that, and would I consume it if the opportunity arose!
The following three recipes are from Kashmir and are copied as they appear with the indian phraseology and my translations or best offering so enjoy…
well in the case of the first recipe, the others I translated as I went!
I confess I have never eaten any of these dishes and probably never will, as securing the core meat ingredients would no doubt be challenge enough for me, and then following the recipe , a step too far!
The First is Bheja
6 Goats brains
65 gm of Ghee
100gm of Curd (thats yoghurt by any other name)
Salt to taste
.25 tsp lal mirch( Red Chilli Powder)
.25 tsp sonth powder ( Dried Ginger)
a pinch of Hing (Asafoetida)
2 pieces of luang(Cloves)
1.5 inch of ginger
.5 tsp dhania powder(Coriander Powder)
.5 tsp Garam Masala
.25 tsp keora water
Put the ghee in a tinned degachi, an indian heavy based cookpot, and place it on a slow fire, yep build a fire in the garden and go ethnic go on you know you want to.add the curd the salt ,red chilli powder, dried ginger powder, the cloves and the asafoetida and fry until the water evaporates and the masala leaves the sides of the vessel and turns red. Remove from the fire and set aside.
Now comes the good bit , tie the brains in a muslin bag and place in another pot with enough water cover them. Boil for about 5 minutes, until they set and become a little hard, remove them from the fire and cut them into four or six portions depending on how hungry you still are, and place those portions into the fried masala that you have set aside and cook for a further ten minutes until the moisture boils away add the ginger the garam masala, keora water and the remaining ingredients and cook for a few minutes more, serve with your usual accompaniment.
Who’s got the guts then?
Having considered this first dish one can only come to the conclusion that sometimes needs must and an aversion to waste must always be at the (excuse the pun), heart of all food. A need if not the desire to eat all of an animal you have raised to slaughter is a correct veneration of the beast in question.
We here in the west certainly do not draw a line under offal in that a fine yorkshire dish of Tripe and onions , or liver and bacon is considered a worthwhile repast,, and of course not forgetting Foie Gras, and allof the ethical arguements that that item of food raises.
However the look on my friends faces, when I suggest to them a curry of intestines or brains defies description, but somewhere between disgust and horror would be a fair description.
I certainly am not vegetarian, well not yet but I do find myself heading in that direction as I get older and i could see a dat that I decide that I will eat meat no more , and that will not be because I do not wish to see innocent creatures slaughtered to feed me, it is a matter of personal taste. There is the crux of it is it not?
What follows is a recipe using the intestines in a curry, what bothers me is that my aversion to this dish based on the assumption that nothing from this part of the body can taste any good bothers me.
Sausages are they traditionally not made using the intestinal tract of a beast?
Oh yes, but that is to contain the tasty bit in the shape of the sausage meat, not be the tasty bit, so bearing that in mind here goes, with the second in my Kashmiri trilogy
Spiced curry of intestine
1 tsp Garam Masala
1tsp coriander powder
Salt and Red Chilli powder to taste
1 inch fresh Ginger
.5 tsp dried Ginger powder
100 gm Yoghurt
.5 tsp Jaggery
1 cup Rice
1tsp Succh Bari Now that’s an interesting ingredient in that it is a combination of aromatic and flavoured spices shaped into a cake that impart a distinctive flavour, it is generally broken off and crumbled into the dish very much like a stock cube, and is traditionally made at home, but these days can be found in your local Indian supermarket if your very lucky!
.5 tsp Cumin
The first thing you need to do here with your three feet of intestine is wash it well and then wash it again just to be sure, and then cut the intestines into .75 inch pieces. and then boil in salted water for ten minutes or until tender, then drain and set aside.
Heat the ghee in a heavy based pot and add all the Masala except the Succh Bari, jaggery, and yoghurt, and fry
Cook the rice in a separate pan with four cups of water stirring frequently and cook until it becomes a paste. When reduced to a thick batter, add the cooked intestines and the Suuch Bari and leave on a low heat, do not allow it to thicken, adding more hot water if required and cook until it attains the consistency of a thick Daal
When done season with the cumin fried in a little ghee…
This perhaps is again something that I have a great deal of difficulty getting my head around as something that I would wish to eat however this too can be found in western cuisine dressed up as sweet breads or Rocky mountain oysters in American cooking. Maybe I don’t know what I’m missing however you wont be finding me in the queue for this dish at the local takeaway , that also assumes that they would have the courage to place it on the menu, and trust me they wont!
the recipe I offer here is also using Kidneys something im told is good for you and a very good breakfast dish too; Needless to say I have never wanted or looked for Kidneys for breakfast, give me a bowl of cereal anytime.
Testes however are again another delicacy that have not passed my lips and I ask myself if presented with the opportunity would I go for it, or come to that any of the dishes I have presented here.
Hell yes why not.
But that said I wont be cooking them myself to try so that is unlikely to happen:)
Kidney and Teste’s Curry
.5tsp Dried Ginger powder
100 gm Yoghurt
1 tsp Garam Masala
1 tsp coriander Powder
2inch Fresh Ginger ground
.25tsp Keora Water
1.5 cups water
Put the Ghee in a heavy based pan on a low fire, and add the dried ginger, chilli powder,r cloves, and asafoetida,salt and yoghurt and fry off until the masala turns red and the water evaporates.
Put in the kidneys and fry until they turn light brown, only then adding the testes and fry very carefully as they will break very easily, fry them til they are golden brown. Pour in a cup of water and simmer for a further fifteen minutes on a low fire. Test the Kidneys by hand to check that they have softened then add the coriander Powder, Garam Masala,Ginger Paste, Keora Water and fresh coriander, adding another half a cup of water if the kidneys are not done, simmering until the gravy thickens and then serve!
I appreciate that I will probably never get to taste these dishes but if there is anyone out there who has or is willing to give them a go I would greatly appreciate your comments and thoughts on the whole Offal thing, so please feel free to comment!