The Fifth Quarter – an offal cookbook

I borrowed this from the library, hoping to find some recession-proof recipes. It's not brilliant for that, a bit too esoteric (Anissa Helou, the author, mentions her good friend Arabella Boxer which is a Big Clue, not to mention the foreword by Hugh Fearney-Wittingstall.). A lot of the offal is of academic interest as it's difficult to get, and many of the recipes are so ethnic they're virtually impossible. Brains and lamb tripe are not easy to find, but goose feet and abalone (at least one of which is endangered) are in the You're Just Avin A Larf category. As is Singapore Fish Head Curry. There were some good hints and tips buried in it though.

I had always thought of heart as a long-cooking casserole meat (although I've had cold smoked moose heart, which was gorgeous), but apparently lamb heart and liver make a good mix and can go on a bbq kebab or be grilled briefly. Lots of yummy Moroccan flavours.

You can hollow out a giant potato, bury a well-seasoned lamb kidney in it, and bake it. We're trying that one this week.

Kidney can feature in Chinese dishes, stir-fried and with a sweet and sour sauce. Liver salad with a Chinese sesame and garlic dressing.

There was also a recipe for Little Pots of Curried Kidneys which is basically a very mild extra-creamy curry sauce, with kidneys and onions fried in butter mixed in, topped with breadcrumbs and briefly flash-baked. Looks like a good breakfast, or starter, or lunch with kedgeree.

A Spanish recipe for pig's trotters simmered with onion, tomato, garlic, with added prunes and pine nuts, thickened with ground almonds and crushed biscuit. That would do for a belly pork or lamb breast as well, I would think.

It was an interesting book to read, difficult because there is a lot of text on darkly coloured pages. I wasn't sure whether the aim of it was to enthuse me or gross me out (tripe makes me heave at the best of times, but fish tripe?), but it's certainly given me a few ideas. I certainly wouldn't buy my own copy, though.

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Chicken Liver Salad

Just-cooked chicken livers on a bed of spinach leaves and fresh orange segments, dressed with pan juices deglazed with port, redcurrant jelly, orange juice, lemon juice. Salt and pepper.

Recipe suggests slightly warming and wilting the spinach leaves in a sprinkle of oil and lemon, that might be interesting. Just under 500 cals allowing 100 gms liver per serving.

From a Tesco Recipe Collection booklet, 1997

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Fartes de Batata

In a Sainsbury's magazine from October 1997, nicked from a Portuguese cookbook. Gluten-free, but loaded with sugar.

  • 12 oz mashed sweet potato (3 – 4 potatoes should do it), cooled
  • 3 oz good quality candied fruit or peel, chopped as finely as possible
  • 2 large eggs
  • 12 oz caster sugar
  • 1 oz unsalted butter, softened
  • 5 oz ground almonds
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

To coat:

  • A large egg white, lightly beaten
  • Caster sugar

Beat the eggs, sugar and butter well for 2-3 minutes. Put in a large, heavy saucepan with the almonds, fruit, lemon juice and potato. Beat thoroughy and then heat, gently, gently, stirring constantly so it doesn't catch, for about 10 minutes or until it feels like fairly stiff dry mash. Spread out onto a floured board (rice flour if you want to stay gf) and leave to cool.

Heat the oven to Gas Mark 5, grease 2 baking trays.

Take walnut sized lumps and make into little cakes about 2" in diameter. Place on the greased trays brush with beaten egg white and sprinkle with caster sugar. Bake for about 20 minutes until lightly golden and cool before eating.

Definitely sweeties more than cakes.

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Crabstick and Cucumber Rolls

Another recipe from Sainsbury's magazine, June 1999. For 6 portions.

  • 18 crab sticks
  • 3" piece cucumber
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 2 tsps vegetable oil
  • 1 level teaspoon finely grated ginger (or some wasabi paste)

Dipping sauce:

  • 120 mls sake
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 small red chilli, finely diced
  • 1 tsp finely grated ginger
  • salt

Mix the eggs and soy sauce, heat the oil in a 7" pan and make 6 thin omelette wrappers, cooked on both sides. Cool.

Quarter the crabsticks lengthways, cut the cucumber into pieces the same size and shape as the crabsticks, discarding the seeds but leaving the skin on. There should be some spare cucumber.

Trim the top and bottom edges of the omelettes, to about 5" across. Make rolls with the crabsticks and cucumber pieces (crabsticks to the outside, 2 pieces of cucumber in the middle) and a dab of ginger or wasabi. Keep them firmly rolled, but don't tear the omelettes. Wrap in clingfilm and chill for about an hour.

Make the dipping sauce, incorporating any spare cucumber, finely diced.

Let the rolls come to room temperature for about half an hour, and just before serving, trim the ends with a sharp knife to tidy them up and cut each one into 6 pieces. Serve with the dipping sauce.

(Not too unhealthy, it works out at half an egg per portion – although it's only really a starter. You could use Splenda instead of the sugar, and rice vinegar instead of most of the sake in the sauce. Could be a nice little lunch with some salad?)

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Two-way Tofu Salad

A recipe in Sainsbury's magazine from June 1999. It's very complicated, but boils down to this:

Puree some toasted sesame seeds, sake, sugar, soy sauce, lime juice, fresh ginger, tofu, and a little salt until smooth and creamy, chill.

Take some block tofu, cut into small fingers, coat in cornflour, eggwhite, then sesame seeds and deep fry, three fingers together on little skewers.

Make a salad with Chinese leaf, asparagus, mangetout peas (blanched), cucumber, enoki mushrooms, carrot ribbons, spring onions, and finely chopped chilli.

Top with the tofu skewers, and a drizzled dressing of sake, soy sauce, plain oil and sesame oil. Serve with the tofu-sesame sauce to dunk.

I think it's messy and overly fussy, but there's a good idea lurking in there somewhere. You could cut the calorie content by grilling or baking the tofu, combining the dressing and sauce and making it sharper. The salad itself could be simplified as well.

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Parmesan Gelato on Red Wine Toast with Balsamic Glaze

I'm trying to focus on more healthy food at the moment, but this was just too weird to pass on. It's a party dish, quantities are for 25 – 30 canape portions. I don't think you'd want to eat a lot of this … and it would take up a lot of space in the fridge to prepare. From delicious magazine, January 2004, recipe by Valli Little.

  • 150 gms grated Parmesan
  • 375 ml double cream
  • pinch of paprika
  • 250 ml balsamic vinegar
  • 1 baguette, sliced
  • 125 ml red wine
  • olive oil
  • 1 -2 garlic cloves, peeled

Put the cheese, cream and paprika in a bowl of simmering water, stir until the Parmesan has melted, season. Strain through a fine sieve, pressing through with a spoon. Cool and refrigerate overnight.

Simmer the balsamic vinegar until reduced by half. Cool. (Or you can buy ready-made glaze, I've got some somewhere.)

Using a small ice-cream scoop, place scoops of the cheese gelato on a lined tray and return to the fridge.

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4. Drizzle the bread slices with the red wine, brush with oil, lay out on a baking tray and cook 6 – 8 minutes until golden. Rub with the garlic while still warm. Cool.

To assemble – put a scoop of gelato onto each toast, drizzle with glaze.

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Ramen Stock

I like making simple noodle broth dishes, they're quick and healthy, refreshing in summer and warming in winter. But it's always been a pain to do one quickly without using stock or flavour concentrate, or tinned consomme. Wine isn't appropriate, and water doesn't cut it. The bought concentrates from the Chinese shop are very salty, or too hot, or just come in HUGE packs. I found a recipe for Vegetable Pho by Sophie Grigson in the Waitrose food magazine for July 2005, which is fairly standard, but did include this roast vegetable stock. It's my intention to make it once to try it, and if it works, make it in quantity and freeze in portions enough for 2-3 servings. This amount serves 4, supporting 125 gms rice noodles, lots of veg and 150gms tofu for the protein.

  • 6 cm root ginger, sliced thickly
  • 1 large onion, cut into 8 wedges
  • 3 whole star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 carrots, quartered lengthways
  • 3 stems celery, thickly sliced
  • 1 leek, trimmed and thickly sliced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 litres water
  • 3 tbsps soy sauce
  • 0.5 tbsp caster sugar

Preheat oven to Gas Mark 8. Toss the veg and spices in the oil, and tip into a roasting pan. Roast for half an hour, until the veggies are patched with brown. Transfer to a big pan, scraping all the residues in. Add water, soy sauce and sugar. Boil and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain.

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