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An Offal Cooking Experience


By Franka Philip


Nose to Tail Eating by Fergus Henderson has been hailed as one of the best books ever written about cooking with offal. I don't have the book myself, but I had a look at it once and it seemed extremely comprehensive.

I should have bought the book then, because I really needed it a few nights ago when I was taking apart a pig's head that I bought at London's Borough Market.

Offal isn't unusual to me because my mother cooked oxtail, pig's trotters and tripe quite regularly when I was growing up. As my parents got older, they ate less and less of it and I stopped eating meat so offal didn't figure in my life at all.

A few weeks ago, I read an interview with top London
chef, Tom Aikens who said one of the staples on the menu of his Michelin-starred restaurant was a dish of a braised pig’s head. I became intrigued about the prospect of cooking a pig’s head myself.

I bought the head from Sillfield Farm's stall and asked Eric the butcher what to do with it. "Just simmer it for a couple of hours with lots of spices and all the lovely meat will fall away," he said as he gently extricated the brain for me.

When I got home, the reality of dealing with the head really hit me and a bit of panic set in. But I calmed down after a quick trawl of the Internet and some advice from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's cookbook, Meat.

To make my life easier, I put half the head in the freezer and tried my hand at butchering the other half. I did reasonably well and surprisingly, I got a lot of meat but I was especially pleased to get the chunky cheek muscle.


Crisped Pig's Ears, Tongue and Cheeks
1 tongue
2 ears
1/2 small fennel, coarsely chopped
2 shallots, coarsely chopped
1 medium carrot, roughly chopped
1 stick celery, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
500 ml stock
2 sprigs thyme
4-5 whole peppercorns
1 tbsp olive oil


Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan
Add chopped vegetables and cook slowly until brown
Add ears, tongue and stock
Add thyme and peppercorns
Bring to boil, reduce and cook on a low heat for two hours or until meat is tender.
Remove tongue and ears from the water and leave to cool
When the tongue has cooled, peel off the outer skin
Heat a frying pan or skillet, pat the ears and tongue dry and fry until skin is brown and crispy.
Serve hot.


Pig's cheeks with caramelised shallots
2 pig's cheeks plus meaty bits
Two shallots, chopped
Two cloves garlic, chopped
150 ml white wine or cider
Salt and Black pepper to taste
Olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 190 degrees.
2. Prepare the meat by marinating for a few hours in a mixture of herbs and spices of your choice.
3. Heat oil in a heavy bottomed pan.
4. Pat meat dry and add to pan, cook until brown all over.
5. Remove meat from pan and set aside
6. Add chopped garlic and shallots to pan, cook until slightly brown.
7. Add wine or cider, cook for three to four minutes.
8. Return meat to pan with shallots and garlic and cook for five minutes.
9. Put pan in oven and cook at 190 for 40-60 minutes.


Franka Philip is a journalist with the BBC in London. She blogs at www.cancookmustcook.com


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