Extreme Cuisine – Offal

By / Food / April 2nd, 2009 / 3

There is some speculation as to whether these particular body parts should even be considered edible. Some would go so far as to say that offal (pronounced awful) is aptly named. No longer the food of our ancestors, who perhaps could not afford better cuts, offal is actually making a comeback.

Aka organ or variety meat, offal refers to the parts of an animal used as food, but which are not muscle. The term literally combines two words – “off” and “fall” – describing the loose pieces that fall off a carcass when it’s butchered. Those pieces being heart, liver, lungs, kidneys, stomach, entrails, genitals, tail, feet, head, brains, tongue … You get the picture.

Most of us don’t normally eat offal, except perhaps for liver. You should know that the taste and texture depends on the particular organ, and on the species and age of the animal. Calves, for example, are thought to offer the most flavourful bits. But sheep and pig offal can be tough in texture and taste very gamey. Tripe, which is an animal’s stomach, has a chewy texture and little or no flavour on its own, so it absorbs whatever sauce or spices you use. It’s a good jumping off point if you’ve never tried organ meat before.

I actually grew up eating a traditional Italian specialty called, mazzarelle. It consists of matchstick strips of beef heart and lung wrapped in cabbage leaves and simmered in a flavourful tomato and wine sauce. The ingredients co-mingle so well that you’d never guess what you’re eating. If you like to shake things up a bit, try stuffed pig’s feet, appropriately named trotters, or gently sautéed thymus and pancreas, referred to as sweetbreads. Offal is nutrient-rich and, once you get over the weirdness factor, makes for an elegant and tasty meal.


Rosemary Mantini has always loved words. When she isn't working as the Associate Editor at Tidings Magazine, she's helping others achieve their writing dreams, and sometimes she even relaxes with a good book and a glass of wine.

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