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tripe soup

Slow Cooker Mondongo

tripe soup

I am a person who gets hangovers. Even as a teenager when everyone else around me seemed to be able to drink cheap vodka mixed with battery acid on an empty stomach and bounce right back, I was suffering. Not for me the two aspirin and a can of full fat Coke trick. I need to lie on a bed of gossamer, sipping angels’ tears from a cut glass goblet while eating crisps and waiting for the day to pass to put it all behind me. No amount of practise has ever really helped, although occasionally a ball of mozzarella eaten like an apple before bed can stave the situation off completely.

Therefore I am constantly on the hunt for hangover cure stories. I think that I’m one old wives’ tale or anecdote away from the hangover Holy Grail. I’ve tried the whole vitamin B before going out rumour, the milk thistle phase of the late 90s, the Gatorade by the bed trick, even the suggestion of mixing the liquid from a jar of gherkins with some soda water and downing it (spoiler alert: this is not the answer to any question, unless this question is ‘how I could feel immediately worse right now?’)

I think I know now nothing will ever be my ultimate answer, but that I can simply use this quest as a way to try new things along the way, which is how I came to know about sopa de mondongo or tripe soup. A Mexican-American friend online mentioned it once for its hangover curing qualities but still feeling scarred from the pickle juice, I screwed my face up and refused to even think about eating tripe even when I wasn’t feeling delicate.

However during the summer I met up with The Skint Foodie for lunch one day in Brixton and we went to El Rancho De Lalo in Brixton Village for one of their vast platters of Colombian food and the soup of the day was tripe. Because you get chicken, plantain, rice, avocado, salad and beans as well, I knew this was the time to try tripe because if it was horrible, I wouldn’t go hungry and I’d have something lovely to take the taste away. I needn’t have worried, one mouthful in and I was in love.

The tripe was tender and not at all rubbery or tough. Cut into small chunks, it had soaked up the flavour of the stock and the chilli and vegetables and was nourishing and fortifying. I finished the whole bowl and have eaten it several times since, thinking it would make an excellent hangover cure with its mix of calm soothing flavours and textures. However, converted as I am to cow’s stomach, I still didn’t want to start boiling panfuls of it at home and then I realised it would be perfect in the slow cooker for achieving the right yielding texture with very little work and I was sold on making my own sopa de mondongo at home.

Sopa de Mondongo or South American Tripe Soup (serves 4)

  • 500g cleaned plain tripe
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 sticks celery, diced
  • 1 medium sweet potato, cubed
  • 2 eddoes or medium potatoes, cubed
  • 50g hominy corn or add 150g sweetcorn at the end
  • 1 bunch coriander stalks, chopped (leaves reserved)
  • 3 spring onions, chopped
  • 2 scotch bonnet chillies, whole
  • 1 litre chicken stock
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 limes, halved

Tripe comes in four styles. The two most common in the UK are plain which is from the first stomach and is the one I’ve used here. I find it the least terrifying and least tripey looking but your mileage may vary. You’ll also get the honeycomb version which is what sounds like with its geometric markings and slightly more gelatinous texture when cooked. Both of these are often cooked in the UK in milk which helps to tenderise them, but frankly gives me the heebie jeebies at the same time. I prefer the Nigerian style of tomatoey stews or the South American soups myself.

Buy your plain tripe from the butcher already bleached and cleaned. Uncleaned or green tripe is not something I ever ever want to see or smell. Tripe isn’t quite as cheap as I expected, coming in at around £6 per kilo at Las Americas butchers in Brixton Village, but there’s no wastage on it so it’s still very economical. Give it a rinse under the tap and then put it in a large pan and pour boiling water over it. Boil vigorously for 10 minutes before draining. Allow to cool slightly and then cut into small cubes.

As well as introducing you to tripe, I’m also bringing two other ingredients to your life. Eddoes are a small root vegetable also known as taro. They have hairy brown skins with little tiger stripes and when you peel them, they exude a sticky sap. Wear gloves to peel them and keep them in water until needed as they turn black easily. They have a texture a bit like a potato but with a nuttier flavour and a fluffier finish. The soup also features hominy corn which is corn kernels that have been treated with an akaline to dry them to a texture more like you associate with pulses than corn. You simply cook it from dry and end up with soft but chewy texture unlike anything else. I fear I might worry you when I say it’s like adding popcorn to soup but the texture here works beautifully with the soft tripe.

Place these into the slow cooker crock along with the onion, carrots, celery, sweet potatoes, eddoes, coriander stalks, spring onions and hominy corn. Season well with salt and pepper and lob the whole scotch bonnets in there. Pour the chicken stock in. This is a time to use a good homemade stock rather than a cube. Put the lid on the slow cooker and cook it all on low for 8 hours.

Serve the soup in shallow bowls with some chopped chilli if you like, a good squirt of fresh lime juice and the chopped coriander leaves and just feel your hangover subside. And if it isn’t going fast enough, a beer on the side works very well here. If you really can’t face the tripe in a slow cooker mondongo when you feel delicate, then at least you have a marvellous anecdote from the recipe….

Cooked tongue and cheek pudding

Tongue ‘n’ cheek: a hot, steamy, sticky pudding

Tongue and cheek steamed pudding

Regular readers have no doubt picked up on our growing love affair with offal. Over the last three years we’ve embraced cooking and eating the more esoteric, wobbly and less-eaten parts of various animals… mostly successfully. In part this has been driven by our curiosity; in part interest in rediscovering traditional dishes (thanks to championing chefs like Fergus Henderson and Robert Owen Brown), and in part because it’s a cheap and healthy foodstuff. Oh, and we’ve laid a few demons to rest in the process too…

When we were young, our mum used to serve us tongue sandwiches, and I loved them. Despite being a reasonably smart kid, I never made the connection between the name ‘tongue’ and the actual muscle inside an animal’s head; I just assumed it was another odd quirk of the English language. My illusions were shattered when I walked into the kitchen one day to find mum making pressed tongue: setting a boiled ox tongue in jelly, then pressing a plate down with an old-fashioned iron. Suddenly I put two and two together and realised why the slices were round, and curled. Although I was fascinated by the size, texture and feel of the ox tongue, I was also pretty creeped out. Both familiar and alien, one glimpse of the tongue was enough to change my attitude to it as a foodstuff. No longer was it a welcome morsel to find in my packed lunch, now it was a giant freaky cow tongue. I didn’t eat tongue again for over twenty years.

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Pork brain nuggets in panko breadcrumbs

Zombie Nuggets: or Brainsss!!

Pork brain nuggets in panko breadcrumbs

 

As you probably know from reading the blog, we seem to have unofficially become offal crazy. For me it’s partly because I’m on a tight budget and offal is cheap and partly because there’s an excellent stall at Brixton Farmers’ Market that sells all kinds of bits of wild boar and pork and I can play offal roulette while picking up some sausages or a roast. In fact, this is where I buy nearly all my meat these days and the woman who runs the stall often encourages me to try weird and wonderful bits (possibly to liven up her Sunday mornings). At my last visit, she slipped a package out from under the trestle and whispered brains in my direction. Or the most challenging thing I’ve ever been offered to eat.

She’d got them for me specially and I didn’t have the heart to refuse the little pink filled pouch. I asked what on earth one does with a bag of brains (if you don’t have a dog) and she told me that her Irish granny breaded and fried them and told them they were chicken nuggets. Wondering why I’m probably less scared of eating mechanically recovered meat than certain parts of fresh offal, I took them home to nugget up.

I don’t eat much in the way of nuggets or goujons or other crumbed things, but on a recent trip to Hawksmoor, I had some of their shortrib nuggets and was blown away by the melting interior and crispy crumby exterior all bound together with a tangy garlicky spicy kimchi dip on the side. I decided to steal the dip idea for my homemade nuggets, blending up some shopbought kimchi with a splash of vinegar and some ketchup til I got the right dippy texture.

Then I tackled the brains, cutting out some weird bits that didn’t look very edible, chopping them into fairly bite sized pieces, but not too small so they would burn on the outside before the middles were cooked. They were floured, egged and breadcrumbed in panko and fried til golden in hot oil. They looked lovely. All glisteningly crispy and very appetising indeed.

Turns out that fried breadcrumbs can make anything alluring and brain nuggets are as nice as you expected them to be…chewy, bouncy and very very offally in taste and texture, these were a bar too far even for me. I managed one, well dipped in kimchi ketchup and got no further. Pleased that I’d challenged myself this far, I regretfully threw the rest away feeling bad about wasting food and had a sandwich instead. My lesson is learned. If food makes you feel scared of it, you don’t have to eat it. Even if it makes a good blog post…

Black-pudding-filler.jpg

Northern Stars supper club. Pt.3: blood, guts & prime cuts

4 giant uncooked fresh blood black puddings

(This is the third article on our Northern Stars supper club… here’s parts one and two )

Oh, you are offal…

Over the last few years Miss South and I have tried many things in our ongoing voyage of discovery for good food, sometimes confronting long-held prejudices in a quest for enjoyment and understanding. Offal, unintentionally, has been at the fore of our experiences; with memorable contributions including Fergus Henderson’s ox heart, Robert Owen Brown’s tripe, a barrel-load of black pudding, Portuguese gizzards, tongue and liver, and savoury dux* from the Borders. There’ve been some epic fails too – I’ve not tried devilled kidneys since I badly botched them a few years ago – but generally our forays into offal have been enlightening and enjoyable.

This post’s all about the journey from pig pen to plate over 48 hours. It deals with, and shows, some of the reality of this process, and some of the less common dishes which until recently many butchers, cooks and consumers would’ve taken for granted. Needless to say, if you’re of a delicate disposition, you may not want to continue to read this, and there will be some photos you may find a little challenging. If however you’re curious about how to make faggots (or savoury ducks) and black pudding, or wonder about the place for real, fresh food in this modern age, please read on.

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Headline image, inside North Star Deli at the JoinUs4Supper event

Northern Stars supper club. Pt.1: the meal

Northern stars main 1

For someone with an overly healthy interest in food, there could be few things more exciting than being set loose in a professional kitchen. Last Thursday saw my debut in the kitchen, at the latest JoinUs4Supper evening at North Star Deli. If, however, you’d seen me on Wednesday night, I’d probably have looked more than a tad pensive, mildly nervous, and concentrating deeply. A little part of me was starting to think I’d bitten off more than I could chew by accepting the challenge to collaborate with Deanna, Ben and the North Star Deli team. That and the fact I was helping stuff a pig’s intestine with blood, desperately trying to ensure it didn’t drop and burst in an ignominious end to our efforts to make fresh black pudding. All this from a throwaway comment about having a go on a TV food quiz to a couple of fellow foodies

Northern stars final 1

After weeks of thoughts, discussions and debate, we were clear in what we wanted to do. At the heart of the meal was the intention to place Porcus pork in the limelight, with local cheese and veg as superb supporting actors. We wanted to find a flavour and feel which properly encompassed the character of our TV team.

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