LAMBS fry and bacon for brekky, steak and kidney pie for dinner and melt-in-your-mouth beef cheek on special occasions - organ meats were a mainstay of the Australian diet going back two, maybe three, generations.
Few household cooks today know offal recipes by heart. Few 20-year-olds today have ever tasted it. Few butchers make a profit on hearts, liver, kidney, tail, tongue, testicles and sweetbread - if they even offer it anymore.
But splintered across the country are passionate lovers of a good bite of offal and they have a compelling story to tell of why Australia should bring back the off.
It's arguably the most nutrient-dense food on earth, containing bioavailable macro and micronutrients, often those difficult to source in other foods, such as iron, B12, selenium, zinc and of course complete protein.
It completes the nose-to-tail, full carcase utilisation philosophy of waste not, want not that feeds into both environmental sustainability and respecting the job animals do in feeding people.
It helps keep the cattle and sheep producer, and the country towns they support, in business.
And today it's niche. It's the new vogue in the world of the celebrity chef. It's even disruptive.
What millennial wouldn't want to be on that train?
Can't stop myself
IN the heart of the Sunshine State tourist mecca Gold Coast, butcher Neil Blank's classy Hope Island Gourmet Meats serves every red meat cut.
Alongside his premium sirloins and lamb cutlets is a full range of offal. His specialty is his hand-made black puddings and steak and kidney pies and people travel hours to purchase these particular products.
Mr Blank has been in the trade for 35 years and said sales of offal today are probably running at 25 per cent of what they were when he started out.
The decline in consumption began when markets in Asia started paying very good rates for Australian offal, he explained.
"Offal was once heavily consumed in Australia because it was such a good value option but as the prices went up to match the export price, people moved over to mince or rump," Mr Blank said.
"To be honest, I probably lose money on selling offal now but I'm not going to stop. I love it and I don't want to see this part of Australian culture lost.
"People sometimes complain there is not enough kidney in my pies. That's because I can't stop myself eating a bit here and there as I go."
Lambs fry dusted with flour and bacon, served with potatoes and gravy, is his favourite; corned beef tongue comes in a close second.
But he concedes he is now the only butcher in his shop who eats offal. And the only new customers he gets are there on the advice of a doctor or nutritionist who has identified they need certain vitamins and minerals, often iron.
"The problem is they have no idea how to cook offal," he said.
In the United Kingdom, public health officials have launched a campaign called Organuary. For the first month of year, eating organ meats at least twice a week is promoted in a bid to 'minimise waste and maximise nutrition.'
It has gathered quite a following - the fact it happens in the same month as Veganuary is neither here nor there - and offal fans in Australia would like to see it gather momentum here.
In South Australia, food technologist Belinda Hanson-Kenny is keen for the beef industry, perhaps via the service provider Meat & Livestock Australia, to join forces with the County Women's Association to distribute organ meat recipes in butcher shops.
Years ago, when Ms Hanson-Kenny cooked for a living, she would serve lambs fry and bacon in the cafeteria of a large Adelaide furniture store every Friday for lunch. She is known around the country for that recipe.
A member of the South Australian CWA, she said a revival of offal in high-end restaurants was now starting to emerge.
"You might see raw heart on the menus of fancy restaurants," she said.
"I think as beef and lamb has become more expensive in recent years, innovative chefs are looking for something new.
"As a kid, we'd be served offal twice a week - crumbed brains or mum would put a tongue in the pressure cooker.
"It was popular because it was a good bang of protein for your buck."
Passing it down
The cookbook that has possibly made its way into the most homes ever in Australia, the CWA's Seventy Years in the Kitchen, has plenty of recipes based on organ meat.
First compiled in 1937, the book has been in print ever since and the offal recipes have never been culled.
There is brains and potato pie, devilled kidneys, brain fritters, kidneys on toast, stewed tripe and onions, crumbed sweetbreads and brains, mutton with kidney stuffing and pork brawn.
Over the years, president of the Bega branch of the CWA of NSW Nelleke Gorton, Tanja, has called on all those recipes but she says 'even us baby boomers aren't serving offal up much anymore.'
"It's a shame because it's very nutritious and it's eaten all over the world," she said.
"As a child in the Netherlands, we ate calves udder, simmered and sliced with bread and butter.
"My mum always did dishes with kidneys and brawn and my husband's mum was famous for tripe and onions.
"As a young mum in the Pilbara, I remember well a fellow mum, who was a nurse, coming to my door with a tupperware container of cooked brains in white sauce telling me to feed it to my baby boy for the health benefits.
"Information, and recipes, were passed on and passed down."
Belinda Hanson-Kenny, from SA CWA, has kindly shared her famous lambs fry and bacon recipe.
- 2 Lambs Fry (sheep liver) - once trimmed will be approximately 1kg of liver
- 1 litre milk, or water and salt
- 1 - 2 cups plain flour
- Salt and pepper
- Oil for pan frying - I use olive oil
- 500g good bacon (use Australian pork) - cut into 5 cm pieces
- 2 large brown onions - sliced
- 1 litre Chicken stock, or chicken stock powder and water
- Place lambs fry in a bowl, and cover with milk. You can also use lightly salted water. I prefer to use milk - it adds a lovely richness to the end product.
- Cover and refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours.
- Heat the oven to 170°C.
- Remove liver from milk, pat dry with a paper towel, peel off outer skin, slice thinly (5mm thick), and remove connective parts. The more time spent preparing the liver, the better the end result will be.
- Add flour to a bowl, season well with salt and pepper.
- Place a large frying pan over medium heat.
- Add oil to pan.
- Dredge liver slices liberally in the seasoned flour, and fry in the oil until golden. Do not crowd the pan, and wipe the pan with a paper towel between every second batch, to remove burnt flour. Liver does not need to be fully cooked through.
- When liver is cooked, place it in a large oven proof casserole dish.
- Once all the liver is cooked, wipe the pan again.
- Add the bacon, and the onion.
- Cook, until both lightly browned.
- When bacon and onion is cooked, place it in the large oven proof casserole dish, over the liver.
- Gently pour over the chicken stock, cover the dish, and place in the oven.
- Bake for 30 minutes.
- Remove from oven, remove lid, stir gently, but well.
- Place uncovered back in the oven for 10 to 20 minutes, until gravy is at desired thickness.
- Serve hot from the oven.
Best served on mashed potato, with as much butter added to it as you dare.
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