Thursday, 11 October 2012

Media Horse

Andy Warhol once said that in the future, everyone will be famous for 15 mins.  What does he know?  Offal club has been riding a media crest for at least 20 minutes now.

Exhibit A.  Amy Oliver's excellent write up of her visit to Offal Club has appeared in today's The Times:

and here is a link (SELL OUTS).  Unfortunately its hidden behind a pay wall - whatever happened to the free press?

Exhibit B.  A cameo of same event in local institution the Manchester Evening News:

and here is the link (BRAZEN).  The comments on this page are Northern comedy gold.

Quote of the day: Rachel: "You never caress my ear like that", Jason: "They're just not hairy enough love"

Next shameless self-promotion: October 30th, on BBC2's The Great British Food Revival

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Offal Club. Tale of the Unexpected

Offal Club

A short story by Ian M Pindar

Aspiring writer and friend of Offal Club (read: admirer from afar) Ian M Pindar has penned a short story in honour of the OC.  It details the early beginnings of a gentlemans dining club up to the present day.  Any similarity to dining clubs living or dead is entirely intentional.  Its all about supply.  And demand...

The first rule of Offal Club was never eat spleen again, again! The second rule: there is no part of an animal that is inedible except teeth, sinew and bones. The third rule, if in doubt; ask yourself the question, `would the Chinese eat it?’

Offal Club grew out of a Shares and Fine Wine Club, but after the disaster of investing in technologies and obscure mining stock that tanked, it was decided that shares were probably best managed by experts; and not six drunken blokes throwing darts at the Financial Times.  Bravado and the poor fare on offer in Manchester’s restaurants led to the desire to produce something diametrically different; and you could not get much more diametrically different than offal, the bits that even butchers and Bernard Matthews threw away, unless you lived in China!

The bravado, piss-taking and wine were always a constant; what was not was the menu; tripe stuffed with sheep’s brain; compote of pigs head with wild mushroom and jalapeno relish; Ox heart with black blood jus; Sheep’s eye in white wine and onion reduction; pancreas and piccalilli; bone marrow with scrambled eggs and deer brains; and everyone’s favourite - bollock bhuna.  Twelve years had now passed since the first official Offal Club night; lamb’s liver pate, followed by steak and kidney cobbler and chocolate tart for dessert. It seemed so tame now, like something you might get from a Harvester!

No one could remember who suggested it; the boundaries between reality and morality got blurred slightly by six bottles of Chablis and six bottles of Rioja, but what could be agreed was it was during the digestivos that the immoral proposal was fertilised, even if it did not start to gestate. Nothing is static and everything evolves or dies, it was basic evolutionary culinary science, or more colloquially, what goes around eventually comes around. It was suggested as a scientific experiment, which was not surprising from five doctors and a computer analyst. It was at a similar intoxicated juncture at the next meeting that gestation occurred, even if rudimentary features had not started to appear on the beast.

All gathered agreed it was a marvellous idea, although none really thought it was anything but drunken folly; except Martin. He had always harboured the inquisition to find out the answer; well the mind can wander after you have carried out over five thousand autopsies and the inside of one cadaver is pretty much like the next. Karl the GP was also inquisitive, but his mind had not wandered far from the marital problems he was having with his wife of fifteen years. By the third dining meeting it was an inevitability that the proposal would surface again.
`But if I procured the items in question, and cooked them, would that take away some of dilemma?’ Martin half suggested to auger opinion.
Marcus, Malcolm, Oliver and Steven snorted laughter at Martin, Karl just smiled.
`It’s fuckin’ mental Martin, as well as criminally insane.’
`But don’t you think it would be interesting to find out? What are the chances of getting caught?’
`I’m having no part of it,’ resounded Oliver, and Marcus and Steven echoed his sentiments.
`Ok, you bunch of girl guides, we could have pushed forwards the boundaries of epicurean and culinary scientific research at the same time, and this is the reason why society moves forwards so painfully slowly.’
`Who’s cooking next months?’ Enquired Steven when he noticed the time was nearly two and he had a golf match that was teeing off at ten in the morning.
`I’ll do it,’ offered Martin. `I’m going to do pig’s livers in an Americano sauce, I’ll think of something for a starter and let you know beforehand.’

It was agreed the pig’s liver in the Ameraco sauce, accompanied by green beans, and washed down with a heavy Cote du Rhone was a triumph, and questions turned to the sourcing of the livers.
`I have contact at Smithfield’s in London, who is more than glad to send any more unusual items up, as long as we pay him reasonably well and he bumps up his profit margins by whacking on a hefty postage and packaging fee.’
`How much?’
`The six livers cost me fifty pounds.’ They all agreed it was a little steep for liver, but the quality was fantastic.
`Who is this contact, should we not source more unusual cuts from him?’
`We could do, he is called Terannce Hall, Terannce is not spelt the same way, two n’s and only one r.’
`Why is spelt that way?’ Enquired Oliver.
`I don’t know, it must be a foreign deviation of Terrance, I suppose,’ offered Martin.
`What else could he get us, did he say?’
`Anything that comes into the market, he can get to us, for a price obviously. He did mention he had some lovely Vietnamese pot bellied pigs in last time I spoke to him.’
`Sounds lovely, we could make a terrine, or a fantastic pate, if you get them, I don’t mind cooking something up,’ Malcolm offered.
`I don’t mind doing it one more time, then I’ll give it a rest for a while, you all have kids and I have more time than you lot.’ Martin was met with protests from the Club Members, but he deflected them relatively easily, as they all knew that putting on a Club Night could be days of work. They all agreed he did not have to do it for at least nine months as recompense.

Indonesian ginger and spring onion pigs brain soup, followed by devilled oriental pig’s kidneys, it was the fine balance of offal meat and spice, and it was almost unanimous that it was probably the best offal they had ever had, maybe with the exception of sweetmeat Rogan Josh and bollock bhuna. The perfect matching of the wine for the courses had also met with much approval. The spiciness of the soup was complimented by the crisp mineral dryness of the 2006 Hugel Gewurztraminer Alsace and the vintage Chateau Potensac Medoc 1999 offered a level of acidity, tannins and pluminess to set the kidneys off faultlessly.
`The wine must have cost a fortune Marty?’ Suggested Marcus.
`Oh what doesn’t get drunk can go in my cellar.’ He smiled with a cursive wave of his arm, and Steven laughed at him, `that means it did cost a fortune then.’
`It’s only money chaps.’ He dismissed.
`How much?’ probed Oliver
`I got a case of the Gewurztraminer for about three hundred, and six bottles of the vintage Medoc was about the same.’
`Bloody hell Marty, that’s far too much,’ protested Marcus, and he was echoed by everyone except Karl.
`Don’t you agree Karl?’ Enquired Malcolm when he observed him not resounding their sentiments.
`Oh, you can’t take it with you, and when you have food as remarkable as this, you want exceptional wine to wash it down with.’

It was then Malcolm saw the almost imperceptible stealthy look Karl gave Martin, he darted a glance at Martin to try and ascertain what` the look’ was all about? As Martin took his gaze away from his swirling wine glass and directed it toward Karl, Malcolm knew they knew something the rest of them, or at least he, did not.
`What’s with the look?’ he interrogated Karl.
`What look?’ he tried to appear puzzled.
You know `the look’ you just gave Martin, I’ve known you for over twenty years Karl, I know that furtive almost courtship look when I see it.’
`Oh… it was just an almost subconscious look of gratitude for buying such lovely wine and cooking such great food.’
`No, no it wasn’t, I know you Karl; that was not a look of gratitude; that was a look of guilt, a guilty look?’
`Oh leave him alone Malcy, we’re all pissed.’
`Are you his girlfriend Martin?’ Oliver interjected, taking the piss.
`Now you are defending him, deflecting attention away from him, subconsciously anyway… you know what the secret is? There is a secret? Is it just me that is not in on it?’ Malcolm started to interrogate Martin and looked to the faces of the rest of the Club, this was Malcolm’s party trick, he was the Derren Brown of the group; he could detect lying from a hundred yards. He turned his attention back to Karl, he knew him better, he betrayed not only his illegality badly, but his emotions as well.
`What is it Karl? What is the clandestine secret you and Martin are keeping from the rest of us?’
`Yes share!’ Oliver Butted in, and Steven and Marcus backed him up.
`What are you keeping secret from us, hey?’
`I am not keeping anything a secret from you.’

Malcolm tilted his head and cogitated while keeping his stare on Karl, `Ok, now I know you are lying, four tell tale signs, one, your body language has closed up, your arms were on the arms of the chair and you moved them in, closed your body, classic sign of insecurity. Secondly, you found it hard to maintain eye contact, when before you had no problem, thirdly, your orbicularis oculi around both eyes contracted slightly, lastly, you always look upwards to the left when you lie, and that’s just what you did.’
Karl starred at Martin as the rest ganged up on him, and implored him to tell them something. Martin shook his head slightly to direct him, then added, `you’re bullying him Malcolm, leave him alone.’
`He’s a big boy, he can stick up for himself, what is it Karl, tell us?’ Marcus demanded. Karl looked to Martin for assistance once more.
Steven cut in, `for fuck sake, will you two tell us, so we can move on from the Spanish Inquisition?’
`There is nothing to tell,’ Martin tried to draw some closure.
`But there is, you have taken over from Karl, because you think he will give something away, something you don’t want us to know? Something that you are not willing to share easily, with four mates, some of whom went through medical school with you, and all the madness that entailed.’
Now they could all see that Martin was starting to become flustered, the capillaries in his face were starting to vasodilate and his pale skin was ruddying. Karl was fast following suit.
`Oli and Steven, you interrogate Karl, and Marcus we will work on Martin. Oliver and Steven went and sat on the arm of the chair next to him and poked him playfully and demand he tell them the truth. Malcolm straddled Martin on the dining room chair and Marcus towered over them as moral and physical support; all four were encouraged by the excessive consumption of alcohol.
`Get the fuck off Malcolm!’
`Not until you tell us the truth.’
Martin was immediately very agitated and tried hard to avoid eye contact.
`Tell us,’ commanded Marcus from above.
`Just tell us the fucking truth Martin, it has to be bad, look at your body language, this is not physical discomfort of homophobia, this is more, this emotional discomfort, tell us?’
Marcus disappeared towards the kitchen, while Malcolm raised the volume of questioning an octave every time, he demanded every time, `tell us the secret?’ Martin tried to wrestle him off, but Malcolm was bigger and stronger, and this agitated him further, a man not accustomed to subordinate roles. It was then the iced cooled water from wine bucket smacked him in the face, assaulted him, like being thrown into a cold bath against your will, and he wrestled more vigorously to make good his escape, while Malcolm shouted even louder.
`Tell us,’ Malcolm was shouting nine inches from his face, `get some more iced water Marcus, hurry up.’
Martin wrestled harder and Malcolm continued the barrage, the cold water dislodged what little composure he had left. And he let out a primeval, `Ahhhrr,’ while violently shacking his head from side to side like a dog climbing out of a cold sea, fixed his gaze on Malcolm and yelled,
`It was human, ok, human!’
Malcolm stepped back off Martin, while Marcus put his palm over his mouth in shock.
`Oh my God, Martin, what have you done, Oh my God!’
Oliver and Steven moved across, `What is it, what has he done?’
`Oh my God Martin, fucking hell Martin.’
`I’m joking, I’m just shitting with you.’
`But you’re not… are you?’ 

Saturday, 22 September 2012

The Pig: Liver pate; Rolled Spleen; Braised Head and Champ

Friday 21st September 2012

The Year of Living Dangerously / Return of the Spleen

Offal Club seems to have gone through somewhat of a transformation over the last year. We have always been a fairly low key, underground sort of club. A few friends getting together for a bit of grub, perhaps a culinary challenge, plenty of wine and finish of with some video games. Invites sent out last minute meaning only a few attendees. All in all quite close to our original thoughts of being the Offal version of Fight Club: "You don't talk about Offal Club!". When the blog started, it allowed us to document our recipes and favourite moments. Although it provided a little publicity, avoidance of pictures of ourselves and our surnames ensured anonymity. Things began to evolve as the blog drove us to ever greater culinary challenges. After all, how could we declare ourselves serious Offaliates if we didn't try everything: tripe, thymus, pancreas, testicles, head cheese, brain; they all  proved to be equally delicious.

But then, a year ago, came Spleengate. Better planning meant numbers had had swelled to hitherto unseen proportions. Our growing maturity had lead to post-offal video games being replaced by quality card games (such as Shithead and Arsehole) and, as numbers increased, metamorphosing into actual dinner party conversation (or at least a fine mix of piss-taking and offal innuendo). Extreme Offal was here to be enjoyed and we tucked into the Spleen. The silence was palpable. We desperately tried to water down the overpowering flavour with lashings of couscous with the growing realisation that we were not quite as hardcore as we had previously believed. Finally Jason, unable to contain himself any longer, put voice to what we were all thinking: "I don't think I can finish this....". The Spleen had defeated us. All, that is, except for Jock, who uttered the immortal line "Well I really like the spleen....the ironic thing is I hate couscous".

And then came the media. The BBC wished to film us and we would have to forego our anonymity. Their strict time deadlines meant the only potential chef for the evening was Simon C's wife Lisa. Being a women, of course, meant she was not allowed to sit down to enjoy the "all male dining experience" that the Beeb was hoping to film, so she was relegated to feeding herself, her children and the entire camera crew with various testicular delights in the kitchen. In recognition of her services to the Club, that were so clearly above and beyond any call of duty, we felt it was only fair to make her a member and invite her to the next outing. Sadly, a prior engagement meant she began her Offal Club membership, like so many others, with an Excuse. However the precedent had been set; we were now an "almost" all male dining experience. So when Amy Oliver came knocking asking if she could do a story for the Times, it seemed only fair to get her and photographer Fabio along to the next meeting, as honourary members.

So the stage was almost set for tonight's extravaganza, we just needed a menu. A friend of ours had been offered the offal of 6 home reared Gloucester Old Spot pigs and would pass this on to us. Jason declared he would make pate for the starter and Fergus Henderson's signature dish, Braised Pig's Head, for the main. But with memories of our defeat at Spleengate still painful in my mind and faith in my culinary expertise shattered, and having salivated over loving descriptions of Fergus's Rolled Pig's Spleen, I declared "make sure you get the Spleen". Jason tried to prevaricate, scarred as he was by our experience. "I'll cook it" I told him.

As Amy will no doubt wish to describe the evening in her article, I shall leave all further descriptions to her save one. Fergus once again proved his culinary genius. At the end of the Spleen course, apart from one notable exception, our plates were clean. Spleen is back on the menu. So, while Jason may be forever doomed to remain a lightweight, the rest of us have our self-respect.

Chefs: Jason, Simon, Howie

Venue: Jason's

Member's present: Jason, Simon, Howie, Dan, Jon, Mark, Jock, Joby, Amy, Fabio.

Pigs Liver Pate with Home-made Piccalilli

The pate came from Ray Smiths recipe via Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall via the Guardian:

with the addition of a fresh herb coating (rosemary, oregano flowers and parsley, courtesy of Cliffs extensive herb garden).  Served with Piccalilli from Jamie's Great Britain cookbook.

Pig's liver pate
And with home-made Piccalilli

Rolled Pig's Spleen

From Fergus Henderson's Nose to Tail Eating: A Kind of British Cooking.

The inspiration for this dish came from a fellow offal blogger who had tried it out and describes it so well that there is little further to add save our own piccies:

Flensing the Spleen
With Seasoning

A Little Sage...

...and some Smoky Bacon

Rolled and Ready to Cook

Is that a Swiss Roll?

Rolled Pig's Spleen with Red Onion and Gherkins
The Money Shot

A Shot of Bloody Mary

Vodka, Tomato juice, Worcester sauce, Tabasco sauce, Celery salt, Lemon juice, bartended by Howie

Braised Pig's Head

From Beyond Nose to Tail by Fergus Henderson and Justin Piers Gellatly.  Served with Irish Champ also from Jamie's Great Britain (although the two Irish members were adamant it was English Champ!).

A Close Shave

Yin and Yang

Treacle Tart

Also from Beyond Nose to Tail, prepared by Chef Howie.

Quote's of the Night: 

"We can't do 6 courses, I don't have enough plates!"
"I was not impressed when there was a pig's head on the ironing board"
"It's about fine dining, not a freak show"
"Remember, ladies don't spit."
"We are having a shot of Bloody Mary. Made from? Mary."
"My sister introduced me to clemato"
"Anything that is purple and has veins I tend to avoid as a foodstuff."
"It tastes like eating out Michael Howard"
"Howie: You should get Simon to cut it in half using his surgeon skills...Jason: To be honest its more of a DIY job than a surgical job, and his DIY skills are f**king wack."
"I draw the line at shaving its ears, it's not like it's on some hot piggie date."
"That kitchen was like Silence of the Pigs..."

Excuses of the Night:

"I'm just off to Portugal"

Where do we go from here?

Across the road to Jon's

The Last Word

Lets leave it to Fergus, via Amy...

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Dances with Camera Crew

Wednesday 16th May 2012

If there is one thing that characterises The Offal Club more than its love of animals, its our adherence to the rule book.  Surprising then that when the BBC came calling, the first rule of Offal Club went right out of the window.  Most of the Offal Club like to model themselves on Granada era Tony Wilson (apart from Simon who is aiming for pre-weave Elton John), so turning down our 15 minutes didn’t really seem like an option.  Having convened a (ir)regular Offal Club just the week before, we were faced with setting up an impromptu one at the last minute in a new venue (Simon C’s house) when BBC2’s “The Great Food Revival” came calling.  Scheduled to appear in late autumn as part of an Offal special, Simon C, Howie, Jon and Jason entertained Chef Matt Tebbutt and crew with testicles and brain.  Cooked in fact by Lisa C.  That right there breaks another Offal Club rule.  It will probably all come across a bit weird.

The Great British Food Revival website is here!

Members Present: Jason, Howie, Jon and Simon C

Excuses of the night: Simon F "I'm just going to a conference in go on without me" (approximate translation from actual unpublishable comments made when he realised he wasn't going to be around)

Next Offal Club: Jason's house, possibly to welcome a conquering Kazakh hero with 5 pigs heads

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Toad in the Hole with black pudding, Andouillette de Troye and pork kidneys in bacon

Friday, 11th May 2012 

The theme for tonight's Offal Club arose from Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's "The Meat Cookbook" and the concept that kidneys wrapped in bacon made an excellent "Toad". Having toyed with several possible ideas including Hole in the Heart (pan-fried ox heart topped with a horseradish foam-filled yorkie pud) or the even more pun-tastic Tongue in the Hole (which we leave to your imagination...), the recipe was confirmed when Jason's boss returned from France with 3 packets of Andouillette, otherwise known as Pig-colon sausage. Some black pudding, kidneys in bacon and lashings of onion gravy completed the dish. Our habit of sending invites out 2 weeks in advance continued to show dividends with another fine turn-out including 2 new offaliates, Paul and Joby. Indeed Joby not only brought his own home-made black pudding to compliment Simon C's home made focaccia but his performance with a camera has now earned him the title of Official Offal Photographer. Jason's Manchester tart provided a fitting end to another fine evening.


Chefs: Starter: Simon C, Joby; Main: Simon; Desert: Jason.

Venue: Simon's house.

Members: Simon, Jason, Howie, Simon C, Joby, Jon, Dan, Jock, Paul.

Starter: Joby's Black Pudding Crostini.

Home made Black pudding by Joby.  Home made Focaccia by Simon C.  Styling by man at C&A.

Main: Andouillette de Troye, Pork Kidneys in Bacon and Black Pudding Toad in the Hole with Celeriac and Carrot Horseradish Mash, Stir-fried Cabbage and Mustard and Onion Gravy.

The Andouillette was variously described as "fecal", and "delightful", with scores ranging from 2 to 8 out of 10.  Try it if you get the opportunity, but don't say we recommended it.

Pudding: Manchester Tart.

We used Marcus Waring's fine recipe found here:

Suggestions of what to do with all the spare dessicated coconut on a postcard please

Quotes of the night:
"This is Howie's get gout weekend"
"It's like sweaty foot"
"You've got to punch it down"
"Does anybody want any focaccia"
"I like tripe sausages. The ironic thing is I hate Yorkshire pudding"
"The tripes up there with the spleen"
"A tripe / spleen fricasee would be the holy grail for me"
"Imagine that it's not as good as bollocks"
"Offal club has boundaries, we're not animals you know"

Last word: Jon "Manchester tart...that's not made from rendered prostitutes is it?"

Next time: BBC2

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Black pudding samosas, lamb kidney bhuna, tarka dhal, cachumber salad and chapatti, cardamom rice pudding with stewed mango

Festoffal 2012.

A new year and new resolutions. Here at offal club we have tried to continually push the offal envelope, as our numerous posts attest. However, having painted ourselves into an offal corner with recent experiments with pig face and cow spleen, time was right for a back to basics approach...simple offal cooked very well. This time around an Indian theme, which oddly offal club have to date not embraced. It did at least show us that that there are virtually no puns that tie together indian food and kidneys, and that two years is adequate time to forget the last time offal club poisoned you.

Chefs: Jason and Howie.

Venue: Jason's house.

Members present: Jason, Howie, Simon, Jon, Jock, Dan and Mark

Starter: Black pudding samosa.

Samosa mix made from bury black pudding (x2), birdseye chilly (green, 1), fresh chopped coriander and one potato cut into small cubes and blanched in boiling water (5 minutes). Ready made samosa pastry from Hulme Asda strangely. Brush with melted Ghee and bake in oven at 180 degrees for 20 minutes. Served with Mango Chutney

Main: Lamb kidney bhuna, tarka dhal, cachumber salad and chapatti.

Bhuna prepared exactly as described here on twice the scale with half the onions, tasted phenomenal.

Remaining dishes all directly from Pat Chapmans Curry Bible (Hodder and Staughton 1997).

Tarka Dhal: 500g red lentils soaked for 3 hours then boiled for 30 minutes. Prepare the tarka by slow frying 2 onions in ghee for 20 minutes, then add 2 tsp cumin seeds, 1 tsp turmeric, 6 chopped garlic cloves, 3 tbsp curry powder, 3 tsp garam masala and salt and stir fry for a further 5 minutes. Combine with the drained lentils.

Cachumber salad: 1 red onion, 2 green chillies, 1/2 green bell pepper, 2 tomatoes all finely sliced. Add 1 tsp fennel seeds, 1 tbsp chopped coriander, 1 tbsp oil, 1 tbsp vinegar and mix

Chapatti's: Add warm water to 500g wholemeal flour and need to a dough. Rest for 10 minutes then split into 8. Roll out thinly and dry fry in a large hot non-stick frying pan.

Dessert: Cardamom rice pudding, stewed mango.

Rice pudding amply described here...
Stew the chopped mango pieces with sugar and a small amount of water for 20 minutes. Serve

Quotes of the night: "I think my mouth is bleeding"
"I've made it in to the blog"
"You can't do raving on offal" (although apparently Howie disagrees)

Excuses of the night: None, Mark turned up.

Next venue: Offal-off at Jons.

The final word: Jocks..."I can't shit, but other than that all is good. Top tucker"