This is a recipe from Fergus Henderson’s book ‘Nose To Tail Eating’, and is something I have wanted to try for quite some time, but I’ve had a lot of trouble getting hold of pig’s spleens. Finally, after waiting about 2 months, a butcher managed to get me some. I have never seen a spleen before, so I was a bit surprised at how long they are, the biggest one was over 45cm.
They had a layer of fat on one side which I cut off, you can see in the photo above where the fat was attached down the middle of the spleen. With the spleen laid flat, it was easy to place several sage leaves along it, then a couple of slices of smokey bacon with the rind removed were laid lengthwise on top. It was then easy to roll it all up and push through a skewer to hold it in the roll.
The spleens were then placed in a casserole dish, covered with chicken stock and into a medium oven for 90 minutes. They were then left to cool in the stock before slicing and serving cold.
Anyone who likes liver will enjoy these as the taste is similar but not as strong. They are probably more like chicken than lamb liver, with maybe just a hint of pork flavour. I would have expected the bacon to overpower the spleens, but it didn’t. I think that is the genius of Fergus, he gets a fantastic balance of flavours. The amazing thing about the spleens is their texture, so soft and creamy, just like a really good pate.
Here’s a recipe from Fergus Henderson’s fantastic book ‘NoseTo Tail Eating’. I think I have only eaten heart once before and I wasn’t overly impressed, it was tough and not particularly tasty. But I trusted Fergus not to write about it unless it was good, so I gave it another shot.
The hearts as I bought them had been trimmed of veins and sinews at the top, but I trimmed off some of the fat you can see in the photo.
The stuffing consisted of 2 onions and 2 cloves of garlic sliced and cooked gently in butter until soft, but not browned. Then I added a large glass of red wine and let this reduce by half. White bread (I used 3 slices) cut into cubes was then added along with salt and pepper.
This was cooked gently for 15 minutes, and then left to cool before several sage leaves were chopped and added.
The hearts were then stuffed to the top and a couple of slices of bacon were tied in place to act as a lid.
My 3 hearts were placed in a casserole dish (with a large potato to keep the hearts upright), and chicken stock was added, not quite covering the hearts. They were cooked in a medium oven for almost 3 hours, then the hearts were removed and kept warm while I reduced the juice from the casserole dish to make a sauce.
The recipe called for this to be served with mashed swede but I forgot and bought parsnip, so I used that instead. The flavour in this dish is great, the heart was tender, with a very fine texture and I thought a slight taste of liver. The stuffing had a fairly strong flavour, but each heart only held a small amount, so it didn’t overpower the other flavours. The taste of bacon complemented everything nicely. And the sauce was strong and delicious, it looks oily on the plate, but didn’t taste it, the only complaint about the sauce was there wasn’t enough of it. Even the potato I used as packing was delicious, picking up the bacon flavour. This was an awesome dish, thanks Fergus.
Tonight I used the left over 250 gms of uncooked crocodile meat from yesterday’s BBQ to make a casserole. In a hurry (it was late and I was getting hungry) I sliced a couple of small potatoes and an onion and put them in the casserole dish. I then added a clove of garlic, a teaspoon of crushed ginger, some ground cummin seeds (1/4 teaspoon) and a similar quantity of shrimp sauce (very shrimpy, very salty). I laid the crocodile meat pieces on top, and then added water (out of stock) to half cover the meat. I cooked this in the oven for about an hour at 180°c and then another 20 minutes or so with the lid off. And the result? Crikey this crocodile is good. The crocodile, which was rubbery yesterday, was melt in your mouth tender, and the delicate taste of the meat was enhanced rather than overpowered by the small amount of seasoning that I used. A much better result than yesterdays BBQ, a meal I will happily cook again if I can get more crocodile.
Here is another cut of meat that I had never heard of until recently. Like Osso Bucco, which is also new to me, beef cheeks are now a regular on my menu. When I first heard of them (on Masterchef) I asked at several butchers and I couldn’t get them. Apparently they are mostly exported from Australia. I finally found them at a local Woolworths supermarket.
With most of my cooking I tend to go for a simple approach, and don’t use a lot of herbs, spices or anything else that masks the flavour of the main ingredient. There are many fancy recipes available on the internet for beef cheeks, but I simply slow cook them in a casserole with a few veges like carrots, celery, onion and a clove or two of garlic, then serve them with mashed potato. The cheeks I buy are trimmed and skinned, but still have a lot of the connective tissue on them. I don’t remove any of it! After a couple of hours cooking at a low heat, the cheeks are wonderfully tender, with a smooth, sticky almost jelly like texture from the collagen in them. I guess some people might find the gooeyness of them unpleasant, but I love it. And for flavour, to me they are the best of beef for casserole or braising (or at least equal to Osso Bucco).
I would really recommend if you haven’t eaten them to hunt some down and try them.