You can be so cruel. I was worried for this one.
Kidney has been my bête noire for quite some years.
Fifteen years ago, I made a solemn vow never to knowingly eat it ever again. Ever.
When I was twelve I stayed over at a friend’s house. For dinner, his mother (an excellent cook) pulled a stunning looking pie from the oven. The golden suet pastry glistened and the gravy inside was rich and dark.
It looked great.
One mouthful in was enough to put me off kidney forever. The strong uric smell. The faint ammonia tang. I gipped uncontrollably – not ideal behaviour for a house guest - and decided that some things were not meant to be consumed.
Kidney rapidly moved into second place on the list (tinned tuna still resides proudly and unwaveringly at the list’s summit).
I knew that it was a grim inevitability that this particular piece of offal would grace N3T at some point. I didn’t expect it to be so early on but thanks to a request from Tiramisu, here it is. In week four of the project.
‘Would you like me to take the fat off for you?’ asked the butcher. Each dark brown conker-like organ was surrounded by a dense covering of cream fat.
‘No thanks,’ I replied, wanting to experience the entire process and also hoping to acquire a large quantity of dripping, perfect for roasting potatoes.
By the time I got them home, I’d formulated a dish in my head: kidneys fried in their own fat and served with mustard mash, wilted greens, glazed shallots, slow roasted lamb breast and parsley and mint sauce. A red wine, lamb and rosemary jus would hopefully mask the flavour of the centre-piece enough to repress the gag reflex.
The lamb breast was there to ensure a decent meal even if the kidney proved to be totally inedible. A substitute already in play.
After the kidneys had been peeled (peeled!) I cut them in half bracing myself for the smell of men’s nightclub toilet at one am…
…but it wasn’t to be. Cue surprise one.
The niff was gentle, not unpleasant. Very faintly uric, of course, but no where near as pungent as I was expecting.
The centre of each was cut out and they were soaked in a water/vinegar bath (3:1) for about fifteen minutes (to neutralise the alkalinity) before being dried. For the cooking, they were seasoned with salt and pepper and fried over a high heat in some of the rendered suet fat.
The lamb breast was braised then slow roasted before being fried in olive oil just before serving (more on this wonderful cut next week) and the whole lot piled onto a plate in a faintly ordered fashion with the potatoes, onion, greens and sauces.
Cue surprise two: the kidney was good.
Let’s not get carried away, however. In this sense ‘good’ means ‘didn’t make me dry heave into a napkin until my stomach muscles ached.’
But it was perfectly edible. Tasty even. The richness of the sauce proved sufficient in masking the flavour I was so scared of and although half a kidney was more than enough and I won’t be making any efforts to cook them again, I was pleasantly surprised.
As were my guinea pigs. This week due to location it was my younger brother and his girlfriend. Both cleared their plates. Bruv even went back for more. A good sign indeed.
So, another success for N3T, albeit a partial one. But at 50p each (the same price as the hearts) you can’t really complain.
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[Note on the photos - no DSLR this week so had to wrestle with a compact. More difficult than I remembered.]