I’m on a mission over the next two years to acclimatise Chris to offal. It’s an ongoing project and requires a complete re-education of his taste buds. If I ever succeed I’ll write an entire book on the subject of converting an offal-hater to an offal-appreciator. He doesn’t like anything about offal, neither the flavour nor the texture. To be fair, I’m not a lover of offal either, other than seared liver. The difference is that I am quite driven to find ways to eat it because of its value, both nutritionally and financially, and I’m probably more prepared (and able – it’s difficult to eat something if it is making you retch) to force my way through a plateful of something I don’t really like.
I’ve so far managed to get Chris to eat a little pan-fried liver, although he didn’t enjoy it, and I’ve also eaten slow-roasted stuffed lamb’s heart. I didn’t mind the heart, although it wasn’t the nicest, but I couldn’t get Chris to eat it. It looked far too much like a heart.
Steak and kidney casserole or pie-filling is a traditional dish in the UK. I have memories of being given it as a child and picking out the pieces of kidney, leaving them to one side. I couldn’t cope with the rubbery chunks of non-meat. However, there were some lamb’s kidneys being sold at a reduced price a month or two ago which went into my freezer, so when I found some reduced casseroling steak the other weekend I decided it was time to give steak and kidney a try.
The recipe below was originally for 750g of steak and kidney mix (all cut into inch cube pieces) and had no mushrooms. The version I present here is for those who aren’t certain about offal. It is designed to give you some of the rich flavour of kidney without the flavour being too overpowering and hiding the texture of it so that you don’t have to overcome both texture and flavour in one go. If you are already consumers of kidney or offal, leave out the mushrooms, change the steak and kidney quantities to a single 750g blend of the two meats and leave the kidney in larger chunks.
Warning: if you are doing this the way I recommend below, for the offal beginner, you’ll need lots of spare time to chop the mushrooms and kidneys!
450g casseroling steak, cubed
2 lamb’s kidneys
2 small onions, chopped
3 sprigs of parsley, roughly torn
10-12 medium-sized closed cup mushrooms
1 medium carrot, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 cloves garlic, crushed
280ml tomato passata
125ml red wine
- Start by preparing the meat and vegetables, in particular the kidney and mushroom. Of these last two ingredients, start with the mushrooms. Cut these into very fine pieces, approximately 2-3mm across. I do this by removing the stalks (which I finely chop) then first slicing the mushroom into 2-3mm-wide slices one way and then turning by 90 degrees and slicing into similar width slices the other way. If the mushroom was particularly “deep” to the chopping board I may cut the longer “strips” in half, but otherwise I leave it at this. You should finish with a big mound of tiny mushroom pieces.
- Next prepare the kidney. Start by rinsing the kidney then placing it on the chopping board with the opening facing down and slice through it along the length of the back. The kidney should then fan out into two halves on your chopping board, like a butterfly, revealing white “fingers” of tubing fanning out into the kidney meat from the central entry point. This white material is very tough so carefully cut the kidney meat away from this, teasing the meat away from the white threads until they can be removed and discarded. Next chop up the kidney meat into tiny pieces, each 2-3 mm across. If in doubt, go for extra small pieces – I did actually give the final pile of kidney meat an extra chop with the knife as if I was trying to finely chop a pile of herbs. The idea is that the mushroom and kidney pieces should, in texture, be indistinguishable.
- If using the oven (I used a slow cooker), preheat the oven to 180C.
- Heat some oil in a pan and brown the steak and kidney meat in small batches, transferring each batch to the casserole dish as it is done. I add the kidney meat, with its blood, to the final batch of steak meat. This meat-browning stage is optional but I find it helps the meat to retain some moisture provided the oil is really hot and you sear the meat in small batches, rather than putting it all in the pan and allowing it to steam cook slowly.
- Next cook the onions over a medium heat until tender, if necessary topping up the oil in the pan a little. And then add to the meat in the casserole dish.
- Add the parsley and half to two-thirds of the mushrooms to the casserole dish and mix thoroughly.
- Pour the passata over the top of the meat mix, then pour over the wine and water (if using a slow cooker, use just-boiled water to ensure you have put some hot liquid in) and finally sprinkle the crushed garlic, remaining mushroom and carrot pieces over the top. Do not stir these all in. The passata will act like a cap on the meat, preventing any bits at the top drying out and the carrot will be steamed through the passata without going completely mushy.
- If cooking in the oven, cover with foil before adding the lid (to prevent any liquid escaping) and cook in the oven for 2 hours, removing the foil for the last 10-15 minutes to thicken up the sauce. If using a slow cooker, just put the lid on and then cook on high for 2 hours and then on low for 4 hours (or on low for 6-8 hours), removing the lid and turning up to high about an hour before eating to evaporate slightly.
- When done, stir thoroughly.