What is offal, what parts of an animal is it made from and what recipes are there?

NOSE-to-tail food – or dishes that use up all parts of the animal – isn’t for everyone, though it may be more common than you realise.

But while detractors may say these variety of meats are just ‘offal’, others think they’re a more ethical way to eat meat. So what actually is it?

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Haggis is a traditional Scottish dish made from a sheep’s stomach.Credit: Getty

What is offal?

Offal refers to the entrails and internal organs of animals.

The term doesn’t refer to a specific part, or group of organs, but the innards as a whole, this excludes bone and muscle.

What parts of an animal is it made from?

Offal is any part of the innards of an animal.

Included in this is the blood, intestines, hooves, eyes, testicles, brain, trotters, heart, and horn.

You may be surprised to learn that it’s used in more foods than you might think.

Rennet – which comes from the stomach of a cow or sheep – is used in some cheeses.

Then there’s the traditional British steak-and-kidney-pie as well as Pâté, which contains liver.

Oxtail, which is often cooked in stews, is also classed as offal.

In 2019, then-Environment Secretary Michael Gove urged Brits to eat more offal to crack down on waste.

What recipes are there?

Perhaps the best known dishes that feature offal are haggis and black pudding.

Haggis is a traditional Scottish dish which is made from a sheep’s stomach which is stuffed with liver, lungs and heart, in addition to other ingredients.

You can expect to find it at Burns’ Night celebrations, in addition to other traditional dishes.

It may be served alongside neeps and tatties, which are mashed turnips or swedes and mashed potatoes respectively.

Black pudding is made from blood, usually from a pig.

Both widely available in the UK.

Black pudding recipe

Black pudding contains onions, oatmeal and pork fat and is often found in a fry-up.

It takes approximately 20 minutes to prepare and 20 minutes to cook.

To make it, you’ll need about two litres of pig’s blood, around 500g of diced back fat, 250g onions, two heaped tablespoons of oatmeal, 500ml of double cream and seasoning to taste.

The oatmeal is soaked in water overnight, and you’ll need some natural casing to fill to make the pudding.

The method is fairly simple: sieve the blood to remove any clots, then add the fat – sweated – and fried onions to the mix.

Stir in the remaining ingredients, and when it’s well mixed, use a funnel to fill the casing.

Take care not to overfill them as they will expand when they cook.

Tie off one end of the casing to leave a tail.

When all of them are filled, bring a saucepan filled two thirds of the way with salted water to boil.

It should need around 20 minutes to cook.

To check whether it’s done, prick it with a needle and if brown liquid comes out it’s ready to eat.

Haggis recipe

For this traditional Scottish staple, you’ll need the ingredients and a bit of patience.

As well as the offal itself, you’ll need 225g of oatmeal, two onions and seasoning to taste.

For the casing, make sure your stomach is washed and cleaned, scalded and then turned inside out and soaked overnight in cold salted water.

Wash all your offal you’re using to fill your haggis and place it and any meat into a pan of cold water and boil for around two hours.

When it’s cooked, strain it and set it aside, but make sure you keep the stock for later.

Then mince the mixture and add in the chopped onions and oatmeal, and season to taste.

Next add the stock from earlier to keep it crumbly and moist.

Spoon the stock into your casing so it’s just over half full, use firm thread to stitch it together and then prick it.

It’s then time to bring a pan to the boil and cook the haggis for around three hours, ensuring it’s always covered with water.

When it’s ready, cut it open, spoon out the filling and get stuck in.

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