The Fifth Quarter
Offal – the dirty word. It wasn’t so long ago that “the fifth quarter” formed a large part of our parents and grandparents diet. Today we see ourselves as being above such frugal eating but there can be no denying that these cuts bring a depth of flavour that is often missing from modern home cooking. My Granddad speaks with great fondness of the “perpetual stew” – a simmering pot that his mother kept above the fire with any cut of meat or vegetable thrown in whenever available. In fairness, he also speaks in horror of the “liver and lights” (liver and lungs) which he was fed as a young jockey on the Curragh. Now, we have almost forgotten these flavourful and inexpensive cuts and what a pity that is. Liver and kidneys still appear to have a cult following but heart has almost vanished from the butchers counter altogether. Even the magical elixir of oxtail soup is rarely made anymore. Being so unpopular, these cuts offer incredible value and are the perfect way to add mountains of flavour for very little money – forget the stock cube, chuck in a couple of chunks of oxtail instead!
Although a vanishing breed, there are still a number of craft butchers where offal is readily available. Nolan’s in Kilcullen have their own abattoir and so fresh offal is guaranteed but most butchers will be happy to order it in for you. A quick wash is all that’s needed for liver while hearts are easily cleaned by cutting in half first and running under cold water to remove any dried blood. This particular recipe uses only these forgotten cuts but I also like to make a standard ragu, adding a few pieces of offal for flavour – if you want to try that first so as not to scare anyone away, by all means do!
4 tbsp Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
1 Onion (finely chopped)
1 Carrot (finely chopped)
1 stick of Celery (finely chopped)
1 Ox Tail (bone in, chopped)
2 Lamb Hearts (cut into quarters and washed of any dried blood)
150g Lambs Liver (cubed)
glass of Red Wine (Chianti is preferable)
1.4Kg of Tomato Passata
1 Bay Leaf
1 tsp Dried Oregano
Sea Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper
Tagliatelle or Penne Pasta to serve
1. Heat the oil over a medium heat and add the onion, carrot and celery. Season well and cook for 10-15 minutes until soft but not coloured.
2. Add the tail pieces and brown on all sides before adding the quartered hearts and liver. Cook for 5 minutes before adding the wine and continue to cook for 5 minutes until the alcohol has evaporated.
3. Add the passata, bay leaf and oregano. Season well, bring to the boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 4 hours, removing the lid for the last hour to thicken the sauce. (add some hot water if the sauce looks too dry)
4. Remove the meat from the pan with a slotted spoon or tongs and rip the meat apart and off the bone with two forks. Discard the bones. Add the meat back to the sauce and stir well. Check for seasoning and serve with penne or tagliatelle.