A little offal is a nutritious choice
Food as medicine column with Lynda McFarland
Last week I was writing about choosing quality over quantity when it comes to meat, and a little offal once or twice a week fits well in to this way of eating!
A lot of cultures around the world favour organ meats over muscle meats as they are much more nutritious, in fact they are amongst the most nutrient dense foods we can eat.
Most of us over the age of 40 will remember a time from our childhood when a piece of dry, over-cooked liver graced our dinner plates on a weekly basis. Our mothers knew what was best for us, just maybe not the tastiest way to cook it!
It is interesting that in January 2020, in response to Veganuary (a movement to encourage veganism for the month) a group of doctors in the UK set up Organuary to promote the benefits of organ meats to our health and to the environment in terms of reducing food waste.
The report they issued went on to state that a portion of liver can give you a week's worth of vitamins A and B12, these are vital nutrients for immune, nerve and cognitive health. Liver is also rich in zinc which is necessary for hormonal health and reproduction and iron for red blood cell production.
Other readily available organ meats include heart (rich in B vits and Co-q-10), kidneys (B vits and selenium) and oxtail, rich in collagen. Because they are not hugely popular in this country, they are much cheaper than muscle meats, so they are a good option for people who might want to eat organic, non-GM fed meats but who are concerned about the cost or have a large family to feed. I cooked organic, diced heart in a stew recently and Eddie said he would not have been able to tell it wasn't standard diced beef.
According to the Organuary report, in 1974 the average person was consuming 50g of organ meats per week but in 2014 this had dropped to 5g per week and I would expect it is even less in 2023.
This has lead to increased food wastage, if we were to eat the whole animal, meat would go much further. We get large organic whole chickens in to the shop each week which come with the liver and the neck, and even though they are a good bit more expensive than the standard supermarket chicken, I find that between the roast dinner on a Sunday, the leftover meat for sandwiches and maybe a curry the next day, the pate from the liver and the stock from the neck and the bones which I use in soups and stews and to cook rice and pasta for the rest of the week we are using every morsel.
There is no waste, even the bones that come out of the slow cooker after straining off the stock go to the dog and cats. It justifies the cost, and we are all well nourished! It is interesting that often the offal, the best parts, are given to our pets.
Organ meats and bones are essential for their health, and I think, we'll find, for ours too! There is so much talk these days about reducing livestock and going vegan but animals are an essential part of our eco system and are vital for soil fertility. It is intensive farming that is the problem, it has created a disconnect between the farmer, the animal and the consumer.
Organic Chicken Liver & Chestnut Mushroom Pate
1 or more organic chicken livers
2-3 cloves garlic chopped
Handful chestnut mushrooms, sliced
Good pinch dried tarragon
Sea-salt & black pepper
Butter, for blending & to seal the pate.
1. Melt the butter on a hot frying pan, add in the liver (s), garlic, mushrooms, tarragon and seasoning
and cook for a few minutes until mushrooms are soft and liver is browned.
2. Transfer to a blender with a good chunk of butter and process until smooth.
3. Scrape out in to a nice small serving bowl.
4. Clarify another chunk of butter by heating gently to separate the milk and fat, hold back the milky part and pour the clarified butter
over the pate, allow to cool and seal the pate. Sealed with the fat, this will keep for 7 days in the
fridge. Enjoy with some nice sourdough toast and apple chutney.
Lynda McFarland is a local nutritional therapist, cheft and co-owner of Lowe. & Co Organic Grocery on O'Connell Street, Athlone along with her partner Eddie Lowe. Lowe & Co. opened in 2016 to provide nourishing chemical free food that Lynda's nutrition clients were finding it difficult to source locally, such as sourdough breads and other fermented foods, organic vegetables, meat and dairy. Lynda manages the shop and Eddie manages their small-holding where they grow vegetables and keep chickens and pigs, and hopefully this year, bees for honey. Lowe & Co. is open Thursday to Saturday from 9.30am to 5.30pm.