Nose to tail eating is making a resurgence, but while 5-star chefs may be embracing the whole hog, the rest of us are, well, less than enthusiastic.
Unless you’re a vegetarian, there’s good reason to eat the whole animal, not just the expensive muscle meats.
Firstly, other parts of the animal, particularly the offal, are more nutritious than the muscle meats. The liver, in particular, is considered a ‘superfood’, possibly one of nature’s most potent superfoods.
Too much muscle meat in the diet can elevate homocysteine, leading to chronic illness. However, other animal parts contain glycine, which helps balance out the homocysteine.
Secondly, eating nose to tail reduces waste and is better for the environment than just eating the muscle meat. If we’re going to eat an animal, we should honour it by not wasting any part of it – animal rearing consumes too many resources for any part to go to waste.
Finally, all those nose to tail bits considered ‘gross’ are cheap to buy. Forget goji berries and raw cacao, there’s a nutritional powerhouse sitting right there in your supermarket fridge for just a dollar or two per kilo.
It might take some time to acquire a taste for offal. If you’re a parent, then you know that you need to feed your kids the same food at least 20 times before they acquire a taste for it – well, the same goes for us as adults. You know it’s important to get your child to eat their broccoli – if you’re a meat eater, introducing offal may also be beneficial.
I am lucky: I grew up eating nose to tail. I loved black pudding on toast for breakfast in the morning as a kid. My mum served up steak and kidney pie, unknowingly, the night we dissected kidneys in science class – ‘look, mum, there’s the medulla’ – it didn’t bother me. We ate lambs fry and bacon and pigs trotters, covered in gel, straight from the pressure cooker, and even tripe (which I loved as a kid, but can’t stomach at all now as an adult).
You may be concerned about ingesting toxins from eating liver. The liver essentially filters toxins that are then excreted via the urinary tract, colon, lungs, skin etc. If an animal (or human) is exposed to more toxins than the liver can process, then it will store those toxins in the body…in fat cells, connective tissue, muscle cells as well as the liver. In other words, if you want to avoid liver because of toxins, you may as well avoid meat altogether. Or you could reduce toxin exposure by eating grass-fed animals, preferably organic.
There’s no need to go overboard eating offal. Vegetables should be first and foremost of a meal. Remember, there is only one liver and lots of muscle meat, connective tissue, skin and bones – in a “natural” setting, you wouldn’t eat just liver, so there’s no need to eat it all the time.
Here are five easy ways to start eating nose to tail.
Let’s start with an easy one: gelatine – who doesn’t like jelly?!
Commercial gelatine is made from the processing of animal connective tissue and bones to extract collagen.
Aside from being a good source of collagen, gelatine contains glycine, that balances out the methionine found in muscle meats and it assists the liver in its detoxification job. Gelatine supports nail, hair and skin growth (thanks to all that collagen), is good for your joints, can improve sleep, can help improve digestion. Gelatine-rich bone broths are a key component of the GAPS diet, in order to help heal the gut.
To get more gelatine in your diet, slow cook bones and connective tissue in stews, make bone broth or make your own jelly!
Jelly is super easy to make: use 3 teaspoons of gelatine to set 500mls of liquid. Any liquid should set although some fruits such as pawpaw, pineapple, figs and kiwifruit need to be cooked first before they can be set in gelatine. Don’t boil the gelatine either, as this will prevent it from setting too.
Have runny homemade yoghurt (or even store bought yoghurt)? Add gelatine. It’s not cheating, it’s enhancing its nutritional value.
You can even add gelatine to warm drinks. I often drink a variation of this sleepy milk recipe before bedtime. It’s delicious and does the trick. I use plain old gelatine from the supermarket, but you can purchase the brand recommended for the recipe from your local health food store.
2. Bone Broth
Bone broth, or stock as we call here, is simple to make and versatile to eat. Add it to soups, stews, casseroles and sauces or drink as is like a cup of tea.
Better than Bonox any day.
If you make bone broth from leftover roast bones and vegetable scraps, it’s almost free. To save time and effort, cook it in the slow cooker. Bone broth is super cheap and easy way to benefit from all the minerals and other nutrients in animal bones.
Check out this post for how to make bone broth in the slow cooker.
3. Offal Smuggling
You’re familiar with veggie smuggling – adding/hiding grated vegetables to everyday dishes to trick the kids to eat more vegetables.
Offal smuggling is the same thing. You can add small amounts of ground liver to lasagne, bolognese, meatloaf, stews, savoury mince, chilli mince, to name a few. Double the nutritional benefits by smuggling offal and vegetables into these same dishes.
To make this process easier, grind up some liver and freeze it in ice cube trays before storing in a zip-lock bag. Then simply add a cube or 4 to your dish while cooking.
If the idea of a liver, lightly fried in butter, served with a side of fava beans and a nice Chianti doesn’t float your boat, pate might be a viable alternative.
Pate is made from ground liver and fat and can be served with vegetable crudités and crackers as a dip, an entree with crusty bread or as a snack on toast. You can make it yourself or you can save yourself some time and buy good pate from the supermarket.
It is by far the most delicious way to eat liver.
5. Rendered fat
Do you cut all the fat off your meat before cooking it? Or drain the fat from your roast? This fat and dripping can be rendered down and used as cooking fat.
Animal fat has a high smoke point, which makes it ideal for frying. And it adds exceptional flavour to a cooked dish. While there’s the suggestion now that animal fat isn’t as unhealthy as was originally made out, it’s still controversial, so a little bit goes a long way.
If you render your own fat from scraps that you would otherwise throw away, then you end up with cooking fat that’s practically free. Or you may be able to pick up fat-free from your butcher to render.
If the thought of eating animal fat just doesn’t sit well with you, don’t throw it away, turn it into soap! Soap made from real fats retains the natural glycerine, making it gentle on the skin.
Eating nose to tail, even if it grosses you out, is worth giving a go. Start off slow and just smuggle a tiny bit into meals and build up your taste for it. It will improve your health, save you money and avoid waste.
If you’re interested in nose to tail cooking, check out these two seminal cookbooks:
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