Every now and then I find myself in a rather disgusting food market where I find beauty amongst the horror. A few years ago, it was in Karachi where I couldn’t believe the number of flies swarming inside a tiny fish stall but they looked beautiful against the stone counter and the fish. And again the other day, there was beauty amidst the filth at an offal stall in Sayida Zeynab in Cairo, where I noticed a piece of honeycomb tripe hanging over a red tub with flies feeding on it. Naturally, there was nothing appetising about the scene but the pattern of the pale tripe with the black flies dotted over it was just as beautiful as it was repulsive, so, I took a picture, which I cropped further to add to my edible abstractions series!
On 8 May I will be teaming up with Stevie Parle at the Dock Kitchen for a lamb nose to tail dinner. The evening will start with the acceptable face of offal: a welcome drink served with delicious chicken wings marinated in Aleppo pepper, allspice, Lebanese 7-spice mixture and cinnamon, lemon juice and olive oil and roasted in the restaurant’s tandur oven. For starters, we will offer a mini offal mezze: poached lamb’s tongues stuffed with pistachios and served on a bed of lemony mixed leaves and herbs (I learned the recipe at one of Aleppo’s best restaurants, Zmorod); lamb’s kidney baked inside a potato (I found the recipe in Ambrose Heath‘s Meat); and Jerusalem Mix bruschetta (Sami Tamimi gave me the recipe when I was writing Mediterranean Street Food, initially a sandwich, I have smartened it up into a bruschetta for the dinner).
Well, the baby lamb and stuffed tripe of a few weeks back were a trial run for last night’s dinner which I cooked for four chefs, an eminent food writer and a restaurant owner. Except that this time, the beautiful baby was a goat, all tender and pink like a baby should be with the sweetest and teeniest testicles I have ever seen.
So, you saw what the tripe looked like when I got it back from the butchers. It wasn’t pretty and it smelled bad! As a result, it took forever to clean. I rinsed it in what seemed like a hundred changes of cold water and every time I changed the water, I had to hold my breath. As the dirty water poured into the sink, the smell became more intense. But the stink eventually subsided and the tripe started to whiten and look clean — I also stripped the strips of fat and muck off and scraped the dirty fuzz. And in a final push to get rid of the smell, I added a little Ecover dishwahsing soap to the water and washed the tripe as if it were a piece of cloth. The interesting thing was that one stomach cleaned really well while the other didn’t. It didn’t really matter. One was enough.