The Fifth Quarter - an Offal Cookbook

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 01 March, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 01 March, 2009, 12:00am

The Fifth Quarter - an Offal Cookbook
By Anissa Helou

Not every culture appreciates offal; in some countries, it's the subject of bad jokes (awful offal). It's often associated with poverty, looked down upon as something eaten by those who can't afford steaks, chops and other 'real' meat. Those of us who like it seek it out, preferring the strong flavours and unusual textures to blander, more predictable cuts.

Anissa Helou, known more for books such as Lebanese Cuisine, Mediterranean Street Food and Modern Mezze, tackles the subject of The Fifth Quarter with enthusiasm. It's not for the squeamish: the recipes use brain, testicle, lung, spleen, heart, feet and ear, along with more acceptable innards, such as liver, kidney and tongue. As is expected from Helou, many of the recipes are Middle Eastern or Mediterranean in origin, and include Moroccan brain salad, poached brain with fleur de sel, Turkish tripe soup and Sardinian intestine brochettes. But she also gives recipes from other countries: Scottish haggis; Chinese red-cooked brain and pig's lung and almond soup; Indonesian brains in coconut cream; and English steak and kidney pudding. Carnivores who do find some of the recipes disgusting might well ask themselves why they find foie gras acceptable but turn their noses up at braised calf's liver or pig's liver kebabs.