Fergus has often commented on how many chefs he has come across who, like him, have mothers who come from Lancashire. Fertile culinary ground! As a child Fergus’s mother Elizabeth would buy squares of tripe doused in vinegar and white pepper in Bolton market and chew them on the way home; with this early indoctrination tripe and onions made a frequent appearance at the dinner table. But for Fergus, it was the tripe buns that he ate in Florence as a student which truly started his ardent love affair. Braised in stock and tomatoes, then served in a crusty bun, with spoonsful of chilli sauce on the side, eaten at a pavement table with a carafe of red wine. That is lunch on the hop of the most civilised kind. Honeycomb tripe is the reticulum, the second stomach of the ox.
2 bottles of red wine
2 litres chicken stock
500g piece smoked streaky bacon, cut into chunks, rind removed in one piece and retained
1 whole head of garlic
3 bay leaves
A large “bundle of joy” (bouquet garni of parsley stalks, thyme, rosemary and bay leaves)
1kg honeycomb tripe
18 shallots, peeled and left whole
A splash of red wine vinegar Sea salt and black pepper
1 large glass of port
Pour your red wine into an ovenproof pan, bring to the boil and reduce by half. Add the chicken stock, bacon rind, head of garlic, bay leaves and herb bundle. Slip in your tripe, bring to a simmer, cover with a lid or tin foil and place in a medium oven for approximately two hours, or until the tripe is just tender and starting to give.
Remove the tripe from the pan and allow to cool. Strain the liquor into a clean pan, then take the head of garlic and squeeze it into the strained juices but discard the rest – the bacon rind and herbs have given up their goodness.
Return the pan to the heat, bring to a simmer and allow to reduce until it coats the back of a spoon. Meanwhile, chop your tripe into strips roughly 4cm x 11cm and add them to the simmering sauce. Heat a frying pan, add a dollop of duck fat and brown the bacon and shallots, deglazing with a splash of red wine vinegar. Throw them in with the tripe. Check for seasoning – you should not need much salt, but be generous with the black pepper. Place uncovered in a medium to hot oven for around 45 minutes to an hour, returning every so often to check whether the tripe has sucked up the pan juices and topping up with a splash of stock if needed. Don’t be afraid to give it a little lubrication, there is a fine line between intensity and lip-sticking. You are looking for the latter.
When cooked the tripe will have taken on a hue of deepest burgundy along with the goodness of all that surrounds it. Loosen and lift with a glass of port before serving with mashed potato. This particular braise, as is often the case, is best made the day before, as it takes a few hours to find its feet. We all know that feeling.
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