A recipe from Nigel Haworth, Northcote Manor,Langho, Lancashire
300g seam tripe
300g honeycomb tripe
360g cräme fraŒche
4 medium-sized leeks
200ml white wine
200ml red wine
12 sprigs of thyme
Cut off most of the green from the leeks, clean thoroughly, keep whole. Blanch leeks in boiling water for one minute then refresh in cold water. Cut two of the leeks in half with a slanting cut.
Bring to the boil the red wine, sugar and six sprigs of thyme. Put the leeks that have been cut in the pan, turn down heat and braise until tender. Remove leeks and cool slightly, then cut into smaller slanting slices 2cm thick and return to pan. Reduce until leeks are deeply coloured red. Keep warm.
Cut the tripe into 7cm strips. Cut remaining two leeks into small slanting slices 1cm thick. Sweat in a pan in half the butter for a few minutes, then add the tripe and thyme. Déglacé with the white wine, bring to boil.
Add cräme fraŒche, bring back to boil and remove tripe and leeks. Reduce by two-thirds, add remaining butter, then liquidise until light and frothy.
Place leeks and tripe back into the sauce, correct seasoning. Add a few sprigs of thyme.
Arrange on plate with the tripe and white leeks in the centre, red leeks around the side. Garnish with sprig of thyme.
THERE’S not a lot going for tripe. The thought of boiled intestines is vulgar to conservative British tastes; its name is a euphemism for talking nonsense; its distribution is limited; no more than a handful of restaurants ever serve it. So why write about it?
The reason is that it is a hugely misunderstood and maligned ingredient.
Elsewhere in the world, tripe has retained its gastronomic dignity. The Chinese have a score of ways of cooking it, the Italians and Spanish adore it and the French have such classic dishes as tripe à la mode de Caen which is venerated as a culinary masterpiece.
This enduring enthusiasm elsewhere in the world is in stark contrast to the collapse of tripe eating in Britain. It was at its most popular from late Victorian times to the 1950s, when it was a tasty, cheap and nourishing source of animal protein.
The decline in the domestic popularity of tripe coincided with growing economic prosperity from the mid-1950s onwards. As poverty declined, an ingredient associated with austerity was rejected, particularly by a rebellious youth culture which moved against offal in general and tripe in particular.
This falling off in retail sales in the late 1950s and early 1960s, came at a time when there was no indigenous restaurant culture in Britain which might have been able to introduce it to new audiences or at least save it from near-extinction.
It sounds fanciful today, but 30 years ago there was a restaurant chain in the north of England which featured tripe almost as a signature dish.
The romantically-named United Cattle Products (UCP) restaurants had cold tripe salads, tripe and onions and steak and cowheel pie permanently on the menu. Sadly, neither the company nor its restaurants survived.
Tripe has remained a popular ingredient with the older generation who enjoyed it in harder times, but for a younger audience tripe is an anachronistic curiosity.
One inevitable result of the decline of interest in tripe eating in the UK is the decimation of the tripe dressing industry, (dressing being the quaint term for the practice of boiling and preparing cattle stomachs for sale as tripe).
Most major towns used to have at least one tripe dresser, but now there are no more than a handful left in Britain, mostly in the north of England where tripe eating is still popular.
If the decline in popularity were not sufficient to make life difficult for the tripe dressers, getting hold of the offal from the abattoir in the first place is even more of a challenge.
The pet food industry has discovered tripe and is buying in huge quantities by exclusive contract. It is a case of your dog can eat tripe, but you can’t.
Provincial British cooking of tripe has remained loyal to a very small number of recipes, most commonly lightly cooked in a thickened, white onion sauce. This dish is always served with creamed potatoes and a dusting of fine-ground white pepper.
Less common is tripe fried with bacon; creamed tripe with a toasted potato topping in cottage pie style; or, creamed tripe with celery instead of onions.
Tripe has also been eaten cold in England, served simply with sliced tomatoes or a full salad. Brown malt vinegar is sprinkled on the tripe to give some acidity.
All is not lost for tripe. A very slow, but steady, increase in its use in restaurants, most noticeably among those pushing down the rustic route, has begun.
Tripe is a natural addition to eclectic brasseries, where novelty can play as large a role in selling a dish as taste.
Bruno Loubet features tripe in several forms at Bistrot Bruno in London’s West End. As well as traditional tripe stews, Loubet serves the unusual dish of tripe stewed with ginger, fruit juice and chillies.
Tripe has also made a restaurant comeback in the north of England. Nigel Haworth, chef and co-owner of Northcote Manor, East Lancashire, now 1995 Egon Ronay British Meat Chef, has revived several traditional regional specialities, including tripe.
In Blackpool, Michael Golowicz, owner of September Brasserie, has featured tripe recipes from his East European background for the past year in his menu cycle.
An Italian tripe dish stewed in a tomato, parmesan and basil sauce features on the menu of one of the best-known restaurants in the Lake District, the Porthole, owned by Gianni Berton.
Tripe is not only a versatile ingredient, it is good for your gross profit as well. There is virtually no waste when cooking with tripe. Shrinkage only comes after cooking it for a very long time; it can be used to add flavour, and will absorb otherflavours yet still retain its own character.
Wholesale prices of tripe vary according to the type of tripe being bought, but £1 a pound is a guide price. So if customers can be weaned on to a dish with the meat content costing under 50p per portion tripe becomes an attractive and profitable menu item. n