If you grew up in Australia (or the US) during the last few decades, then it’s unlikely that organ meats – collectively known as offal – made an appearance on your dinner plate too often. But if you flick through your grandparent’s cookbooks, you’ll see it was the norm only one generation ago.
Granted it’s nowhere near as sexy as kale or goji berries, but offal deserves a place in the superfoods hall of fame. In fact if we’re defining them by their nutrient density, it truly puts all the others to shame! Many health conscious consumers are surprised to learn that organ meats are by far the most nutrient rich foods available. Even if you’re already in the know, chances are you have no idea how to incorporate them into your family’s diet.
I recently had the opportunity to test my most popular beginner offal recipe, Hearty Bolognese, on Body & Soul features writer and offal virgin, Rosie King. (And she survived!)
Why we should get offal back on the table
As I mention in the video, due to all the modern stressors we’re faced with, most of us are deficient in micronutrients. (Otherwise known as the vitamins and minerals that keep us healthy!) Unfortunately the nutrient density of our diets just isn’t what it used to be and this doesn’t bode well for our kids. It’s been suggested that children today have nutrient intakes around half of that of their grandparents, at the same age. To give you an idea, this study demonstrated that between the 1960’s and 2001 the beta-carotene content of apples decreased 41%. The calcium in broccoli is down 50% and there was a 40% reduction in the Vitamin C content of cauliflower.
There’s lots of suggested reasons for this decline (such as soil depletion, early picking, refrigeration, storage and transport). But the question is: How can we make good on those lost nutrients?
Enter offal, your nutrient knight in shining armour. Just 1-2 servings per week is all it takes. But are you actually serving it up?
Take heart – it contains more vitamins than other cuts
Today, I’m putting beef heart on the menu. Did you know that heart is the best food source of CoEnzyme Q10? This is a powerful, fat-soluble anti-oxidant that’s vital for brain and cardiovascular health. Our levels of CoQ10 decrease from age 20 and are lower in people suffering from cancer, diabetes, heart conditions and Parkinson’s. Or those using prescription drugs – such as statins, which can reduce levels up to 40%! Beef heart also has higher levels of protein, zinc, folate, thiamine, phosphorus and selenium than other cuts of beef.
If you’ve read this far and you’re still with me then I’m assuming you’re either into offal, or at least willing to try it. But what if you’re the health-conscious one in the family? Are you still wondering how on earth you’re going to get everyone else on board? Well, this recipe is 100% foolproof. You could even fib about the secret ingredient.
Bolognese is undoubtedly one of the world’s most accepted and child-friendly meals. My hearty bol is no exception. The secret is the 50:50 mix of beef heart mince and regular beef mince. Rosie and all my previous testers agree – this Bolognese is delicious and you can’t taste the difference!
This Bolognese is perhaps the easiest and most delicious way to get started with offal. Simply ask your butcher to mince up some beef or lamb heart or combine it with regular beef mince. If you start with a 50/50 ratio of heart to regular mince, the difference won’t be discernable and you can gradually work up to 100% heart mince.
- 2 tbsp ghee or preferred cooking fat
- 2 brown onions, finely diced
- 1kg mince (50/50 beef:heart)
- 6 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1-2 red chillies, deseeded and finely diced
- 1/3 cup red wine (or 1½ tbsp balsamic vinegar)
- 5 medium tomatoes, diced (or a can of diced tomatoes)
- ¼ tsp ground clove
- 1 tsp fine sea salt (or to taste)
- ¼ tsp ground black pepper
- 1-2 tbsp maple syrup
- 140g tomato paste
- Large handful each of parsley and basil, finely chopped
- 3 cups of homemade stock or water
- 2 cups water
- Set a large pot on the stove over high heat. Melt the ghee and sauté the onions for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the mince, chilli and garlic and cook for another 5-10 minutes until the meat is cooked through.
- Add all the other ingredients except the stock and cook for another 5 minutes over high heat, stirring frequently.
- Add the stock and additional water, bring it to boiling point, then reduce heat, cover and simmer on low for 2-5 hours. A longer cooking time will yield a much more robust and richer sauce. Keep in mind that you may need additional water throughout this time if the sauce appears to be reducing too much.
If you’re a mum then you’ve probably already mastered the art of concealing extra (more nutritious) ingredients in your kid’s meals. This recipe just takes your nutrient deception to the next level. Once you’ve tried this, why not give hearty versions of home-made lasagne, beef pie, meatballs, meatloaf, chilli con carne and burgers a go?
Remember, just 1-2 servings of offal per week is what you should aim for. Whether you’re a beginner with offal or eat it regularly, I’ve got stacks more recipes and ideas on how to incorporate it in your diet (along with all the theory and how to select the best bits) in my What To Eat program.
We kick off on the 15th February – hope to see you there!