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Tripes à la mode de Caen

You will have to excuse me if I write a lot of tripe this week but it is such a  savoury subject to write about. Tripe is a staple food for many peasant cuisines around the world and the indigenous folk in the South-American Andes, who believe it prevents tuberculosis, prepare a delicious spicy stew with it.

There are two types of beef tripe, flat tripe from the first stomach (strictly called the rumen) and honeycomb tripe from the second stomach, the reticulum. Both need the same preparation. When you get it from the butcher it should be cleaned, and may be parboiled as well.

Its merits of tripe were praised by Homer and by Rabelais, who claimed that it was so indigestible that Gargamelle gave birth to Gargantua after eating a huge dish of godebillios (the fat tripes of specially fattened oxen). It was also prepared in honour of Achilles, son of Thetis and Peleus, moody hero of the Trojan war, killer of Hector and  ultimately slain by Paris.

I grew up with and on tripe and I still occasionally dish it up for the family the same way my  mother did; in onion sauce and with chips. But to be truthful it is selfish of me as my wife and children cannot bring themselves to eat the rich, thick pieces of tripe and must suffice on the chips with onion sauce.

In the fifties there were UCP (United Cattle Products) shops and restaurants all over the north of England which specialized in tripe dishes. I remember how a certain uncle of mine found it difficult to pass one of their shops without popping in for a plate of honeycomb tripe, over which he would liberally pour malt vinegar. But personally, I have never been too fond of the cold version.

Many countires have their own special tripe dishes. In Spain it  is  Callos a la Madrilena (tripe Madrid style) and in Portugal you will find people licking their chops when they see Dobrada (tripe with chickpeas) on the menu. In Mexico they have Menudo, a spicy aromatic soup made of tripe. shkemhe chorba, (tripe soup) In Turkey it is My favourite recipe is Tripes à la mode de Caen and there are two reasons for this; one is that it is a wonderfully succulent dish and two, Caen in Normandy is  the home of my favourite tipple - Calvados.

Tripes à la mode de Caen

Serves 6
3kg tripe cleaned and blanched
1 ox foot or calf’s foot
500g beef suet from the kidney
3 large onions – one of which will be studded with 2 cloves
2 cloves garlic
Thyme, bay leaf and 4 juniper berries crushed
1 tsp mixed spice
3 rashers of smoked bacon
½ bottle of dry white wine
¾ litre of strong beef stock
6 carrots, 6 leeks (white part only)
Salt, milled black pepper
1 glass of calvados

1. Split and cut the ox foot into two lengthways and then cut each piece in half. Lay them down into the bottom of the thick earthenware dish to act as a base.

2. Cut the suet into three pieces. Place a piece of cling film over them and with a meat bat bash them until they are about 1cm thick.

3. Arrange in layer the tripe, onions and herbs. Add the spices and lay down the bacon. Put the bashed out suet between each layer of tripe.

4. Put the casserole on the stove over a fierce flame. Add the wine and bring it to the boil. Add the beef stock. Cover with tin foil and place the lid over the casserole dish.

5. Cook in the oven 160c/320f for 3 ½ hours.

6. Remove the lid and add the carrots and leeks plus the glass of calvados. Replace the foil and the lid and return the tripe to the oven for a further 1 hour.

7. Remove the tripe and strain the sauce threw a colander over another saucepan. Bring the sauce to the boil and skim off all the surfacing suet fat.

8. Arrange the tripe on the serving plates, garnish with leeks and carrots. Serve with compote of apples flavoured with lemon sauce and steamed potatoes. - Fly at a Smile-Price