Why eating tripe can be delicious
Love it or hate it, tripe has a long history of bringing people together and our recipe might convince you that offal is actually delicious.
Tripe has been used as celebratory food since the Greco-Roman era and John Osborne is among its modern-day devotees.
The President of the Tripe Club of Victoria regularly cooks tripe and onions at home, but he’s missing his tripe lunches at City Club. He says the RACV Club generously hosts the Tripe Club’s banquets four times a year and the chefs always produce wonderful food.
“I remember one dish, which combined tripe, seafood and spices, was based on the oldest known cookery book written by a Greek chef,” John says. “Not only was it delicious, but a lot of non-tripe eaters ate it and they thought they were eating calamari rather than tripe.”
Club Chef de Cuisine Craig Dowling, who oversees the banquets, says seafood complements tripe, particularly clams and prawns.
“The flavours and textures of the seafood lend themselves to the braising methods used for cooking tripe,” he says. Craig also recommends rigatoni pajata alla finta (pasta with sweetbread and tripe ragù), and the recipe is included below for Club Members.
Tripe is the lining of a ruminant’s stomach, with honeycomb tripe from the second stomach of a cow being the most popular type in Australia.
John says a common reaction to tripe is “Oh, yuk, my grandmother made it me eat it.” But he says tripe is still a delicacy in parts of Asia, Europe and South America.
“In England, where I am from, the tradition is tripe in white sauce with onions, peas, bacon and mashed potato,” John says. “I love it.”
The Tripe Club of Victoria was set up in the 1980s by solicitor and sportsman Michael Winneke and his legacy of bringing people together for a feast and a laugh continues today.
“We’ve always had a speaker and because Michael liked a joke, there’s a tradition that a few jokes are told as well,” John says.
Past speakers have included Gabriel Gaté, Bob Maguire and the late Tim Fischer.
“We’ve had Sam Kekovich twice. He’s controversial and your abdominal muscles hurt by the end of it because you can’t stop laughing,” John says.
In keeping with the Tripe Club’s jovial tone, John tells a joke to illustrate the fine line between offal and other animal products.
“Two fellows go into a delicatessen in New York and one asks the waitress, ‘What’s today’s special?’ She says, ‘It’s a hot tongue sandwich with mustard.’ And his friend says, ‘How could you eat tongue? That’s disgusting. It comes from an animal’s mouth.’ And the waitress says, ‘Well, you don’t have to have it, you can have something else.’ And he says, ‘Great, I’ll have an egg sandwich’.’’
As John says, “It all comes down to what we’re attuned to.”
- In a medium pot, heat 2 tbsp olive oil over a low heat. Add the vegetables and cook, stirring until tender and lightly browned.
- Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling water, add the sweetbreads and cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain the sweetbreads and let cool to room temperature. Using a small knife, remove and discard the outer membrane, then cut the sweetbreads into half-inch cubes.
- In a large saucepan of cold salted water, add the tripe and bring to a boil. Drain the tripe, then repeat this process twice, allowing the tripe to sit in the boiling water for 15 minutes after the third time boiling it. Drain the tripe once more, let cool to room temperature, then cut into half-inch cubes.
- In a small frying pan, add 1 cup of prosciutto and cook over a medium-high heat, stirring until golden brown and crisp, about 6 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the prosciutto to paper towels to drain.
- Return the frying pan with its fat to a medium heat. Add the tomato paste and stir until slightly caramelized, about 1 minute. Add the cooked vegetables and stir for 2 minutes. Add the wine and stir until reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Add the cubed tripe, tomato purée and ½ cup water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and stir occasionally until the tripe is tender, about 2 ½ hours.
- Add the sweetbreads and ½ cup water to the sauce, stirring until the sweetbreads break down into the sauce, about 20 minutes. Add the cooked prosciutto and a ¼ cup of pecorino to the sauce and season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove the sauce from the heat and let cool to room temperature. (The sauce can be made up to this point and refrigerated for 3 to 5 days or frozen for 3 to 4 weeks.)
- In a large pot of boiling salted water, add the pasta and cook until al dente. Meanwhile, in a small frying pan make a crispy topping for the pasta. Cook ¼ cup of prosciutto over a medium-high heat, stirring until caramelized and crisp, about 6 minutes. Add 1 tbsp olive oil and the chili flakes and cook for 1 minute.
- Using tongs, transfer the al dente pasta to the sauce, along with 1 cup of pasta water and toss to combine.
- In a small bowl, stir the ricotta and mint, then divide the ricotta among four pasta bowls. Spoon the pasta over the ricotta in each bowl and then top with pecorino to serve.