Introduction

Introduction

By
Ben O'Donoghue
Contains
0 recipes
Published by
Hardie Grant Books
ISBN
9781742709994
Photographer
Benito Martin

To put it plainly, this book is a celebration of animals. It’s not deliberately the worst vegetarian recipe collection in the world, but it is an ode to what I love to do most: prepare and cook savoury recipes based on animal protein.

It may seem a little strange to say that this book ‘celebrates’ animals and go on to provide 130 recipes in which they feature as the main ingredient, but in using the term ‘celebrate’ I mean the sheer appreciation of every part of the animal. It would be disingenuous to the animal, and the life it has given us, if we did not make the most of all of it. This is the philosophy of nose-to-tail eating that many chefs around the world, including myself, follow when it comes to eating and cooking with meat.

For me, cooking meat is all about showing respect to the animal’s life and welfare by choosing to use well-reared and well-cared-for animals, and, in death, to waste little of the animal by making use of all of it, including those parts that lie beyond the fillet – sweetmeats, offal and, of course, good old fat. Bones can be stored in the freezer for making stock and nourishing broth, and fat can be rendered and used to add flavour in all sorts of dishes. This is a lifestyle of old – and by that I don’t mean paleo, I mean frugality. Traditionally, when there was meat in the kitchen, every inch of it was cherished and made use of. I remember, when asking my grandma ‘what’s for dinner?’, the reply was often ‘bread and dripping’ – and I knew she was serious.

I appreciate that not everyone is on board with this particular style of cooking or eating. When I started writing this book, I also wanted to express my love of meat through recipes that I have eaten and collected from different cultures and cuisines. During my 22 years as a cook, chef and television personality, I’ve worked in international restaurants and I’ve shared meals with people from all walks of life in the far reaches of the world. Understanding and respecting cultural sensitivities when it comes to animals and how they are consumed (or in some cases, not consumed) was paramount in my travels as a chef. It is these experiences that drive me; they remind me how rich the world of meat and cooking is and how these animals are central to culinary celebrations and feasts everywhere.

Writing this book while living in Australia made me conscious of the meat available here, and I found myself holding back on some recipes. I felt that because of our climate, choosing to cook some meat, in particular game, would mean compromising on quality due to availability. While living in the UK and Europe, I absolutely loved cooking game birds like grouse, woodcock and grey leg partridge. In Australia, our environmental laws prevent us from eating our own game, with a few exceptions like roo, wallaby and emu. While filming Surfing the Menu with my old mate Curtis Stone, I was lucky enough to try one of the best wild birds I’ve ever eaten when we had a feast of magpie geese with a group of local kids in Kakadu.

For five years, while working at the River Café in London, I didn’t cook or eat beef at all. This was during a time when BSE, or mad cow disease, was at its peak. Rose and Ruth (then co-owners of the River Café) flatly refused to cook beef, and they weren’t going to cook anything that wasn’t British. This commitment to locality impressed on me the point that we should take care when buying meat and make a point of learning about the provenance and husbandry of the animals we eat.

On that note, have a go and buy the best quality meat you can find out of respect for the animal, approach cooking your meat with frugality, use everything and, finally, cook it with love.

Ben O’Donoghue

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