Saturday, 23 May 2009

Honeycomb tripe salad

I know that for most people, tripe is one of their least favourite foods, to put it mildly. It's associated with memories of gigantic pots of boiling stinkiness, force feeding in childhood, and acts of human unkindness. But I love it.

Maybe it's due to my Chinese upbringing and the constant encouragement to try suspicious looking foods, or just that the Cantonese cook tripe with such savoury, piquant sauces you'd be a lunatic not to like it. Nevertheless despite my fondness, until now I had only encoutered tripe hot, either 'a la fiorentina' (submerged in a sweet, smooth tomato sauce) or in dim sum. Cold tripe was a revelation.

We bought our tripe from an incredible stall in Florence's Mercato Centrale, called Nuova Tripperia Fiorentina. It specialises in all things cooked cow offal. It may not be everyone's cup of tea, but Sibilla and I thought we had found a small stall from heaven. Along with several different types of tripe, you can buy cooked trotters, snout, udder and uterus to name a few.

Feeling brave we bought a slice of udder (called poppa in Italian), procrastinated over cooking it, and finally seared it on a high heat with a dusting of seasoned flour. Sprinkled with lemon juice it was delicious, almost cheesy tasting. I know that sounds deeply wierd, but really it was delicious!

Serves two for lunch or four as part of lunch

300g cooked tripe, the one with a honeycomb texture works best, but any will do
Three large tomatoes, coursely chopped
Two sticks of celery, thinly sliced
Half a red onion, finely chopped
Juice and zest of a lemon
Half a tablespoon of red wine vinegar
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
A good handful of parsley, mint, or both

Slice the tripe into thin, bite sized strips. Add the tomatoes, celery and onion, then season well and toss together with the lemon, vinegar and olive oil. This salad is best eaten cold so leave it to marinate in the fridge for a few hours.

Just before you serve, roughly chop the parsley and mint, scatter over and toss again. The tripe should have a cool, crunchy texture, which is lovely soaked in its earthy, lemony sauce and given sparkle by brightly flavoured herbs.

Here's a picture of some tripe from Nuova Tripperia. As soon as I can persuade Sibilla to translate the Italian, or sit down with my Italian-English dictionary, I'm going to try the recipes on the website.

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