Book Reviews

Book Review: Odd Bits – How to Cook the Rest of the Animal.


Jennifer McLagan, a chef, and a writer, worked in Australia, where she was born and grew up, London, Paris, and Toronto where she resides.

She has written tow other books before Odd Bits – Bones, and Fat. As you can surmise, she is interested in foods that few people think about, yet all the subject matters are the important ingredients of cooking. In a world of expensive prime cuts, i.e crown roasts, pork loins, pork chops, racks of lamb, filet of beef, strip loin of beef, it is easy to ignore less “lovable” parts of the beast. And yet, in many far eastern Mediterranean, South- and Central American, and African countries, what the author call odd bits i.e brains, livers, lungs, heart, tripe, beef shanks, pig trotters and many other parts, are valued and sought by housewives and chefs alike.

In many Middle Eastern countries you can find easily restaurants specializing in roasted lambs’ heads, or tripe, or tripe soups.

It is in North America and some northern European countries that offal, aka variety meats, are less popular than they ought to be. All offer valuable protein, can be very flavourful when expertly prepared, albeit will have soft textures that many people dislike.

Jennifer McLagan’s enthusiasm for her subject is contagious with a surprising collection of recipes ranging from simple to challenging.

She also provides four basic stock recipes that every home cook should make and use. There is a world of difference between a chicken stock obtained by using bouillon cubes (that actually contain nothing more than chicken fat, skins, salt, and chemicals) and one properly made according to any proper recipe. Her recipe for chicken stock and others are definitely delicious and well worth the effort.

She covers variety meats in five chapters starting with the head of the animal, and continuing with tongues, brisket, feet, hearts, lungs, livers, tripe, kidneys, and tails.

Her advise regarding a southern Sudan dish called marrara on page 171 is very important for those who travel in those parts of the world and carelessly eat everything set in front of them.

She offers for each cut of the animal recipes that she tries, even a recipe for chocolate blood ice cream.

This is a book for adventurous and frugal home cooks, and modern chefs who are of the opinion that each animal slaughtered for human consumption and well being ought to be honoured by using it from snout to tail

Highly recommended.

One Comment

  1. Unwelcome meats are also the subject of Odd Bits, in which McLagan champions nose-to-tail cookery, teaching us how to prepare the stuff left behind once the prime cuts are gobbled up. You know, the hot dog fillers: lungs, tongues, trotters, tripe, and worse. (Lamb testicles, anyone?)