The devil’s kidney’s – A new Challenge

The recipe – Devilled kidney’s

I have set myself a challenge. For the next few weeks I am going to cook with only the cheapest of proteins. No more beef fillet or sirloin or rump. Even oxtail and tongue are no longer cheap, so I’ll give them a miss too.

Believe it or not, it is not easy to find real cheap proteins. I have come across fresh offal only on the rare occasion, and I still have to find a butcher willing to sell me ox cheeks or pigs head. What do they do with the stuff?


Offal with sweet and sour sauce
Offal with sweet and sour sauce – See the recipe here

Only a few days ago whilst looking for green tomatoes in a local supermarket, I found some fresh lamb’s kidneys. Eight kidneys for less than a pittance; just what I needed to start my challenge. Later, I found some pigs’ ears and trotters, so these cheap but precious items will also find their way to my kitchen table in the near future, as will the beef tendons I begged off my butcher.

With my cheap bounty laid on the table before me, I feel – not without considerable satisfaction – that I have achieved something. There are cheap proteins available, albeit not without making a considerable effort. The evidence is right here on my kitchen table.


It is quite possible that cheaper proteins are hard to find because there is little demand for it. Or, is there little demand, because so little is on offer? Maybe, these morsels are considered without real value and profitable only if added to pet food or something similar.

I have little doubt that part of my challenge will be to find the most appropriate ways to show case these ‘forgotten’ products. With the convenience of prime cuts ‘on-tap’ from supermarkets and neighbourhood butcheries, we might have forgotten how to best cook these ‘unusual’ items. Some require longer cooking times making them inconvenient choices for the already busy home cook. Others may require special treatment or tweaking to make them more acceptable to the modern palate.

Devilled kidney's on toast with omajova mushrooms
Devilled kidney’s on toast with omajova mushrooms

Be it as it may, for this challenge I have to do my homework. I’ll have to dig deep into the local archives, plough through old cookbooks and recipe collections, and submerge myself into foreign cultures to rediscover methods of cooking cheap cuts and find ways to make them attractive and agreeable with those around me.

Let us start with the lamb kidneys. I grew up eating organs – either pan-fried with butter and onions, barbequed (pretty much as is) after the slaughter or hunt, or in a type of stew with a piquant, vinegar-based sauce. Invariably, the organs were over-cooked (everyone in my family has a fear for anything bloody on a plate).

Devilled kidney's on toast with omajova mushrooms
Devilled kidney’s on toast with omajova mushrooms

Over-cooked organ meat is quite unpleasant in my opinion. Most organs become dry and leathery. Kidneys are no different. So care must be taken not to over-cook them.

Many people dislike the ‘urinary’ smell and taste of kidneys. This is easily avoided by soaking the raw, cleaned kidneys in milk, or yogurt for at least 30 minutes.

Kidneys must be cleaned properly. The best way to do this is to first slice the kidneys in half, lengthwise. Then the outer membrane must be removed. This easy – just grab an end with your fingers and peel it off. Next, the white core inside the kidney must be removed. Kitchen scissors work best.

If this is not removed, the kidney will curl up when cooked. Now your kidneys are ready to be soaked to remove any unpleasant smell and taste. Lamb kidneys should be cooked for no more than 2 to 3 minutes on each side. It is best done with butter and any kidney will benefit from the addition of bacon, fresh herbs (such as thyme, tarragon and parsley), cream, hot spices (chili, cayenne pepper or mustard) and some acidity (lime or lemon juice, or good quality vinegar).

Devilled kidney's on toast with omajova mushrooms
Devilled kidney’s on toast with omajova mushrooms

For this weeks recipe I went back to Victorian England. Devilled kidneys – so called because of the addition of cayenne pepper. Anything hot, must be from the devil, or so they believed. Hence, a plethora of devilled dishes – fish, especially mackerel; and eggs – those halved hard-boiled eggs with the yolk removed, mixed with mayonnaise and cayenne pepper then piped back into the white and served to dinner guests as finger food at kitsch dinner parties.

I like devilled kidneys, especially on toast for breakfast, and to give it a Namibian twist I added some Omajova mushrooms.

Simply divine, I dare say, even though it’s the devil’s kidneys.


5 Comments Add yours

  1. wolferien says:

    kidneys are the only thing in the world that i refuese to eat! (in any form) but i have to say, this dish looks amazing and i’m almost at a point of trying it out! (it would do my houseband a world of joy! i won’t even kiss him after he’s had kidneys! ) Sometimes, at the end of the day and especially before the weekend you can have the leftover proteins from your butcher for next to nothing

    1. Wolferien, they are not everyone’s cup of tea, but if you treat them right (soak them in buttermilk or yogurt before cooking) the “funkiness” that so many find off-putting disappears. Make sure they are fresh and from a healthy, young animal. Some claim the lighter colored ones are the mildest, but I cannot confirm it. With a bit of a “heat” and some wild mushrooms, they are quite delicious, but do not over-cook them or they’ll taste like leather. If you do try it, let us know. It would be fun to learn about your experience.

  2. geekkat says:

    I have had kidneys before but never really liked the taste. This looks really good I may have to try it again. Tongue is really good too though as you said it has become really expensive.

    1. I suspect that more people are eating organ meats these days. It has become quite fashionable in some circles, and chefs have been promoting it as part of their commitment to sustainability. I am not so surprised that tongue has become so expensive. Each animal has only one … can you image how expensive a prime cut like fillet would have been if each animal had only one (small) one. Take the kidneys for another spin, just make sure it is cleaned properly, and soak it in yogurt or buttermilk. It is quite a treat, for me anyway. Let us know if you get around to it.

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