Nose to tail. It’s been on the fringes of the fashionable foodie scene for a decade now. And what does it mean in practice? As a farmer, who grows and rears and kills his own food, it makes a lot of sense. But it also entails an expansion of my knowledge. And nose-to-tail is just an arm of a whole philosophy; to make the best, most efficient use, of everything we grow or harvest to eat.
Because of it, I’ve had to learn a few things. Just how do you cook tongue? Or use the blood of a pig? What do you do with the bit of the silverbeet that’s not much use in a pie? And just how useful is the bit of the cabbage that has been attacked by slugs and has started to yellow (not much, is the answer, though the pigs make use of it just nicely, thanks very much). Sure, there are things you may not like, or parts of the beast that just aren’t to your taste. But there are great discoveries out there if you’re open to the idea of nose-to-tail, even with fish.
Nose-to-tail is just an arm of a whole philosophy; to make the best, most efficient use, of everything we grow or harvest to eat.
I have watched Nick cook the wings, the lateral fins, of striped trumpeter fish, over a simple barbecue and couldn’t believe the flavour and texture of the meat, and the joy of crunching through the fins. I’ve been with Ross when he barbecued whole banana prawns over coals, so the entire thing, shell and head and all, could be eaten (though he did remove the poo-tube prior to cooking, which I’m kinda thankful for). And in our house we have cooked goose gizzards, and cocks’ combs and pig liver, in our attempts to create good meals from what the Italians would probably call the ‘fifth quarter’ of the animal.
With seafood, onboard Solquest on our tour around Tassie, we’d all fight over the cheeks of a whole flathead or trumpeter. I’ve been with Japanese who have grilled the spine and ribs of a fish until it becomes a crisp morsel to have with beer. We’ve eaten crayfish miso, made with the heads and a few threads of meat salvaged from the part of the lobster I used to throw away when I first trained as a chef.
Nose-to-tail is a philosophy that crosses easily over to all the food we eat. It means not taking a single fish from the ocean that won’t be prized and treasured. It means making the most of everything nature provides. It suggests a responsibility we must take for trying to get as much good food from every living thing as possible, be it from the land or the sea. And, often, it’s a really great way to discover new flavours, techniques and cuisines. I’m a huge fan of the idea of using all parts of the plants and animals that we use to sustain our table. Just as long as someone else eats the kidneys.
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