Complete nose to tail


Photographs by Jason Lowe

When having lunch at Sweetings, you sit at a bar behind which a waiter is trapped, you order your smoked eel, they yell to a runner who delivers your eel over your shoulder to the waiter, who then places it under the counter and then in front of you as if they had it all along. Not an entirely practical way of getting your food, but a splendid eating ritual, and a wonderful lunch.

‘Nose to Tail Eating’ means it would be disingenuous to the animal not to make the most of the whole beast; there is a set of delights, textural and flavoursome, which lie beyond the fillet.

This is a book about cooking and eating at home with friends and relations, not replicating restaurant plates of food.

Do not be afraid of cooking, as your ingredients will know, and misbehave. Enjoy your cooking and the food will behave; moreover it will pass your pleasure on to those who eat it.

The perfect recipe manages to steady and uplift at the same time.

One afternoon my flat was broken into. The strange thing is, before

I went out I had put a hare in the oven to braise, which filled the flat with delicious gamey smells. I cannot help but think that it must have been very distracting to the burglar, the musk of a braising hare.

Unctuous potential: Trotter Gear is your gastronomic friend.

Fergus Henderson


To serve six

  • 2.5kg piece of brisket (you can use silverside for this), unrolled, rinsed
  • a bundle of parsley and thyme 3 sticks of celery, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 10 black peppercorns
  • 6 onions, peeled 6 carrots, peeled
  • 6 leeks, cleaned


  • 100g suet
  • 225g self-raising flour
  • a pinch of sea salt and black pepper
  • 1 beaten egg

Boiled beef also goes remarkably well with aïoli or green sauce, but if using these, do not include the dumplings or the pickled walnuts. To salt the briskets yourself, make a brine and leave them for 12 days, or you can buy salted brisket from the butcher, in which case make sure it’s not rolled in.

Place your beef into a pot (remember it has to be big enough to accommodate the vegetables as well), cover with water, and add your herb bundle, celery, bay leaves and peppercorns. Bring up to the boil, skim, and reduce to a very gentle simmer, with barely signs of movement in the water, for approximately 4 hours. Prod with a knife to check how the meat feels – it should be giving, but not collapsing!

After the meat has been simmering for 2 hours put in the onions, after 21⁄2 hours the carrots, and after 3 hours the leeks. Keep an eye on your vegetables so they do not overcook – you can always remove them. However, this is a dish that demands well-cooked vegetables, no al dente here. When everything is ready, remove the meat and vegetables to a serving dish and keep them warm with a splash of broth to moisten. Make the dumplings as follows.

Bring the broth to a rolling simmer. Meanwhile mix the ingredients together, adding some cold water: you are looking for quite a sticky dough. Shape into walnut-sized balls and drop into your simmering broth – they should take about 10 minutes to cook and should be like little suet clouds. Serve all together with pickled walnuts and horseradish sauce.


To serve six

  • 1.5kg salt ling, soaked in frequent changes of cold water for 12 hours
  • 2 onions
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2kg floury potatoes, e.g. Maris Piper or King Edward, peeled
  • 6 free-range eggs
  • 250ml milk
  • 250g butter
  • black pepper and possibly sea salt

A splendid dish. If you can’t find salt ling, use salt cod, which is a fine substitute.

Put the ling in a pan of fresh water with the onions and bay leaves, bring to the boil, then turn down to a simmer for 14 minutes.

Meanwhile place your potatoes in unsalted water, bring to the boil, and cook until soft enough to mash, and hardboil your eggs so that the yolks are soft and slightly giving.

Drain the fish, discard the onions and bay leaves, and let it cool until you can handle it, then pull the flesh away from the skin and bones – be warned, this is a very sticky exercise.

You should now have warm salt fish and drained hot potatoes. Heat the milk and butter and add half to the potatoes and mash. Add the fish flesh, and keep mashing – you should start to have a pan of hairy mashed potatoes. If they are too stiff add a little more milk and butter. Check for seasoning; it will certainly need black pepper but depending on the fish you may or may not need salt.

Serve a hairy mound with a hardboiled egg, in its shell.


to serve four

  • 1.5 litres flavoursome ham stock (preferably the water you boiled a ham in) or a ham bone plus a head of garlic
  • 500g green dried split peas, soaked in water overnight and drained
  • 2 pig’s ears (ask your butcher, these should not be hard to obtain; singe off as much hair as you can)
  • 2 whole white onions, peeled sea salt and black pepper
  • vegetable oil for frying

This is based on a very dour recipe – dried peas, pig’s ears and water, the ear giving a certain body to the soup – but it is no less delicious for that.

If you’re using stock, bring it to the boil in a pan with the split peas, ears and onions, and then simmer until the peas are soft and cooked to a thick soupy consistency (approximately 3 hours). If it starts to get too thick add more stock or water. If you have a ham bone, just cover this with water, add your garlic, split peas, ears and onion, and cook the same way as with stock, though it will probably need some skimming. Add more water if it is getting too thick. Season to taste. Remove the onions and, if you have taken that route, the head of garlic and the ham bone.

Extract the ears from the soup, rinse them and dry them carefully. Allow them to cool and firm up, then slice very thinly. Heat vegetable oil in a deep frying pan (or deep fryer if you have one) and drop the ears in. Be careful, as even if dry they are likely to spit. Stir to avoid them sticking in one great mass. When crispy remove from the oil and lay on kitchen paper to drain off excess fat. Serve the soup hot. On top of each bowl place a cluster of crispy ear.

If you have any boiled ham left up your sleeve you could incorporate small chunks in your soup.


To serve six

  • 250g plain chocolate, with at least 70 per cent cocoa solids (we use an El Rey Venezuelan chocolate called Apamate, at 73.5 per cent)
  • 1 gelatine leaf
  • 375ml double cream
  • 125ml full-fat milk
  • 100g caster sugar

Cor blimey!

Cut the chocolate into small chunks, put it in a large bowl and set aside. Put the gelatine leaf in a separate bowl and cover with cold water.

Pour the cream and milk into a saucepan, add the caster sugar and bring slowly to the boil, whisking occasionally. Now go back to your gelatine and squeeze out the water. Once the cream is boiling, take it off the heat, add the squeezed-out gelatine leaf and whisk until dissolved. Then strain the hot cream mixture over the chocolate and whisk until the chocolate has dissolved. You will have a beautiful, glossy chocolate cream.

Pour the mixture into 6 individual moulds or one large serving dish and leave in the fridge for 4-6 hours, until set. Serve with hazelnut biscuits and tea- soaked prunes, or with cherries when in season.



By Fergus Henderson and Justin Piers Gellatly, Bloomsbury, £30

Foodie hero Fergus Henderson is a pioneer of nose-to-tail cooking. For the first time all his recipes have been brought together in one stunning and comprehensive compendium, which showcases his enormous talent. This is British cooking at its best.

Fergus set out his stall when he opened St. John in 1995, now one of the world’s most admired restaurants. His Nose To Tail books are full of exhilarating recipes for dishes that combine high sophistication with peasant thriftiness. Now the books are joined together in a compendious volume, The Complete Nose To Tail, with a dozen new recipes on top of 250 existing ones and more brilliant photography from Jason Lowe.

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