Lancashire tripe back in fashion

French lap it up, Italians love it and the wartime English couldn't get enough of it. What's more, it's very low in calories. Emma Mayoh visits tripe heaven in Haslingden <br/>PHOTOGRAPHY BY KIRSTY THOMPSON

It’s fair to say tripe doesn’t have the best of reputations. It may have very few calories and be packed with more protein than a piece of steak, but there the attraction ends for many.

Few would relish the thought of tucking into a plate of gelatinous cow’s stomach - no matter how well disguised.

One of the doubters was former butcher Andy Holt, who now runs the Real Lancashire Black Pudding Company in Haslingden, now producing Real Lancashire Tripe.

In fact, his reaction was ‘over my dead body!’ He told his niece and business partner, Sara Lusty: ‘I’m not having any tripe in my factory. It stinks, it’s horrible and I don’t want it anywhere near my black puddings.’

Persuasive Sara eventually talked him around. ‘It’s a clean product,which people don’t realise, and it also has a really strong Lancashire feel to it,’ she said.

‘Tripe with milk and onions used to be a popular dish around here. I thought it was worth giving it a go.’

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The gamble paid off. They are currently sending out 1,500 kilos of tripe a week to Morrisons, Asda, the Co-op and several Lancashire butchers - quite an achievement as production only started in January. While it may never take over their multi-award-winning black pudding business - nor do they want it to - Andy has got used to the new line.

Sara said: ‘I think he’s surprised at how much we’re selling. He thought it would be a lot of hassle but it’s working out well. The workers weren’t very keen either at the start but now they realise it wasn’t as bad as they thought.

‘It’s good for you and it cuts down on the amount of waste coming from an animal.’

During the war, tripe was part of a staple diet because, along with sausages, it was the only meat that was not rationed. In the 1950s, Lancashire had a chain of tripe restaurants called UCP. They specialised in tripe recipes and often had long queues for seats.

Gradually, as the cost of other meats like chicken reduced and the numbers of traditional butchers declined, offal was scrubbed off the menu.

But, in recent years, celebrity chefs like Gordon Ramsay and Raymond Blanc have put it back in vogue. Lancashire’s Nigel Haworth alsoserved it up with trotters, cod, broad beans and peas for Great BritishMenu in 2008.

Sara, who was originally training to be a lawyer before she joined the family business, said tripe has started to become popular again after Morrisons launched an offal range.

Their Real Lancashire Tripe is supplied by Peter Rawcliffe from � Rawcliffe’s Foods in Liverpool. By the time it reaches Sara and Andy in Haslingden it has been prepared and bleached. It is then packed at the Haslingden factory and sent out.

Peter Rawcliffe, owner of Rawcliffe’s Foods said: ‘Tripe is a fantastic meat, you just have to know what to do with it. When I first tried it, I hated it, but I love it now.

‘It used to be served in restaurants all over the north west and every market would always have had a tripe stall. It soaks up flavours brilliantly and you can make some tasty dishes from it. It’s very low in calories and has just as much protein as a piece of steak. If we could get a diet club to take it on, we could make it really popular.’

Sara and Andy, along with Andy’s son Brett who also works for the company, are now hoping for tripe to be popular all over the country. Sara said: ‘I think tripe is already popular in Lancashire, it’s a Lancashire product. We want it to be even more popular here but we want people across other parts of the country to start eating it regularly. People just need to get over the stigma and try it. Experiment with recipes and stop being so squeamish!’

Trying tripe

What is tripe? Tripe is an edible offal product that comes from the stomachs of various animals, including cows, sheep, goats and pigs.

What does it taste like? Very little. Tripe is a flavourless food with little odour but it is very good at absorbing flavours. Devoted tripe fans eat it with just a little vinegar but try combining lots of different herbs and spices to get thebest out of it.

How do you cook it? Anyway you like but it works particularly well in thingslike stews and casseroles. There are also a lot of good Italian recipes thatuse tripe.

Is it expensive? While it is not as cheap as you might expect, itisn’t particularly expensive. Real Lancashire Tripe sells for between �3.96 - �4.99 per kilo for between 300 - 450g.

How can I try it? The Real Lancashire Black Pudding Company supply several supermarkets, including Morrisons and Asda. You can also contactthem on 01706 231029. There are also a handful of restaurants in Lancashire who occasionally serve tripe on their menus.

Tripe with onions

Ingredients

675g tripe600ml semi-skimmed milk1 tsp salt1 bay leaf450g onions, peeled andcut into quartersFor the sauce25g butter30g plain flour2 tsp chopped parsleySalt and freshly ground black pepperMethod

Cut the tripe into 1� inch squares. Place it in a larger saucepan, cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Simmer for five minutes, then drain.

Add to the saucepan and milk, salt and bay leaf and simmer for 1� hours.

Add the onions and continue cooking for a further 45 minutes.

To make the sauce: Melt the butter in a saucepan, stir in the flour and cook for one minute. Drain the milk from the tripe and gradually stir it into the pan. Bring to the boil stirring until thickened. Stir in the parsley.

Remove the bay leaf from the tripe and stir into the sauce. Heat through until hot and season to taste. Turn into a warm serving dish and serve immediately.

Tripe salad

Ingredients

1 lb of pre-cooked tripeCold cooked potatoes1 beetrootSpring onionsSeasoningMayonnaise or salad dressingChopped parsleyMethod

Dice the potatoes, add onions finely chopped and then mix with enough salad dressing to coat. Arrange is a dish.

Wipe the tripe, cut into small pieces and heap on the potato mixture.

Coat with salad dressing.

Slice the beetroot, arrange decoratively round the dish and sprinkle withchopped parsley.

Serve very cold.