Parts unknown: whole animal recipes from Feather and Bone

Traditional whole-animal butcheries have become a rarity in many developed countries.

The overwhelming majority of domestic and export meat in Australia is traded through the commodity meat market. Much of the meat produced for this market will be sourced from farms that are organised around the primary goal of maximising turnover of animals. As a system that rewards volume and speed, it works brilliantly.

But if you’re a farmer or butcher or consumer interested in other dimensions of value, such as traceable animal and environmental welfare standards, then it will come up short. This is because when a farmer sells into the mainstream commodity market, their animals disappear into a generic product pool.

Filled with crusading zeal for a better food model, we decided that our commitment to transparency and a whole-animal practice meant two things. First, we would seek out diverse breeds of animals grown on farms managed with the goal of improving the entire ecosystem. Second, we wouldn’t buy boxed meat from a wholesaler, but instead would always buy meat on the bone direct from the farmer, offal and all.

Of course, if your business is built around buying the whole animal, then you also have to sell it, which can be challenging. Many of us have lost the traditional skills that allowed us to prepare and consume the whole animal. Eating offal was something quaint our grandparents did, and these days we spend more time watching cooking shows than we actually do preparing food. All of this means we default to the cuts we know how to cook, and we’re less likely to choose the unfamiliar ones.

Change is hard and change is slow but from little things big things grow.

Tammi’s crispy slow cooked pig’s ear banh mi
Feeds: 4-6
Active prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 8 hours
Chill: Up to 24 hours

“When we first started selling our pastured pork, I had only been eating meat for about seven years, after a decade of vegetarianism, and was determined to make use of every part of the animals we raise with such care. And so my crispy pig’s ear banh mi was born, of necessity and respect, inspired by regular visits to Vietnam over the years. Banh mi are best when there is a balance of fat, fresh, sweet, sour, salt and spice, all wrapped up in a crispy baguette with a soft centre. These crispy pig’s ear banh mi capture that formula perfectly, and also leave room for everyone at the table to self-determine their own ratios of each constituent flavour.”

– Tammi Jonas, producer and activist

For the pigs’ ears
4 pasture-raised pigs’ ears
1 leek, coarsely chopped
3 garlic cloves, lightly crushed, still in skin
50g palm sugar
300ml pasture-raised pork bone broth or chicken stock
200ml Shaoxing rice wine
200ml soy sauce
6 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
3 eggs
Plain (all-purpose) flour, for dusting
60g panko breadcrumbs
Lard or rendered animal fat, for deep-frying

For the banh mi
4-6 fried eggs
Freshly made mayonnaise or aioli, to serve
40g lightly pickled carrot
2 cucumbers, cut into batons
Long red chilli, coarsely chopped, to taste
Coriander leaves, to serve
Fish sauce, to serve
Crusty baguette or white rolls, to serve

Start this recipe one or two days ahead. Preheat oven to 120C (235F). Place pigs’ ears in an ovenproof dish with leek, garlic, sugar, broth or stock, Shaoxing, soy sauce and spices. Cover with baking paper, seal tightly with foil, and braise for about eight hours, or overnight, until very tender.

Place ears on a cooling rack in the fridge to dry out for up to one day. Slice ears into thin strips. Beat eggs in a wide bowl and place flour and breadcrumbs in separate bowls. Dust pigs’ ears in flour, shaking off excess, dip in egg, then coat in breadcrumbs. Melt 5cm fat in a deep, heavy-based saucepan until shimmering, then deep-fry ears for two to three minutes until crisp and golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a wire rack.

Serve pigs’ ears in baguettes or rolls, and offer fried eggs, mayonnaise, pickled carrot, cucumber, chilli, coriander and fish sauce for people to fill as they like. Voila – a crunchy, salty, sweet, sour, spicy banh mi made with a part of the pig most people wouldn’t know what to do with. Uncommonly delicious.

Christopher’s seared liver with tomatoes and caramelised onions
Feeds: 2-4, depending on the size of the liver
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes