What are devilled kidneys?
Devilled kidneys are a traditional British breakfast, prepared with lamb kidneys served with various sauces and spices and served on a slice of buttered bread.
They are less popular today just like most offal-based dishes. However, a few British TV celebrities such as Jamie Oliver, Marco White, Gordon Ramsey or Rick Stein are trying to revive them by bringing them back to life with modern variations. The combination of sauces (mustard, tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce) and spices (cayenne and sometimes curry) brings a lot of flavor to the kidneys and makes them less strong to the smell and taste, which is a good way to appreciate them for the uninitiated.
How to prepare devilled kidneys?
The kidneys must be very fresh and perfectly cleaned. They are cut in half to remove the fat and nerve and then cut into large pieces. It is then necessary to season and flour them before frying them in foaming butter. Tomato coulis, hot pepper, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper are then used to perfume them as well as form an extremely tasty orange and dense sauce. As soon as the kidneys are cooked, golden brown outside and pink inside, they are served on buttered toasts and sprinkled with hot sauce and fresh finely chopped parsley.
What is the origin of devilled kidneys?
The origin of the devilled kidneys dates back to the Victorian era (1837-1901). The word devilled obviously refers to the devil, because the idea of a spicy cuisine is associated with that of the devil. The color of the sauce is also red-orange like his dress. This à la diable preparation is inspired by French cuisine. The devil sauce (sauce diable) differs from the sauce Robert by adding tomato coulis to mustard. In French cuisine, the sauce diable often accompanies offal.
According to James Boswell, biographer of the famous Samuel Johnson, the devilled kidneys are rather from the eighteenth century. However, they only gained popularity in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. They eventually became a staple of the Gentlemen’s clubs where men of British high society gather on weekends for brunch.
The devilled kidneys were just appreciated in these conditions, and before being considered a daily breakfast, they were eaten for Sunday lunch. They are served with smoked fish preparations such as kedgeree (curry rice and haddock), kippers (salted and smoked fish) and black tea.
In Europe, offal is often associated with the so-called canaille and popular cuisine. This results from the fact that the clergy and nobles kept the beautiful and expensive meat cuts, leaving the less “noble” parts to the small people, who had to find many ways to accommodate them. Yet in England, devilled kidneys have long been associated with the bourgeois and aristocrats because of the presence of this breakfast in the clubs.
From the Second World War, the workers seized this dish and it is with this last generation that they have also fallen into oblivion. They are today considered a rich, fatty and old-fashioned dish. However, kidneys are very healthy and low in calories.
What are the other versions of devilled kidneys?
The devilled kidneys can be embellished with fried wild mushrooms as proposed by chef Rick Stein, to be served as a delicious starter.
In French cuisine, offal is often cooked à la diable, so sweetbreads, kidneys or veal or lamb liver can be cooked this way. There is also the langue à l’écarlate (beef tongue). Spices and hot pepper generally go very well with giblets.
You may replace lamb kidneys with rabbit liver and kidney for a more delicate version.
Some people add curry sauce or mustard seeds.
In some bistros in the British capital, chefs are incorporating devilled kidneys into fresh salads prepared with lettuce and beet pickles. It is a modern and inventive way to accommodate them while respecting the English tradition of these famous kidneys.
- 7 lamb kidneys (about 1 lb/450g)
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 2 tablespoons butter (for cooking)
- 1 onion , chopped
- 2 tablespoons tomato coulis
- 1 tablespoon English mustard
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- ½ teaspoon Cayenne pepper
- 4 large thick slices crusty bread
- 4 tablespoons butter , soft (to spread the bread)
- 1 small bunch flat parsley , finely chopped
- 1 cup water
- Black pepper , freshly ground
- Rinse the kidneys under cold running water and gently dry them with paper towels.
- Cut the kidneys in half. Then remove the fat and the (white) nerve part in the middle with a knife.
- Then cut the kidneys into large pieces.
- Pour the flour into a freezer bag and season with salt and pepper.
- Place the kidneys in the freezer bag, close the bag and shake well to coat the kidneys with flour.
- Melt the butter in a large frying pan.
- Add the onion and fry over medium-low heat for 4 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring regularly.
- Remove excess flour from the kidneys and place them in the pan.
- Cook over medium-high heat for 2 to 3 minutes, turning the kidneys occasionally.
Add the tomato coulis, cayenne pepper and mustard, then gradually add 1 cup (300 ml) of water stirring constantly. Bring to a boil, add Worcestershire sauce. Season with salt and pepper.
- Reduce heat and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes or until the kidneys are tender and the sauce is thickening, stirring occasionally.
- During the cooking of the kidneys, toast the slices of bread on both sides, then spread them with butter.
- Place each one of them in a dish.
- Add the kidneys and a little sauce on each buttered toast and sprinkle with parsley.
- Serve immediately.