Whilst wandering alone late at night, I chanced upon a small trattoria which had been in the same family for generations. The owner prevailed upon me to step inside and, spotting my 'Tripe for Stamina' badge, brought to the table a steaming dish of Trippa alla Romana.
Anyone accustomed to eating their tripe in the time honoured Lancashire fashion - raw and doused with vinegar, or perhaps in a tasty milk and onion sauce - might find Trippa alla Romana something of a surprise!
There are dozens of different recipes for this dish, but the elderly host assured me that this one had been handed down to him from his great-great-great grandfather. Perhaps it was the lateness of the hour, or even the one or two glasses of wine I had consumed earlier that night, but I was prepared to warrant there and then that it was quite simply the best I had ever tasted.
I eventually persuaded the reluctant owner to give me the recipe, which he hastily scribbled down on a napkin. Unfortunately, sometime between my leaving the table and arriving back at my hotel it must have slipped out of my pocket, so I've had to make a stab at developing it myself.
I think, however, that I've perfected a recipe which really brings out the taste of the tomatoes, and I'm happy to share that with you now.
Sir Norman Wrassle's Trippa alla Romana
This dish works best when transferred to a slow cooker, or when cooked slowly over a couple of hours.
- 0.5 kg (1 lb) tripe, pre-cooked and cut into thin strips about 1 cm wide and 4cm long*
- 50 g (2 oz) streaky bacon, cubed
- 1 clove of garlic, crushed
- 1 medium onion, very finely diced
- 1 carrot, peeled and finely diced
- About a dozen black olives (de-stoned), chopped in half
- A small glass of red wine
- Salt and pepper
- 1 can of chopped tomatoes
- A good squeeze of tomato purée
- A small glug of olive oil
For the garnish
- A few sprigs of mint
- Grated parmesan
- Salt and pepper to taste
1 Rinse the strips of tripe then place them in a pan, cover with water and bring to the boil. Simmer gently for around 5 minutes then turn off the heat.
2 In a frying pan, gently sauté the garlic, onion, bacon and carrot in the olive oil until softened. Add the tomato purée and continue to fry gently. Add the chopped tomatoes and red wine and cook gently until you have your sauce - a soffrito (about 10 minutes).
3 Drain the tripe and rinse briefly in cold water, then add to the soffrito. Mix in and add the olives.
4 Now, you can transfer this to a slow cooker and cook for around four to five hours on low, or else continue cooking in the pan (c0vered) on a very low heat for two to three hours, checking occasionally that it hasn't become too dry. If so, add a little water.
Personally, I then find it best to allow the dish to cool and to leave it a few hours before reheating. Like so many tomato sauce-based dishes, the flavour seems to become more full-bodied by this process. You can even leave it overnight, for best results. Then, gently reheat until you are ready to serve. Before serving, add the mint leaves, chopped, and the grated parmesan, with salt or pepper to taste.
If cooked properly, no one would ever know this dish contained tripe - it has the texture of chicken!
Serve with a bit of broccoli and a baked potato.
If you're 'cooking for one' or your date stands you up, don't despair - this dish freezes well, and can be reheated with a topping of breadcrumbs in the oven to make a tasty variety meal another day.
* If you're feeling a little squeamish about handling tripe, one tip is to head for your nearest Polish store and look out for packs of 'flaki' - vacuum packed tripe that's already been cut to size. You'll just need to rinse it before use.