Celebrating British Food & Cooking
Devilled kidneys are a classic British breakfast dish reaching their height of popularity during the Victorian era.
What is Devilling?
Classic devilling is the method of cooking where the kidneys are cooked in a spicy sauce combining Worcestershire sauce, mustard, butter, salt and both black and cayenne pepper.
The same mixture can be used to make devilled mackerel. Any fish of the tuna family has a strong enough flavour not to be overwhelmed by the sauce.
There are lots of local variations in the sauce ingredients and I like the mixture in the featured recipe below. If you like a hotter sauce add some cayenne pepper or a finely chopped red chilli.
When it comes to the choice of kidneys to use, you will almost certainly want to use lambs kidneys. They are smaller and have a milder flavour compared to either calves or pigs’ kidneys. I find they are better used in pie mixes where the longer cooking mellows the taste.
How to Clean and Core Kidneys
If you have a friendly butcher, ask him to clean and core your kidneys for you. It’s not difficult but it is a bit fiddly to do. Rather than describe how to do it, have a look at this Youtube clip which explains it better than I can.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Why are they called devilled kidneys?
Devilling is a way of cooking kidneys in a spicy sauce which can be pretty hot.
Which kidneys are the best to eat?
Lamb’s kidneys are best. They are small, cook quickly and have a milder flavour than ox or pig’s kidneys.
Here’s the Recipe …
- 6 lambs’ kidneys about 375g/13oz, skinned
- 2 tbsp plain flour
- 25 g g/1oz butter
- 1 onion thinly sliced
- 1 tbsp tomato purée
- 1 tbsp English mustard
- 1½ tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 4 thick slices crusty bread
- butter for spreading
- 1 small bunch flatleaf parsley finely chopped (optional)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Rinse the kidneys under cold running water and pat them dry with kitchen paper. Using scissors, carefully cut the white cores out of the kidneys and discard them, then cut the kidneys into chunky pieces.
- Tip the flour into a freezer bag and season well with salt and pepper. Add the kidneys and toss them until well coated in flour.
- Melt the butter in a large frying pan. Add the onion and fry gently for 3–4 minutes, or until soft and slightly golden-brown, stirring regularly.
- Shake off any excess flour from the kidneys and add them to the pan. Cook over a medium-high heat for 2–3 minutes, turning occasionally.
- Add the tomato purée and mustard to the pan, then gradually add 300ml/10fl oz of water, stirring constantly. Bring to the boil, add a tablespoon of the Worcestershire sauce and season with salt and pepper.
- Reduce the heat and simmer gently for 15 minutes, or until the kidneys are tender and the sauce is thickened, stirring occasionally. Add a little more Worcestershire sauce to taste if you like.
- While the kidneys are cooking, toast the bread on both sides, then spread with butter and put on four small plates. Spoon the kidneys and sauce over the buttered toast and scatter with the parsley, if using. Serve immediately while piping hot.