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An Edwardian devil

According to Hilary Walden in Harrod’s Book of Traditional English Cookery (New York 1987), “[t]his dish was very popular with the Edwardians especially for breakfast.” These days it obviously should be considered more suitable for dinner served on toast with a salad, perhaps of watercress, and nothing more. Our recipe is adapted from hers. For four.

Devil Stirring a Pot-1 Tablespoon Worcestershire
-1 Tablespoon lemon juice
-2 teaspoons tomato paste or ketchup
-1 Tablespoon English prepared mustard (Colman’s)
-heaped ¼ teaspoon or more cayenne
-salt and pepper
-2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
-8 lamb kidneys, split and cored
-1 Tablespoon parsley
-1 Tablespoon minced scallion greens

  1. Make the devilling sauce by whisking together the Worcestershire, lemon tomato, mustard, cayenne, salt and pepper.
  2. Melt the butter in a heavy skillet over high heat until it bubbles and foams, then fry the kidneys for 2-3 minutes per side depending on how crunchy you like your kidneys.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium low, dump the sauce over the kidneys, gently film them in the sauce and plate them quickly.
  4. Sprinkle the devil with the greens and serve hot.


- Walden recommends mixing “the sauce together in advance to allow their flavors to mingle and mature.” Good advice nicely phrased; give it 24 or more hours to do so if you have the time. The sauce will keep for ages in the refrigerator.

- Some recipes call for coating the kidneys with the devil before frying them: That causes problems, from splattering and scorching to the dissipation of heat; mustard becomes milder the longer you cook it. This recipe wisely gets the sequence right.

- You can substitute veal for lamb kidneys without ill effect but your butchering technique will differ. Cut the veal kidneys along the fault lines of each lobe and then slice each piece about half an inch thick as necessary, removing the white core tissue as you find it.

- In an editing lapse, Walden specifies the same number of veal as lamb kidneys if you use them. You only need four; they dwarf the offal from a sheep.

- We like to sear a handful of sliced mushrooms before cooking the kidneys, then add the mushrooms to the skillet with the devil.

- Especially if you do add mushrooms, mushroom ketchup adds a nice dimension to the devil. Use it in whatever proportion you like with the Worcestershire so that the two sauces together still amount to about a Tablespoon.

- Another option is porcini flour. Its earthy depth challenges the pungent kidneys and their devil in a constructive way. Add about a heaping teaspoon to the devil.

- For a more pungent devil that is no hotter, substitute malt or sherry vinegar for the lemon juice.

- As noted in the introduction to this recipe chain and demonstrated in this number of britishfoodinamerica, lots of foods can go to the devil. Shrimp is one of them, although the Editor has not found such devilry in the otherwise satanic cookbooks of the traditional canon. That is strange, because pungent flavors like cayenne, chili, garlic, black pepper and Worcestershire frequently find a path in various combinations into shellfish recipes like our own barbecued shrimp. It therefore was gratifying to learn that someone has decided to devil some shrimp. It should be no surprise that the source is New Orleans with its unique blend of assertive seasoning, tradition and change.

- The coating for devilled shrimp that we found at The Gateway Cookbook steps right from the pages of British cookery and would be equally appropriate to foods that do get the treatment by tradition. It is striking in similarity to the Edwardian devil for kidneys, which makes sense; they share with shrimp a sharp and beguiling pungency.