Mmm ... placenta puree, courtesy of our cook and C4

PARENTS invited 20 of their friends to feast on the afterbirth of their child for a fly-on-the-wall Channel 4 cookery show, to be screened early next month, writes Vanessa Thorpe.

The rich dish of "placenta pate" - served on homemade focaccia bread - was the centrepiece of a buffet spread and was filmed for the TV Dinners series.

The afterbirth, which had been frozen, was cooked by a close friend of the family six weeks after the mother, 20-year-old Rosie, gave birth to her first child.

"We are always recycling things in this house so it was quite appropriate," said Rosie's mother Mary, 42. "We thought it had to be fabulous if it had just made my grandson.

"At the party we had a toast and then passed the dish around and asked people if they would like to share in our gene pool.

"We realised that some people might not like to try it, but in the end there was only one person who didn't - the cook's daughter in fact, who is a vegetarian anyway.

"Now I think placenta should be treated as a rare delicacy. And having tasted it, I am surprised there isn't a black market in it."

The pate went down particularly well with the baby's father, Lee, who had 14 helpings.

"It tasted like a Mediterranean beef dish," he said.

The mother herself was a little more circumspect. "It was quite scary and a bit hard to come to terms with at first," she said, "but serving the placenta will be a family tradition now. Perhaps without the film crew there though."

The dish was conceived with help from the show's presenter, Independent on Sunday food critic Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

"The raw placenta had an interesting spongy texture not unlike tripe, although it was denser and meatier," he said.

"Sue, who cooked the dish with me, was great and they were a lovely, close family. The party was just right for our programme because it's about the culture of food and the different ways we share it."

In the kitchen the duo flash-fried strips of the placenta with shallots and blended two thirds into a puree. The rest was flambeed in brandy and then sage and lime juice were added.

"I had never cooked a piece of human flesh before and of course there are certain taboos I had to think through," said Sue.

"But it was a great honour to be asked and in the end we treated it as if it was a piece of offal. It was quite like venison pate. Quite gamey, but without a long aftertaste. I was stunned by how palatable it was.

"I would be hard put to cook anything as exotic ever again," she added.