Unless you’re a zombie, you probably haven’t eaten brains recently. But give it a go – they’re not hard to cook at all! In this episode of Scary Cooking, we cooked lamb’s brains two ways: fricasseed in white sauce, and crumbed and fried.
Hunting for brains in Berlin can take some time as many butcher shops don’t like to sell them. There’s a few reasons for this: some I suspect aren’t knowledgeable about how to remove a brain, some can’t be be bothered, and one uninformed butcher told me they didn’t stock them because of BSE (aka mad cow disease). Cow’s brains have been outlawed in Germany since 2001, but sheep’s brains are actually ok.
So where did we get ours? From a turkish butcher. In turkish cuisine, lamb’s head (aka ‘kelle’) is a traditional dish, so our butcher had no qualms about cracking some skulls open for us; the sight of which was, um, edifying…
Once you have your brains, most recipes recommend that you first soak them in water to draw out the blood. You can put them in a bowl and leave it in the fridge overnight, changing the water occasionally; but even a couple hours of soaking will suffice. It’s not entirely neccessary though – some chefs just give them a rinse and remove any funny looking bits of membrane before getting down to business. It’s up to you.
This is one of the oldest, most traditional (if you’re French or English) and simple ways to eat brains. My mum cooked this for me as a kid in Australia, and her mum did the same. The following recipe is enough for 2 kids and a grown-up to have as an afternoon snack. You’ll need:
2 tbspn butter
2 tbspn flour
1 cup milk (approx.)
1/3 cup chopped parsley
salt and pepper
Step 1: put brains in saucepan, cover with cold water (you can add a little stock if you like, or some onions, or lemon, or both) and gradually bring to a simmer. Simmer for 6-10mins, depending on how big the brains are.
Step 2: while the brains are simmering, make a white sauce (aka Béchamel sauce). It’ll only take a few minutes:
– in a pan, over gentle heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter, add an equal amount of flour, and stir/whisk together to make a roux (it looks like a cream paste). Important: do not brown!
– while stirring, slowly add a cup of milk to the roux. Keep stirring quickly as the sauce thickens. The proportion of milk to roux determines how thick the sauce will be, so you can add more or less milk as you like.
– remove from heat when you’ve reached a good consistency, add a pinch of salt or pepper to taste
Step 3: once your brains are cooked, cut them into 1cm cubes, stir them into the sauce, and add some chopped parsley
Step 4: serve on toast (in our case olive ciabatta)
Step 5: freak out about the texture
Crunchy on the outside and creamy on the inside, we served these brains as a main dish with a ravigote sauce to cut through the richness. As an accompaniment we simply sauteed some fennel and beans in olive oil with garlic and salt. Health note: while lamb’s brains are a great source of B12, they are also loaded with fat and cholesterol: so don’t eat too many! The sauce recipe is at the bottom of the page. For the brains you’ll need:
4 brains (1 brain per person)
1 cup flour (sieved if possible)
1 cup breadcrumbs
vegetable oil for deep frying
Step 1: just as we did for the first recipe, put brains in saucepan, cover with cold water (again, you can add stock or a squeeze of lemon) and bring to a simmer. Simmer the brains for 15 minutes. Take them out and let them cool a little.
Step 2: once the brains are cool enough to handle, gently pull them apart into two separate halves. Prepare a ‘crumbing station’: first flour, then eggs (lightly beaten), then breadcrumbs. Get those brains crumbed!
Step 3: heat vegetable oil in deep saucepan for frying.
Step 4: gently place crumbed brains into the oil, cook until golden brown – this should only take a couple minutes max. It’s quick!
Step 5: remove brains from oil and allow the oil to drain off.
Step 6: serve on a bed of vegetables with a dribble of ravigote sauce
Step 7: freak out about the texture again.
whisk the following together in a bowl:
• 75ml white wine vinegar
• 300ml vegetable oil
• 5 tbsp tarragon Dijon mustard (or regular Dijon and two tablespoons chopped fresh Tarragon – we just couldn’t find it)
• 2 tbsp capers, finely chopped
• 2 tbsp cornichons, finely chopped
• 2 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
• 2 tbsp shallots, finely chopped
• salt and pepper
– add a little more mustard and vinegar if you like a ‘sharper’ sauce. Serve cold.