Brains on toast | Photo: Jon Hatchman

Offal isn’t awful: Here’s our case for eating brains

I know what you’re thinking: “Brains? No way – I’m not a zombie!” Of all the offal and lesser-loved cuts of meat available, brains are (granted) some of the least visually attractive: but they’re also some of the most delicious, when prepared properly.

While grim, Westernised perception of offal is slowly changing (Fergus Henderson has been championing lesser-loved cuts at Michelin-starred St. JOHN for almost 25 years, and many other restaurants have since followed suit), but it’s still natural for so many of us to become squeamish in the presence of brains, hearts, tongues, testicles. It’s not our fault, entirely – having been spoon-fed luxurious alternatives by supermarkets, with so much variety readily available. But change really does begin at home. As somebody who regularly eats meat, I’m in no position to take the moral high-ground. Nonetheless, I strongly believe that if we really must kill an animal in the name of greed, it’s only fair to respect all of its edible parts, no matter how unappetising they may appear from this side of the butcher’s counter.

Then there’s the matter of food waste. Last year, a report from the Waste & Resources Action Programme found that more than 400 million meals’ worth of edible food is wasted by UK shops and manufacturers, while recent research from FareShare suggests over 400,000 tonnes of edible food is being wasted in homes across the UK each year. We’re also currently approaching the Christmas period, the time of year when most food is wasted. Though the consumer conscience begins to heighten, food waste is still a pressing issue. Nose-to-tail eating won’t necessarily cure food waste, but indulging in the animal’s more accessible (often wasted) cuts is a ‘no-brainer’ in terms of sensibility.

Moreover, the key to great food is within the cooking. The consumption of fillet steak or lobster is supercilious when prepared carelessly. While calves’ brains (more synonymous with classic haute cuisine) are difficult to source – following the late eighties outbreak of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (‘mad cow disease’) in the UK, lambs’ brains are far easier to source – available in some supermarkets, even. They’re also ridiculously cheap. The below recipe (photographed) features and attempts to glorify lambs’ brains. While somewhat laborious to concoct, the results are worth every second of preparation.

Lambs’ brains and parsley salad on toast

Ingredients

Serves two

Lambs’ brains, 2-3

Milk, to cover the brains

Sourdough, 2 thick slices

Court Bouillon, 2 litres

Rapeseed oil, for shallow frying

Salted butter, 75g

Roasted peanuts, a handful, chopped (additional)

Flour, enough to coat the brains, seasoned with salt and pepper

Egg yolks, 2, beaten

Panko breadcrumbs, 40g

For the parsley salad

Fresh parsley, 70g, roughly chopped

Fresh dill, 20g, roughly chopped

Lemon, juice of one (with a few drops reserved for the sauce)

Extra virgin olive oil, to taste

Sea salt, a pinch

For the sauce

Salted butter, 125g

Echalion shallot, 1, finely chopped

Fresh parsley, a pinch, finely chopped

Capers, 2tbsp, rinsed and roughly chopped

Method

To prepare the brains, rinse under cold water for 30 minutes, submerge in milk and chill overnight.

Remove the brains from the fridge, rinse briefly then gently split the brain into two separate lobes. Gently poach in simmering Court Bouillon for six minutes. Remove from the pan and refresh in iced water.

While cooling, roughly chop the flat leaf parsley and dill, place in a mixing bowl and dress with a drizzle of extra virgin oil, lemon juice and a pinch of salt.

Once cooled, use a small pairing knife to remove any excess membrane or unattractive blood vessels – being careful to avoid damaging the brains.

Gently pat dry with kitchen paper, dredge in the seasoned flour, roll through the beaten egg yolks, then coat with a generous covering of Panko breadcrumbs.

Heat a splash of rapeseed oil in a wok or large frying pan and gently lower the breaded brains into the pan. (Test the oil’s heat by adding an excess breadcrumb. Once it sizzles, the oil is ready for frying). Cook the brains, without turning, for two-three minutes until coloured on one side. Gently turn, reduce the heat and add 75g butter to the pan and baste continuously for another three minutes, or until the brains are golden-brown and have firmed.

Meanwhile, toast the bread and make the sauce. To prepare the sauce, gently melt the butter in a clean pan then add a suggestion of lemon juice to prevent the butter from burning. Add the finely cooked shallots and sweat over a low heat until translucent. Add the capers, plus a pinch of finely chopped parsley and cook for one more minute, stirring regularly.

To plate the dish, place the toasted sourdough in the middle of the plate, then top with the breaded brains. Use a small spoon to drizzle some of the butter sauce over the brains, then crown with a fistful of the parsley and dill salad. To finish, drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil over the brains, toast and salad. Optionally, garnish with some chopped, roasted peanuts to add extra crunch, contrasting the capers’ sourness and the brains’ somewhat “wobbly”, cloud-like texture.

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1 Response

  1. stupid is, as stupid does, and some times, you just can’t fix stupid…

    SPONTANEOUS ATYPICAL BOVINE SPONGIFORM ENCEPHALOPATHY

    ***Moreover, sporadic disease has never been observed in breeding colonies or primate research laboratories, most notably among hundreds of animals over several decades of study at the National Institutes of Health25, and in nearly twenty older animals continuously housed in our own facility.***

    http://www.nature.com/articles/srep11573

    O.05: Transmission of prions to primates after extended silent incubation periods: Implications for BSE and scrapie risk assessment in human populations Emmanuel Comoy, Jacqueline Mikol, Valerie Durand, Sophie Luccantoni, Evelyne Correia, Nathalie Lescoutra, Capucine Dehen, and Jean-Philippe Deslys Atomic Energy Commission; Fontenay-aux-Roses, France Prion diseases (PD) are the unique neurodegenerative proteinopathies reputed to be transmissible under field conditions since decades. The transmission of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) to humans evidenced that an animal PD might be zoonotic under appropriate conditions. Contrarily, in the absence of obvious (epidemiological or experimental) elements supporting a transmission or genetic predispositions, PD, like the other proteinopathies, are reputed to occur spontaneously (atpical animal prion strains, sporadic CJD summing 80% of human prion cases). Non-human primate models provided the first evidences supporting the transmissibiity of human prion strains and the zoonotic potential of BSE. Among them, cynomolgus macaques brought major information for BSE risk assessment for human health (Chen, 2014), according to their phylogenetic proximity to humans and extended lifetime. We used this model to assess the zoonotic potential of other animal PD from bovine, ovine and cervid origins even after very long silent incubation periods.

    *** We recently observed the direct transmission of a natural classical scrapie isolate to macaque after a 10-year silent incubation period,

    ***with features similar to some reported for human cases of sporadic CJD, albeit requiring fourfold long incubation than BSE. Scrapie, as recently evoked in humanized mice (Cassard, 2014),

    ***is the third potentially zoonotic PD (with BSE and L-type BSE),

    ***thus questioning the origin of human sporadic cases.

    We will present an updated panorama of our different transmission studies and discuss the implications of such extended incubation periods on risk assessment of animal PD for human health.

    ===============

    ***thus questioning the origin of human sporadic cases***

    ===============

    ***our findings suggest that possible transmission risk of H-type BSE to sheep and human. Bioassay will be required to determine whether the PMCA products are infectious to these animals.

    ==============

    https://prion2015.files.wordpress.com/2015/05/prion2015abstracts.pdf

    Transmission data also revealed that several scrapie prions propagate in HuPrP-Tg mice with efficiency comparable to that of cattle BSE. While the efficiency of transmission at primary passage was low, subsequent passages resulted in a highly virulent prion disease in both Met129 and Val129 mice. Transmission of the different scrapie isolates in these mice leads to the emergence of prion strain phenotypes that showed similar characteristics to those displayed by MM1 or VV2 sCJD prion. These results demonstrate that scrapie prions have a zoonotic potential and raise new questions about the possible link between animal and human prions.

    http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/19336896.2016.1163048?journalCode=kprn20

    MONDAY, OCTOBER 02, 2017

    Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease United States of America USA and United Kingdom UK Increasing and Zoonotic Pontential From Different Species

    http://creutzfeldt-jakob-disease.blogspot.com/2017/10/creutzfeldt-jakob-disease-united-states.html

    THURSDAY, AUGUST 17, 2017

    *** Monitoring the occurrence of emerging forms of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in the United States revisited 2017

    Singeltary et al

    http://creutzfeldt-jakob-disease.blogspot.com/2017/08/monitoring-occurrence-of-emerging-forms.html

    TUESDAY, AUGUST 03, 2010

    Variably protease-sensitive prionopathy: A new sporadic disease of the prion protein

    Here we go folks. AS predicted. THIS JUST OUT !

    http://creutzfeldt-jakob-disease.blogspot.com/2010/08/variably-protease-sensitive-prionopathy.html

    http://creutzfeldt-jakob-disease.blogspot.com/2013/10/coexistence-of-distinct-prion-types.html

    http://creutzfeldt-jakob-disease.blogspot.com/2010/09/agent-strain-variation-in-human-prion.html

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