Back in fashion: Crumbed brains. Photo: Edwina Pickles
What are they?
Lambs' brains, generally crumbed and fried. Beloved by oldies who grew up with mum's crumbed brains and bacon, they're now being discovered by a new generation of adventurous eaters, turning up in tacos, wrapped in prosciutto, and accompanied by feisty pickles. Nose-to-tail chef Fergus Henderson of London's St John calls eating crumbed brains ''like biting through crunch into a rich cloud''.
Where are they?
Melbourne loves its brain food, with brains wrapped in prosciutto at Bistro Thierry in South Yarra, and occasionally appearing in the ''mystery taco'' at Touche Hombre in the city. George Calombaris of Melbourne's Gazi reveals the ''chicken nuggets'' he asked his mother to cook for him and his brother throughout their childhood were finally revealed to be crumbed brains instead.
''It was years before we realised she was stitching us up,'' Calombaris says. Now he has crisp, crusty brains on the menu at Gazi, served with charred and creamed leeks and pickled grapes. ''Kids who would normally go 'eeeuuwwgh' at brains are lapping them up,'' Calombaris says - just like he and his brother did.
At 3 Weeds in Sydney's Rozelle, chef Lauren Murdoch puts her brains to good use, soaking them in iced water for 24 hours to draw out the blood before gently poaching them, then crumbing and frying.
''We serve them with steamed daikon and a sauce ravigote that cuts through the rich creaminess,'' she says. ''The oldies love them, and the youngies think they're something they should try.''
Why do I care?
Because it's so much fun going to the butcher and asking if they have any brains.
Can I do them at home?
Yes, brains are available from good butchers in packs of six, often frozen. Thaw and soak in cold water to draw out the bloodlines, which would otherwise turn grey when cooked.
Add a crisp rasher of oven-roasted bacon for extra crunch.
6 lambs' brains
1 tsp salt
6 parsley stalks
100g plain flour
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup breadcrumbs (eg, panko)
300g frozen peas
1 tbsp butter, diced
2 tbsp grated parmesan
oil for frying
1. Soak the brains in a bowl of water and salt for a couple of hours, or overnight. Drain and rinse, and gently peel off any skin or membrane.
2. Place brains in a fresh pot of cold water with the salt and parsley and bring just to the boil. Simmer gently for five minutes, then drain and pat dry.
3. Separate the brain into two lobes and trim neatly. Coat each in seasoned flour, then beaten egg, then breadcrumbs and refrigerate until needed.
4. Cook the peas in simmering salted water for two minutes then drain, reserving half a cup of the cooking water and two tablespoons of peas. Whizz remaining peas to a puree in a blender with butter, sea salt, pepper and parmesan, adding the cooking water by the tablespoonful until light and creamy.
5. Heat the oil and fry (or deep-fry) the crumbed brains until hot and golden, about one minute. Serve on the pea puree, with remaining peas, mint leaves and lemon wedges.
Gazi 2 Exhibition Street, Melbourne, 9207 7444; Bistro Thierry 511 Malvern Road, Toorak, 9824 0888; Touche Hombre 233 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne, 9663 0811
3 Weeds - The Restaurant 197 Evans Street, Rozelle, 02 9818 2788, 3weeds.com.au