Zombie Nuggets: or Brainsss!!

Pork brain nuggets in panko breadcrumbs

 

As you probably know from reading the blog, we seem to have unofficially become offal crazy. For me it’s partly because I’m on a tight budget and offal is cheap and partly because there’s an excellent stall at Brixton Farmers’ Market that sells all kinds of bits of wild boar and pork and I can play offal roulette while picking up some sausages or a roast. In fact, this is where I buy nearly all my meat these days and the woman who runs the stall often encourages me to try weird and wonderful bits (possibly to liven up her Sunday mornings). At my last visit, she slipped a package out from under the trestle and whispered brains in my direction. Or the most challenging thing I’ve ever been offered to eat.

She’d got them for me specially and I didn’t have the heart to refuse the little pink filled pouch. I asked what on earth one does with a bag of brains (if you don’t have a dog) and she told me that her Irish granny breaded and fried them and told them they were chicken nuggets. Wondering why I’m probably less scared of eating mechanically recovered meat than certain parts of fresh offal, I took them home to nugget up.

I don’t eat much in the way of nuggets or goujons or other crumbed things, but on a recent trip to Hawksmoor, I had some of their shortrib nuggets and was blown away by the melting interior and crispy crumby exterior all bound together with a tangy garlicky spicy kimchi dip on the side. I decided to steal the dip idea for my homemade nuggets, blending up some shopbought kimchi with a splash of vinegar and some ketchup til I got the right dippy texture.

Then I tackled the brains, cutting out some weird bits that didn’t look very edible, chopping them into fairly bite sized pieces, but not too small so they would burn on the outside before the middles were cooked. They were floured, egged and breadcrumbed in panko and fried til golden in hot oil. They looked lovely. All glisteningly crispy and very appetising indeed.

Turns out that fried breadcrumbs can make anything alluring and brain nuggets are as nice as you expected them to be…chewy, bouncy and very very offally in taste and texture, these were a bar too far even for me. I managed one, well dipped in kimchi ketchup and got no further. Pleased that I’d challenged myself this far, I regretfully threw the rest away feeling bad about wasting food and had a sandwich instead. My lesson is learned. If food makes you feel scared of it, you don’t have to eat it. Even if it makes a good blog post…

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10 replies
  1. Kathryn
    Kathryn says:

    When I was in Egypt a few years ago, we were served fried chicken brains at one meal. The main problem I had with them was the texture, I just couldn’t get past it, but I applaud you for trying!

  2. Miss South
    Miss South says:

    The texture was horrible. Really unpleasant. And I wasn’t quite expecting it so that compounded it. This is one bit of the animal I won’t be eating again. Thank god I wasn’t in a restaurant where I might have offended someone by not being able to eat them. We need a foodie etiquette guide for such events!

  3. Mister North
    Mister North says:

    That’s a great post, but I bet it’s easier to read than it was to eat and taste it! You’re definitely braver than I am… (shudder).

    Perhaps one day I’ll be brave enough to give let cervelles into my life… I’ve heard lamb is a good start. That’s good, relatively. It’s still brain…

    I wonder if soaking them in milk, a bit like kidneys, might draw out the worst and temper the flavour a bit?

  4. thelittleloaf
    thelittleloaf says:

    You are so incredibly brave! My boyfriend had calves’ brains a while back at Medlar and said that deep fried they tasted delicious, just had a slightly springy texture. I couldn’t bring myself to do it (wimp, I know!) but am seriously impressed by your offal efforts on this blog!

  5. Elly
    Elly says:

    They look so lovely…. but they sound so yuck! At least you can now proudly cross it off your culinary bucket list!

  6. Sharmila
    Sharmila says:

    Well done for trying! I like a lot of offal but brains are a step too far for me (along with tripe, which doesn’t offend so much, but the chewing and chewing and chewing gets to me after a bit).

    I was put off brains when I was in China and was served them as an ingredient to cook in hotpot. I can tell you now, boiled brains are not nice.

  7. Miss South
    Miss South says:

    I am amazed by how many folk have tried brains. I should have realised the fact that no one has ever cared to relive this by telling me before I breaded mine up was a hint that they were godawful and to be avoided.

    I might give you all a laugh with some tripe next now you mention it…

  8. Scott ex chef
    Scott ex chef says:

    Had brains myself a couple of times- with mixed results, I’ve found that brining it makes all the difference and when eaten as part of a ” brawn” terrine ie all the meat from the pigs head, cheeks, brain, as well as trotter meat can be a real treat. I’ve seen some decent brawn terrine recipes online also, well worth a look for thR more squeamish amongst you.

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