As you may have already gathered I have a serious obsession with all things food. This obsession manifests in an overwhelming need to attend and arrange a plethora of cooking demonstrations and classes. It’s about a thirst for culinary knowledge and a deep appreciation of the chefs and producers of the Wellington region who demonstrate originality, integrity and attention to detail.
Every now and again I go to a class that causes me to entirely re-think my food philosophy. A total game changer, if you will. Today was one of those days….. Jacob Brown’s “Offally Good” demonstration at Moore Wilson was nothing short of fabulous.
I’ve always had a reasonably good relationship with offal and am willing to give pretty much anything a try but I don’t always like too much detail about what I’m eating. It’s possible to over think these things and put ones self off the concept entirely.
When I lived in London I was a regular diner at one of the worlds best “nose to tail” restaurants, St John, owned by Fergus Henderson. I loved every meal I’ve ever eaten at this fine establishment but I could never bring myself to look at the menu and order. I would always bestow the responsibility of ordering to my dining companion and even went so far as to put my fingers in my ears while he was doing so. Offal is certainly delicious but in those days I found too much information could be a bad thing and cause me to chicken out of dining before the entree arrived.
I like to think that I’ve come a long way since then…. Now I’m capable of seeing beyond the anatomical nature of the organs and am able to truly to appreciate the flavors and complexity of a well-prepared plate or offal.
Jacob Brown and his partner Sarah Bullock own The Larder in Miramar. An exceptionally fine restaurant that has a wonderful philosophy of “nose to tail” eating. Jacob is a chef who believes in honoring the whole animal by not just favoring the prime cuts but preparing every organ with reverence and respect.
Today’s demonstration began with brains. There is no mistaking the structure of any animals grey matter. Prior to prep it is immediately obvious what you’re about to eat. At some stage in our lives we’ve probably all encountered liver and kidneys but not everyone will have come face to face with another animals brains. There is something a little strange about eating a thing that was once the center of all thought and all feeling. “Hannibal the Cannibal” springs to mind or at least he did until today…..
Jacob lightly poached the lamb’s brain in a specially prepared broth in order to set the structure before it was coated in a gremolata crumb and deep fried to perfection. At every stage during the preparation this unusual ingredient was handled with the care and respect that one would expect a fine surgeon to afford their patient. The brains were served with delicately shredded celeriac in a fresh mayonnaise with baby capers. The flavor was rich and creamy and worked exceptionally well with the citrus of the gremolata. Totally unlike anything I’ve ever tasted. Rather than brains in a delicate crumb I thought of it as some kind of molecular concoction. This made the act of eating easy for me to handle and the psychological hurdle was shattered.
Next we moved onto the lambs sweetbreads, which I have to say, were the best that I’ve knowingly tasted. Prior to cooking Jacob soaked both the brains and the sweetbreads in running water to remove the blood. He used the sweetbreads from the side of the neck and behind the heart of the lamb. They were blanched and the membrane was removed before being patted dry and fried in oil. I was surprised at the amount of cooking that the sweetbreads could take without becoming tough or their flavor being compromised. They were left to caramelize in balsamic and manuka honey. The flavor was divine and complimented by the sweetness of the glaze. This was certainly the highlight of todays offally good encounter.
The grand finale was a lamb’s kidney with Dijon mustard and watercress. The sumptuous sauce although very light was actually made of white wine, Dijon mustard and cream. Most people’s bad offal experiences consist of an encounter with over cooked liver of kidneys. Thankfully those days are now behind us. Chefs know how to prepare the organs with care and attention and home cooks are experimenting with ingredients that would once have been consigned to the dog bowl. An offal renaissance is officially upon us.....
If you’re an offal lover I highly recommend visiting The Larder. If you’re not an offal lover but would like to give it a try you’ll be in very safe hands at The Larder http://www.thelarder.co.nz
Top class tips:
Honor every part of the animal.
If poaching in stock be sure not to boil as this will destroy the delicate structure.
The lighter the sauce the more explosion of flavor the offal will provide.
Don’t discard the skin of the celeriac. After peeling place it on a tray in the oven with salt, then blitz in a blender to make celery salt.
The Larder will be hosting two events as part of this years Wellington on a Plate festivities: Eat an Elk and Tripe, Trotters and Testicles. They also have a Burger Wellington option and a WOAP menu. Click for details: http://www.wellingtononaplate.com/dine/the-larder/