"My mum tricked us into believing that lambs' brains were chicken nuggets," says Calombaris. "I thank her for that because when lambs' brains are done well they're delicious. The secret is to wash them properly and then cook them by simmering in stock or water first before frying. It stops them getting milky, which is really no good. I like to use panko crumbs so they're super-crunchy. The char on the leek cream, meanwhile, is very important to the flavour profile of this dish."
- 4 lambs’ brains (if bloody, soak 2 hrs in cold salted water)
- 1 egg, lightly whisked
- 100 gm panko crumbs
- 60 ml white wine vinegar (¼ cup)
- 30 gm caster sugar
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 1 star anise
- 100 gm mixed red and green seedless grapes, halved lengthways
Charred cream leek
- 1 leek, halved lengthways, keeping root intact, rinsed well
- 1½ tbsp olive oil
- 2 golden shallots, thinly sliced
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
- 200 ml pouring cream
- 1For pickled grapes, stir vinegar, sugar and spices in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves, then season to taste. Pour onto grapes and refrigerate to pickle (30-40 minutes).
- 2Cut brains down the centre and remove the white central cortex. Blanch brains for 30 seconds in salted water, refresh in iced water, then pat dry with absorbent paper. Dust lightly in seasoned flour, dip in egg and coat in panko crumbs, shaking off excess in between. Place in a single layer on a tray and refrigerate until required.
- 3For charred cream leek, preheat a char-grill to high. Rub leek with 2 tsp olive oil, then char-grill, turning occasionally, until slightly blackened (8-10 minutes). Cut into 2cm lengths and set aside. Heat remaining oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat, add shallot and garlic, and stir occasionally until tender (2-3 minutes). Add leek and cream, stir to combine, then reduce heat to medium. Simmer until leek is tender and cream is reduced to a thick sauce consistency (5-6 minutes). Season to taste and keep warm.
- 4Preheat oil in a large saucepan to 180C. Deep-fry brains in batches, turning occasionally, until crisp and golden (2-3 minutes; take care, hot oil may spit). Drain on absorbent paper, season to taste, and serve hot with charred cream leek and pickled grapes, and topped with herbs.
Drink Suggestion: 2011 Thymiopoulos Young Vines Xinomavro, Naoussa. Drink suggestion by Andrew Phillpot