Brain over Brawn

meat from a pig’s or calf’s head that is cooked and pressed in a pot with jelly.

This is a dish that I have made several times in the past. It is a dish of simplicity, respect and appreciation but still in a time old fashion sense. A bit laborious for the yeald and all depends on the ratios you are comfortable with. I suppose if needs be, I could do without this but when you have some decent crusty bread (I have recipe for bread, find it here), a good pickle and some quality mustard – you have some good quality rustic comfort food.

I do believe that if we enjoy all the good things, like a good quality cured bacon, meaty sausage, decent roasted joint with crispy crackling, I think it’s fair to respect and appreciate the other qualities of any beast.

In the picture below, you will see the brawn on its own, sliced. Traditionally, all the vegetables would go in at the beginning of the stock making but this would lead to everything breaking down and causing the stock to go cloudy. The vegetables in this stock are only added in the last 10 minutes or so of the cooking process, just to impart the flavour. But, if I am using everything in this dish, I want to use the bits of the vegetables that were thrown into the stock, like we would throw the vegetable peelings to the pig, I wanted to ‘throw’ them onto the plate, back at us.

For the mustard sauce, I chose a locally made mustard from the Isle of Harris. The liquorice and stout mustard from Mustheb is the perfect flavour combination for this terrine. Tender carrots are turned into a pickled carrot chutney and onions are smoked in their own skins and pureed for a smoked onion puree. The only thing that lets down the plating, for me, is the rough finish from the piping bags. The flavours are certainly there but we can work on plating another time. Note to self, must top up my stash of piping bags!

The other dish we tried for breakfast was a pig brain omelette. Made with equal quantities of eggs to brain and some herbs and spices. Just the ticket to get you going in the morning but no.. it doesn’t make you any smarter.

The finished product: pig brain omelette with some herbs and seasonings

Brains over Brawn

x1 pigs head

x4 trotters

x2 carrot, chopped

x2 onion, diced

x2 bay leaf

x12 whole black peppercorns

2tsp salt

1/2 tsp of cloves

1/2 tsp ground coriander

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Small bunch of parsley

Small bunch sage

Ask your butcher to split the head for you as it is quite difficult to do without a decent saw. Ask them also to reserve the brain and tongue. Some recipes require a brine to be made bu this is only necessary if you are preserving the head/trotters for a length of time. In this recipe, we can adjust the seasoning as we go along.

Make sure you burn any hairs off with a blow torch more so around the snout. Cut the ears off and scrub well, also around the snout. Remove the brain carefully and tie in Muslin cloth, if you are using, if not reserve for an omelette or other delights

Place the split head and trotters into a pan and cover with cold water and bring gently to a simmer, skimming the surface of any impurities every now and again. Add the 2tsp of salt. simmer gently for about 3-4 hours or until the meat is tender and falling from the bone. Add the chopped carrot, onion, bay leaves, peppercorns, and spices for the last 10-15 mins and the brain for the last 5 mins.

Remove the meat and vegetables from the pan let the stock reduce by about the half, skimming when required, to get a nice clear finish. When the meat is cool enough to handle, remove it all and chop coarsely. It is also at this point you can choose what ratio of rendered fat you want to add to the meat. You can also add the chopped brain if using, chop the ears and if using the tongue, remove the course layer before chopping.

Drop the sage into the stock for a few moments to infuse slightly and then discard the leaves and check the seasoning. Add the lemon juice and chopped parsley to the meat and again check the seasoning.

Line a loaf tin with cling film. If you don’t have a loaf tin you could use a bowl or little ramekins, starting with a little of the meat mixture then the stock tapping the tin as you layer to pack neatly. It will set solid and will last in the fridge for a good week. Do not freeze as the jelly does not react well. Serve with some crusty bread, pickles and good mustard or some steamed vegetables and potatoes.

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