Braaaaains

Lamb's brain

Hungry yet?

One of the problems with lamb's brains is that they look like, well, brains. So unmistakably like brains. They feel like you'd expect brains to feel like too: firm inside their membrane, but squishy and very fragile. When you handle these you can't help but instinctively use the kind of care normally reserved for donor hearts or baby birds. Maybe it's some subconscious respect for brains?

I'd never tried brains before this. I didn't even know where to get them. When I imagined asking the butcher for them, I half expected everyone around me to gasp and go silent as the butcher calmly went into the back room to call the police. When I told friends I was cooking lambs brains, most of them looked at me as if I'd just offered them a plastic bag full of used syringes. It was going to be a challenge getting anyone else to try them.

In the end the brains were lunch for one. The taster was away, my friends were all mysteriously busy or in the process of becoming busy, so I defrosted two, put some Michael Jackson on, and gots to the devouring.

Thriller: Music to cook brains to

Don't be scared of curries: beef & chickpea curry

Beef & chickpea curry

Mmm, curries. Warm, satisfying, aromatic, and yet intimidating to so many cooks. I know heaps of people with Indian or South East Asian cookbooks who have only cooked a curry once or twice, if at all. When they did, they went and bought fourteen different spices which I guarantee you are now sitting at the bottom of a cupboard gathering dust — each one a meagre teaspoon less in volume — then spent the whole day cooking the thing. For many the end result was probably delicious, but others ended up with tough meat or bitter flavours and it was such a pointless bother they'll never do it again.

That's the problem with cooking by rote, blinding following a recipe without thinking about what you're being asked to and why. It's the reason people attempt Sandra Lee recipes. She's such an easy target, but look how many people covered tempura prawns in a whipped cream and jarred mayonnaise sauce. And put it in their mouths!

Sorry. Just because you've had a hard time making a curry, I'd never accuse you of wanting to make a Sandra Lee tinned pineapple and ketchup pie (link coming eventually, it'll happen). It's just that curries lend themselves to rote cooking because people aren't confident enough with Indian cooking to second guess the recipes. If you've never had a fenugreek seed, how would you know how much to add? How would you know how much to toast it? Unless your Mum was Indian, well, you probably wouldn't know. And that's okay.

But you can know. Curries are basically Aromatics, Spices, and The Rest of It. It's such a simple framework that can be turned into a million different curries by someone who knows how to handle the ingredients. Start here, Meena will show you how. She'll be the Indian Mum you never had. Now here's a curry I made yesterday afternoon to use up some beef and freeze for busy evenings.