Your average, modern zombie is a difficult creature to socialise with, we discovered recently.
We’d invited a bunch of them to Gordonton for a shared, pot-luck dinner because ‘tis the season and all that.
The plan was for them to admire each other’s getup, chase each other a bit, enjoy some fine food and settle in for back-to-back zombie movies. But on the night, just one proper zombie turned up and there were just two or three others in ordinary clothes. And one of them had to leave early.
It all came about because of the daughter. For a while she’s been putting on white face paint and splashing her torn, ragged clothes with fake blood and joining similarly attired chaps and chappesses to lurch down Victoria St of an evening. Keeps them out of trouble. (And interestingly, most of the reaction is very positive.)
It’s part of a phenomena which is sweeping the planet – mass zombie walks, and it can even help raise money for charities – research into brain disease is popular. Zombies, like bow ties, are cool.
Anyhow, Head Zombie Alista thought it would be nice to actually do something a bit different, maybe involving food and wine and movies. And we have a nice big screen which is perfect for movies, as well as a nice outdoor eating area under a grapevine. Because you don’t want blood on your soft furnishings. Oh no.
In the belief that there would be plenty of excellent, normal food, we decided to venture out of my comfort zone, and serve Italian-style brains. They were a bit of a pig to find – but the butcher in Frankton had some nice ones formerly belonging to lambs, so we bought a small packet.
I don’t like brains. Or kidney. Or offal of any kind. But I can appreciate the argument – especially made by the likes of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall – that if you eat meat, you should eat the less-nice parts of an animal too. It’s about respect, and economy and the like.
So brains it was. And some folk love ’em. We soaked them, poached them with herbs and vegetables, then served them with lemon juice and oil.
And hoped that the other zombies would turn up with, oh, potato salad and sausages and maybe something nice to wash it all down.
But it was not to be. Dinner was brains, brains and more brains, followed by Alista’s delicious home-made cinnamon ice cream. Then we watched Peter Jackson’s Braindead. It was a select gathering, but a quality one.
Sheep brains with lemon and olive oil
½ onion, peeled
1 carrot, peeled
2 bay leaves
sprig oregano, thyme
1 tbsp vinegar
Juice of 2 lemons
Good quality olive oil
Wash the brains under cold water. Place them in a bowl and cover with salted cold water for at least two hours. Change the water after an hour.
Fill a large pot with hot water and bring to the boil. Add the onion, chopped in half, carrot, sliced roughly, fresh herbs, oil and salt.
Place the brains in the boiling water, simmer for about 20 minutes. Drain them and let cool.
With a very sharp knife, slice them thinly and place on a serving platter. With a lid (so you can surprise your zombies).
Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice, season and sit back and watch the reaction.
Variation: Brains fried in breadcrumbs
If you have more time, this is a version which is rather less, er, brainy. Kind of Brain McNuggets.
After poaching, allow the brains to cool, then refrigerate for about an hour so that they firm up. Slice the brains about half an inch thick and dredge them in beaten egg to which a teaspoon of salt has been added. Coat in breadcrumbs and fry in a pan of neutral-flavoured oil (eg rice bran oil) about 1cm deep, turning when golden brown. Drain on a paper towel then serve immediately with lemon segments.