Snake surprise, black beetles, eyeball soup and chilled monkey brains. Anyone who was a fan of the Indiana Jones films in the early ’80′s will remember this nauseating menu from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Gross. I for one, being incredibly squeamish, heaved at the thought of eating these delicacies not for one moment thinking that I would be confronted with something very similar when married to an Iranian!
My first “encounter” with Kale Pache, or Sheep’s Head Soup was at an Iranian Nowruz (New Year) celebration concert at Cologne Arena. Feri hadn’t mentioned this delicacy to me before and after one of the main acts in the 12 hour celebrity marathon (another story), it was announced on stage that they had sold out of Kale Pache. Huge groans of disappointment, whistles and boos filled the concert hall and I was left wondering what the problem was.
Kale Pache is a traditional Iranian dish made with a complete sheep’s head and its hooves. Kaleh = head; Pache = feet, or hooves. I have since discovered from experience that this delicacy is usually eaten at breakfast time although I have seen it served for lunch on occasions. ” Brains for Breakfast” ……mmmm not for me but clearly the thousands of Iranians who has descended on Cologne for their New Year celebrations were clearly disappointed to hear that they were unable to eat their national delicacy in the early hours and made their feelings known to all!
Feri cooks Kale Pache but only under certain conditions!
- He is “allowed” to cook the sheep’s head in a special slow cooker casserole dish which is only used for this purpose.
- He must clean and prepare the head outside and
- The slow cooker must be plugged in only in the garage!
Feri is generally meticulous in his food preparation but seeing someone brush and floss the teeth of a dead sheep and clean out the nostrils with a cotton bud is something else if not reassuring! In addition to the sheep’s head Feri adds onions, cinnamon and salt and pepper to season. The head is then cooked for 7-8 hours in the slow cooker until the meat falls off the skull leaving the brains(fluffy clouds) and eyeballs floating on the top. The sought-after tender and tasty cheek meat is found below the surface.
I understand that before slow cookers and commercial cooking pots, Kale Pache was cooked overnight in copper dishes buried into the ground covered in embers. Hence it became a breakfast dish.
When in Iran I am lucky that I have a fellow-disliker of Kale Pache in my niece-in-law Sehtari so we sit together in kindred disdain and eat pizza instead!
Sheep’s head soup? No thanks, but please help yourself.