Posts Tagged ‘sheep’s head soup’

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.

Read Full Post »

I’ve always been a fussy eater and never touch liver, kidney, any offal or products made from offal such as faggots or haggis so when Feri tells me that an Iranian delicacy and a dish that is often made on Fridays when everyone is at home for the weekend is kaleh pache, or sheep’s head soup, I am tempted to head straight for the airport and curtail my holiday immediately. I don’t wish to offend anyone but there is no way I can eat sheep’s head.

Feri does cook sheep’s head at home but after watching him prepare the head for its fate and enduring the awful smell whilst it bubbles away in the kitchen I now ban the slow-cooker to the garage to let it cook overnight. If you are at all squeamish then you should flick through to another Blog post now as I am going to explain the process of preparation and cooking of the head which I find so nauseous.

As we live near the multi-cultural city of Leicester it is fairly easy for Feri to buy sheep’s head being a Middle Eastern delicacy. He proudly brings it home in a carrier bag then starts to clean and prepare it for cooking. He keeps a special toothbrush to clean the teeth which are often discoloured and full of grass. He also cleans the ears and nostrils with cotton buds and when I laugh at this, tells me that not everyone is so meticulous in the preparation! At this point I leave him to it and make a cheese sandwich for my tea. 

The head is stewed in a slow cooker saved for this purpose until the meat is tender and can be stripped from the skull. The brains (fluffy clouds), the eyes, the tongue (plus extra ones) and cheek meat float to the top of the pot ready for skimming off leaving the soupy-juice to be sieved and served separately. Apparently if you are a VIP, you get an eye as the best part of the dish and if you are a very,VIP, you get both! 

Luckily, in Iran Feri’s family understand my reluctance to eat sheep’s head and I have allies in the family who don’t eat it either! Instead I get my favourite dish of Qormeh-Sabzi and dill rice instead. Much more palatable and it smells delicious too.

I am being a little unfair in that I am writing about sheep’s head as a Middle Eastern preserve but having done some quick research on the internet, it appears that recipes for sheep’s head are more common and widespread across the globe than I thought. I remember my grandmother talking about cooking pig’s trotters, the nutritional benefits of tripe, and hearts are still widely available in Supermarkets. Apparently, in 1773, Dr. Johnson indignantly refused an offer of “some cold sheep-head for breakfast” on the Isle of Mull. His reaction delighted Boswell, who had encouraged their hostess in the offer from “a mischievous love of sport.”

So maybe Kaleh Pache is not so bad after all.  

Catholic Feast of St Andrew- Sheep’s Head recipe

British food in America-Sheep’s Head

Read Full Post »

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: