Sheep Head with Cumin and Lemon

Moroccan butcher selling goat and sheep heads and brain

If you’d like to really embrace the ‘nose to tail’ ethos, eating the head of an animal is a good start. It will give you lots of points for bravery. Even though I’ve prepared various offal and extremities for many a feast, when I pick the meat off a boiled head I still feel a little queasy. However, the rewards are sweet. There are many delicious textures of meat from the gelatinous snout to the fleshy cheeks and almost fois gras like texture of the brain.

I was first inspired to cook this recipe after a trip to Morocco. The market place in the old city is buzzing with interesting stalls selling everything from snails to snakes. My most memorable taste experience was eating a piece of sheep’s head. It was salty and melted in my mouth with the most unctuous texture.

Waste not: Almost all the meat on a sheep’s head is edible and delicious, so pick it clean and make sure you invite enough friends to finish it! The brain is considered a delicacy in Iran. Season it with a little cinnamon and a squeeze of lemon.

Ingredients – Serves 4

1 sheep’s head, skinned
1 tsp whole peppercorns
1 tsp coriander seeds
3 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick
Salt
1-2 lemons
3 tsp of freshly ground cumin
Small bunch of flat parsley, roughly chopped

Method

Find a pan that fits the head snuggly. Cover with cold water until it’s submerged. Add the peppercorns, coriander, bay leaves and cinnamon stick.  Salt the water heavily so that it tastes salty but is still palatable.

Bring to the boil then immediately turn the heat down low, so that it ticks over slowly. If any foam comes to the top skim it off with a spoon. Simmer for 3 hours until the meat is falling off the bone.

Remove the heads from the stock. The stock makes a delicious Harira soup, so freeze it for another time. Allow the meat to cool a little, then pick from the head until it’s clean. Throw away any gristly bits and shred everything else. If necessary, warm the meat gently in an oven.

Season the meat to taste with the lemon, parsley and cumin. Serve hot with flat bread.

Seasoned sheep's head with babaganush and roasted fennel


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