Brain fritters with lime, coriander and hot paprika

Brain fritters with lime, coriander and hot paprika

Mark Roper

While we were in Mashhad, the large pilgrimage city in the north-east of Iran, we had a simple but delicious lunch of delicately spiced poached brains stuffed into a long, soft white roll. This region is prime saffron-growing country, so, unsurprisingly, that spice features in many dishes – even in the poaching liquid for the brains, tinting them pale yellow. That dish was the inspiration for these fritters, which you could serve as a small course with salad leaves, or stuff into a bread roll, Iranian-style, with lots of tangy pickles.

Many offal lovers only ever eat brains when they see them on restaurant menus because they’re concerned the preparation is too involved. Lamb’s brains are a cinch, don’t require the peeling and attention to detail that calf’s brains do, and are absolutely delicious – but, then, you know that already. Be brave – and be rewarded!


Quantity Ingredient
6 sets lamb’s brains
cold milk
1 bay leaf
6 sprigs thyme
1 cinnamon stick
1 shallot, cut in half
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon Saffron liquid

Lime-paprika batter

Quantity Ingredient
50g self-raising flour
1 teaspoon hot paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried mint
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 eggs
1 lime, zested and half the juice reserved
1/2 cup coriander leaves
2 tablespoons snipped chives


  1. Soak the brains in cold milk for 2 hours. Drain well.
  2. Put the brains into a large, non-reactive saucepan with the saffron liquid, herbs, cinnamon and shallot. Cover with water, then bring to a gentle boil over a medium heat. Skim, then lower the heat and simmer gently for 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the brains to cool in the poaching liquid. When they are cold, remove them from the pan and split each set in half. Cut out and discard the stem at the base of each lobe, then pat the poached brains dry with paper towels and cut into 15 mm dice. To make the batter, mix the flour, paprika
  3. To make the batter, mix the flour, paprika, dried mint, pepper and salt in a large bowl. Crack in the eggs and whisk until very smooth. Whisk in the lime zest and juice, followed by the fresh herbs. Fold the diced brains into the batter.
  4. Heat the oil in a large heavy-based frying pan over a high heat. Stir the batter briefly, then drop spoonfuls into the hot oil. Lower the heat to medium and fry the fritters for 4–5 minutes on each side. Remove from the pan and drain briefly on paper towels. Serve with lime wedges and pickles or a pinch of dried chilli flakes – stuffed into a long bread roll, if you like.
Middle Eastern
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