On the pans - Hero of Maida

Words: Henry Harris   Photography by Steve Ryan

On the pans - Hero of Maida

Calves brains, black butter and capers

The foundations of Root + Bone were formed when we worked on cook books together from 2009-2013. In our first cook book for the men’s health charity, The Movember Foundation, we featured Henry Harris’s restaurant Racine, in Knightsbridge.

Eight years later and following his success at The Three Cranes in the City and The Coach in Farringdon, Henry’s latest adventure is the Hero of Maida in Maida Vale. His calf brain dish is currently being served at both The Coach and The Hero of Maida.

Calves brains are delicate, fragile organs. When floured and cooked this way they deliver a mix of sweet fatty meatiness with a light crust that encases a soft cheese curd or scrambled egg like texture. Grubby and dark they were an ingredient rarely found on a plate in London. I’m so happy to be cooking them again and happier still that so many people are turning up to the pub to eat them.

They are highly perishable and in their raw state will deteriorate quickly. When buying fresh calves brains they must look bright and glossy and any residual blood on the membrane should have a vivid red hue. If not fresh the smell will be most unpleasant. Cook them as soon as you can and certainly on the day of purchase. Lamb’s brains can be substituted and whilst it is good to soak them before cooking don’t attempt to remove the membrane, as it's a lot more difficult compared to calf brains.


Ingredients (Makes one generous portion)

 1 set of calves brains
A splash of red wine vinegar and a further 1-2tbs
Seasoned flour
A splash of vegetable oil
50gm unsalted butter, cubed
1 tsp brined capers
2 tbsp chopped parsley


1. Place the raw brains in a large bowl of cold water to which you have added half a teaspoonful of salt. Leave for an hour. When you return to the brains lift them from the water and gently pull apart the lobes, there is usually a “noggin” nestled at the base of the two lobes, this golf ball sized piece is to be pinched off. Keep all three pieces and in the bowl of water take each piece of brain and gently work your way across the brain and peel off the membrane. Once done, rinse gently and place in a saucepan with a splash of the vinegar and a seasoning of salt. Bring to a gentle simmer and poach for ten minutes. Then remove from the heat and leave to cool in the liquid. Store in the fridge in the liquid until needed.

2. Take the brains out of the cooking liquor in which they've been chilled. Pat dry with kitchen paper. Slice each lobe front-to-back in half so you have four thick "escalopes" and the “noggin”. If you are doing a good quantity keep the noggins to one side and as a different dish breadcrumb and deep fry them if you wish.

3. Coat these in the seasoned flour on the fissured exterior side only. Shake off any excess. Heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan that's a little larger than the surface area of the brains. Lay the brains, crinkly side down, in the oil. They should sizzle on contact.

4. The aim when frying them is to develop a light brown crust. Don't turn the brains in the pan. Let them cook on one side without burning for about four to five minutes. Then add the cubed butter and allow it to melt. Keep cooking on a medium heat and the butter will foam and start to turn a good nut brown. Turn the pieces of brain over in the pan and cook gently for a further minute or two and let the butter go much darker, black but not burnt. Throw in the capers and parsley and immediately follow this with the red wine vinegar. All will foam and splutter before the excitement subsides. Cook for another ten seconds to soften any aggressiveness from the vinegar, check the seasoning and then transfer the contents to a warm plate and eat immediately.

5. A good piece of bread is ideal for soaking up the grubby buttery liquid.