This post is all about offal. If offal makes you squeamish, you may want to skip this one!
Did anyone do any Melbourne Food and Wine Festival events? I only ended up doing one thing – Animal Farm at Baba. Details from the program:
“a seven course menu exploring the flavours of Turkey and the Middle East, matched with wines from Spain and Italy. Featuring bone marrow, heart, brains, tripe, liver and kidney mezze, claypots and kebabs, with Turkish delight, gelato and Turkish coffee to finish, this is a culinary feast not for the weak at heart – but for those who eat it.”
Only Bro and I went to this dinner – Alastair stayed home and had a “safe” dinner of curry. :)
A long table was set up in the middle of the restaurant, with tables for normal diners around the edges of the dining area. We were told that the food would be served communally, but as not every seat was filled there was space between groups and each group received their own dishes.
The first course was a rich and smooth chicken liver parfait with middle eastern melbas and cornichons. A rather safe dish to start off with and good smeared on the crispy bread.
Next was roast bone marrow with smoked lemon, caper and parsley salad and Turkish bread. Little dishes of pink salt from Tibet were placed on the table. To eat the bone marrow, we scraped it out of the bone, spread it on the toast, sprinkled with a bit of salt and then topped it with some of the parsley salad. Mhmmmm it was buttery and soft, plus mildly meaty with the salt and parsley helping to balance out the richness.
The third course was Libyan baked lambs brains in gadaffi pastry and harissa. GAK. The brains felt sooooo greasy and just seemed to coat my mouth in fat. It was the fattiest thing I’ve ever eaten (more than the bone marrow)! Looking around the table at other diners, many seemed to share my distaste. The brains weren't a very popular course!
Happily, the next course was tripe soup with cumin, currants and coriander. The soup was lovely – very strongly cuminy, and the tripe was cooked until very, very tender (I may be strange, but I thought it looked very pretty in the soup). Every now and again I would get little bits of currant and crunch down on cumin seed (one of my favourite spices).
The fifth course came out in three separate dishes. Oh boy, things were getting heavy!
First we had sweetbreads with basil and tomato. I don’t think I’ve had sweetbreads before, but I really liked them. They had a kind of firm, bouncy texture and reminded me of chicken nuggets.
Then there was a sumac seared ox liver with a glazed onion and chickpea salad. The ox liver was good too – rather rich, but the zingy sourness from the sumac and chickpea salad helped cut through the richness.
And last for this course was a za’atar grilled lamb kidney kebab. It was bought out to the table last, and we were already eating the sweetbreads and liver by the time it arrived. As soon as it was set down, all I could smell was that awful kidney scent. I ate a kidney, and while it tasted fine I couldn’t get over that smell. Even if my stomach hadn't been approaching full I wouldn't have been able to eat the whole kebab.
The last savoury course was an East Brunswick bunny boil-up. In the boil up was rabbit kafta dumplings, chicken hearts, lamb sweetbreads and peas. We also received a small dish of pilaf. The pilaf was really good, lovely and buttery, but unfortunately after so much offal we could only eat a couple of bites. The dumplings, hearts and sweetbreads in the light broth were all fine and good, but even the most hardened offal lover would have been a bit weary by this stage (and we were a bit.... weary....).
And finally, to finish, there was Turkish delight gelato, served in cones with a lump of Turkish delight on top. Thank goodness dessert didn’t follow the offal theme! The faintly rosewater flavoured gelato was a good way to end the meal and I loved the cones.
We didn’t stay for coffee – we had been sitting there for about four hours and we were desperate to get out of the wooden seats. The seats would've been fine for a normal dinner but four hours called for a cushion! Food wise, it obviously wasn't the most balanced dinner (did you notice the distinct lack of any green stuff?) but we knew what we were getting into. In the whole we thoroughly enjoyed it, with only the brains and kidneys kinda defeating us. It was definitely a meal for the brave..... or for the ones with cast iron stomachs!
Baba Levantine Trading Company
80 Lygon Street, Brunswick East
Phone: 9380 8534