Food & Wine
Wellington chef Jacob Brown is renowned for challenging diners with his creations.
During last year's Wellington on a Plate festival, The Larder chef created a menu based around animal heads, using meat from the heads of pigs, sheep, lambs and calves. Pigs' ears were candied and sprinkled with crystallised sugar, and diners ate brains, tongue, cheek and ears, which were concocted into a range of delicious dishes.
In this year's August culinary event, Brown's Six Feet Under degustation menu will be a gastronomic treat of six courses of animal tootsies - calves' feet, pigs' feet, venison tendons, black-foot abalone and snails' feet.
"We've done the pig's head, so it makes sense to do the feet. Not many people eat feet that often and they're quite hard to get. We're not out to shock people, though, and you're not going to get a pig's foot on a plate, but that will be worked into a dish of a certain style."
Feet are just another piece of meat from an animal, says Brown, who uses venison feet when making veal stock for his restaurant. But animal feet are surprisingly hard to get, as they're most typically ground into blood and bone and sold as fertiliser.
"It took me quite a few phone calls to my suppliers to get my calves' feet. I had to get my suppliers enthusiastic. There's also not a lot of meat on them, as so much of feet is bone.
"When you think about it, though, it's so much more respectful to the animal that the meat is used, rather than turned into fertiliser."
While Brown hasn't finalised his menu yet (the one-off event isn't until August 21), he says the meat will be deconstructed. And for those who haven't tasted the meat before, he says pork feet can taste like the best pork crackling, while the meat of calves' feet is sticky.
He also expects to make a jelly too, as gelatine was originally made from calves' feet in Roman times, when it was served both sweet and savoury. "It goes back to what we used to use it for."
At The Larder, Brown changes his menu daily, but always has an offal or kidney dish available for dinner.
On Saturday night, an entree was gremolata-crumbed lambs' brains with celeriac remoulade, baby capers and fried quail eggs. One main was comprised of stuffed honeycomb tripe with sweetbreads, tongue, sauteed spinach and baby onions.
For Wellington on a Plate, Brown is also entering the Burger Wellington competition, which has attracted 64 entries from restaurants in the region. His creation, "the brain burger", consists of gremolata-crumbed lambs' brains with bacon, iceberg lettuce, celeriac and tartare sauce.
Brown's interest in cooking offal (the internal organs and entrails of a butchered animal) hails from his time working in Sydney under Janni Krystis, where Bennelong restaurant made its own blood sausages and stuffed pigs' ears.
"People get scared off by offal and feet, but it's not going to be confronting," he says.
- © Fairfax NZ News