If someone told me years ago that I’d be writing a recipe feature on goat’s brains (bheja or magaz), I probably wouldn’t believe them. I’d like to think this change is a result of my woke nose-to-tail way of cooking, but the reality is that growing up in a Sindhi household, offals are a part of our everyday.
A nutritious breakfast in many non-vegetarian homes would consist of bread, brains and butter or ghee. Steamed or boiled brains are pan-fried in a generous amount of fat till the surface begins to brown a bit. Just the smell of magaz crisping up is what many Sindhis can associate early mornings with. This is usually served with fresh ladi pav bread buns to soak up all the pan juices after the magaz is done browning.
Cleaning The Bheja
My mum plucks out the red veins on the bheja before steaming or boiling them. She says that the fresher the brain, the easier it is to remove the veins from the top. If you do a good job, it will end up looking very white. Don’t forget to pull out the vein behind the brain where it would meet the neck of the goat. Tuck your finger and pluck it out. That’s the only tricky one. Rinse it once more and then proceed to cook as needed.
Pan-Fried Brains With Butter and Pav
Yield 2 portions
This is the quickest and most popular way of preparing brains pan-fried in a good amount of fat. You want the brains to crisp up slightly before taking it off the pan and grinding a generous amount of black pepper on top.
Goat’s Brains 2, deveined and cleaned
Salted water for boiling
Butter 2-3 tbsp, or an equal amount of ghee
Pepper 1 tsp, freshly cracked
Fresh pav 2-3
Add the brains to a pot of salted water and bring up to a rolling boil. Take the pot off the flame and drain the water. Set the goat’s brain aside.
In a frying pan, heat a tablespoon of the butter or ghee and make sure it’s very hot before you add in the brains. Pan-fry the brains on each side till slightly crisp and browned on all sides. Remove immediately from the heat, shower with a generous amount of cracked pepper and set aside.
Slice the fresh pav into two and press the pav face-down into the frying pan and to let it soak up the juices. Once it has heated through, serve it alongside the brains.
Another famous way of cooking brain is with tomatoes. Rich creamy bheja is scramble-cooked with tomatoes over medium-high heat till the oil begins to peep from the sides, which means it’s done. Us Sindhis seem to have a tomato-base recipe ready for nearly everything, and this must be because we were once tomato farmers back in Pakistan where it is still a major crop. That said, we will also cook bheja like our masala scrambled eggs or dip them in a basic pakora/omelette batter and fry them. These pakoras are served with spicy green chutney. You can find the recipe for that here.
Bheja With Tomatoes
Brains taste delicious in a spicy tomato gravy, and you can have them for breakfast, or serve them as a side for lunch. Once the tomatoes are cooked, you splash in a generous amount of water and add in the brains, letting them boil till done.
Goat's Brains 2, deveined and cleaned
Vegetable oil 2-3 tbsp
Tomatoes 3, medium-sized grated
Ginger 3/4 tsp, grated
Garlic 1/2 tsp, grated
Green chilli 1, slit lengthwise and chopped finely
Red chilli powder 1/2 tsp
Salt to taste
Turmeric powder 1/4 tsp
Coriander powder 1 tsp
Cumin powder 1/2 tsp (optional)
Coriander fresh 1 tbsp, chopped
In a kadai or shallow saucepan, heat the vegetable oil over a medium-high heat. When hot, add in the ginger, garlic and chillies and let it fry for a minute. Add in the grated tomatoes and let it cook over medium-high heat.
Add in a large pinch of salt, red chilli, turmeric, coriander and cumin powders if adding, then let this cook till the oil begins to separate from the corners.
Add 3/4 cup of water to the pan and bring this whole mixture up to a boil. Reduce this mixture by half, before adding the brains. Immediately cover and let this cook for 5-7 minutes or till the brains are cooked through. Take it off the beat and serve with bread and freshly chopped coriander.
Magaz Ja Pakora or Brain Pakoras
Yield 4 as a snack
These unctuous pakoras are delicious as a tea time snack, served with my grandmother’s green chutney with mint and coriander.
Goat's Brains 2, deveined and cleaned
Besan 1 cup
Fresh Coriander 1 tbsp, finely chopped
Green chilli 1, slit lengthwise and finely chopped
Baking soda 1/4 tsp
Red chilli powder 1/2 tsp, or more
Salt 1 tsp, plus more for salting the brains
Green chutney for serving
Salt the brains and steam the brains in a covered colander set over a saucepan with boiling water for 7-10 minutes, or till the brains are cooked through. Cut each brain into eight pieces or larger depending on your preference and set aside.
Keep the vegetable oil to heat in a kadai or a shallow saucepan and prepare the batter by mixing all the ingredients together. This should form a batter with coating consistency, so not too thick or too thin.
Dip the brain pieces in the batter and add to the hot oil and deep-fry till golden. Don’t overcrowd the pan by frying only 4 pieces at a time. Drain on paper towels and serve with green chutney.