01 November 2011


I often write about my predilection to procure every French cookbook there is and often lament the fact that there really are just so many ways on can make boeuf bourguignon! So leave it to some French author to come up with a cookbook that covers a culinary delicacy I have never thought of cooking.

Blandine Vié has written a book that is the best of what a cookbook can be. Testicles: Balls in Cooking and Culture is part cookbook, part cultural history, part lexicon, an all profoundly entertaining. The book was originally published in France in 2005. It has been masterfully translated by Giles MacDonogh. I regret that my knowledge if French does not allow me the pleasure of reading this work in its original as MacDonogh tells us that Vié has a masterful sense of words, puns and is often plainly untranslatable. In fact, Testicles won the Prix Litteraire de la Commanderie des Gastronomes Ambassadeurs de Rungis.

The book is divided into three section. Mythology offering up a history of balls from anatomy to slang. Method, the bulk of the book, features recipes from ancient to modern. Attributes serves as a dictionary or lexicon of testicular. (Here, Giles MacDonogh augmented Vié's heavily French list to include more of an English slant.)

Having read several of the cookbooks alluded to in this book, I can safely say that one often overlooks the unfamiliar, that is to say, I am more likely to read that thousandth recipe for boeuf bourguignon before delving into say, a ragout of cock's stones. One of the easiest balls to come by or to get ones hands on or well, as you can see, one must chose one's words as carefully as one's balls. Let me start again: Lamb's testicles or "fries" are probably the easiest to procure from a butcher. Here is a small plate of lamb fries, but it can be doubled if you are a big ball eater for an entréé.

Balas à la provençal, as an apéritif

4 lamb’s fries [balas in Provençal]
200g fine soft breadcrumbs or dried crumbs
1 tbsp crème fraîche
oil for deep-frying
2 lemons
fine sea salt
freshly ground white pepper

Remove the membrane surrounding the testicles and rinse them in cold water in which you have added a dash of vinegar or lemon juice. Drain and dry and cut into slices 5 mm thick. Spread out the breadcrumbs on a flat plate. Beat the eggs as for an omelette in a bowl together with the cream.

Lightly season the slices with salt and pepper, dip them in the egg mixture then turn them in the breadcrumbs, making sure both sides are covered.

Next drop them in the hot oil, which should not be smoking (175°C) and fry them for 2–3 minutes on each side until they are golden. Dry them on paper towls.

To serve, arrange them in a pyramid on a hot plate and surround them with lemon quarters.

Note: double the quantities if you wish to serve the balas as a main course. They can be accompanied by a fresh tomato sauce.

If you love food, language, and culinary history, you will have balls of fun with this book. IT makes a great present as I am sure, few out there have a a testicle cookbook!

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