Main courses, South African Flavours

  • 17 September, 2021

‘Skaapkop’, ‘skop’ or ‘smiley’ . Sheep’s head is a heritage dish enjoyed across our rainbow nation  from the Skaapkop Gilde in Bloemfontein to our vibrant township taverns. Hope  Malau writes in Johanne14: Real South African Food: “Served wrapped in newspaper at taverns and drinking spots, skop is mostly for adult men, a symbol of seniority and masculinity. Men gather around the head and slice off pieces of meat with pocket knives (it’s essential to have your own knife, by the way, because no one will lend you theirs, and you can’t eat without one) while talking loudly about soccer, women, cars and money. There is always laughter, too.”

In the Prue Leith Restaurant, this heritage dish is served with mint salsa verde braised waterblommetjies, the brain turned into a delicate soufflé and pot bread with date butter on the side! (And we even lend you a pocket knife!)


Lamb’s Head:

1 lamb’s head split in two, cleaned of wool and the brain removed
20 ml vegetable oil
200g onions, finely chopped
200g leeks, finely chopped
200g carrots, finely chopped
200g celery finely chopped
300 ml red wine
1L of water
5g thyme
Handful of fresh mint leaves
Salt and pepper to taste

Brain Soufflé: 

50g unsalted butter, room temperature
25g fine breadcrumbs
1 bayleaf
20g cake flour
2 egg yolks
3 egg whites
40-50g lamb brains, washed and cleaned
200 ml milk
10g chives, finely chopped
Maldon salt to taste

Mint Salsa Verde

20g flat leaf parsley
20g mint
1 whole garlic clove, chopped finely
5g capers, drained
125ml extra virgin olive oil
1 lemon, juiced
Salt to taste


For the Head:

  • Preheat the oven to 180°C and prepare the roasting tray with the chopped vegetables to roast the lamb on, coat the vegetables in a little bit of vegetable oil.
  • Season the lamb’s head with salt and pepper and place onto the roasting tray and add the wine and water add the thyme leaves and cover the whole roasting dish with foil.
  • Braise the lamb for 2-3 hours until the meat is fork tender and the liquid has reduced.
  • Remove the foil for the last 15-20 minutes of cooking allowing the heads to brown a little bit.
  • Carefully remove the head from the oven dish and serve immediately.
  • Spoon salsa verde over the head and garnish with the fresh mint leaves and the brain soufflé. 

For the Soufflé:

  • Preheat the oven to 180°C and butter the ramekins with a little bit of melted butter and coat the sides with the fine breadcrumbs. Shaking off the excess and make sure it is coated evenly.
  • Warm the milk and bay leaf in a saucepan and bring to a boil, allow the milk to infuse for 10 minutes.
    Melt the other half of the butter in a saucepan and add the flour and continue to stir with a spoon until the roux browns a little and thickens.
  • Gradually add the milk to the roux and whisk until smooth, allow the sauce base to cook over gentle heat until it starts to thicken.
  • Remove the sauce from the heat and beat in the egg yolks one at a time and season with salt and pepper. Add in the cubed brain and chives. Fold in gently.
  • In a separate clean bowl, whisk the eggs whites to soft peak and gently fold in thirds into the base. Taking care not to overwork the soufflé mixture.
  • Divide the mixture evenly into the ramekins and bake for 15-20 minutes until golden and puffed.
  • Carefully remove the ramekins from the oven and allow to cool slightly.
  • Gently loosen the soufflé with a knife along the edge and tip the soufflé next to the sheep’s head. Serve immediately.

For the Mint Salsa Verde:

  • Wash and pick all the herbs, removing all wilted or discoloured leaves and dry well on paper towel.
  • Chop the garlic and rinse the capers well of excess brine or salt, and chop finely.
  • Place the herbs and other ingredients into a blender or food processor and process until fine whilst adding the oil in a thin stream.
  • Add the lemon juice and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Serve the salsa verde with the Skop.


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