Yup, it was 1994 in our house last week and C J Lewis was brapping around (Shaggy was busy). In his honour we decided to cook Sweetbreads! Yup a NEW OFFAL. One that didn’t even get touched in NosetoTail Fortnight …
This is an offal that we cannot now go and bulk buy. Then there would be many, many, many spare carcasses hanging around. Demand cannot out-strip supply. That is unsustainable. Sustainability is the name of the game!
Sweetbreads are glands. They can either be thyroid or pancreatic ones. I think these were thyroidy ones because they were plumper and roundish, rather than longer and thinner. I do know they came from a lamb. I also know I got them from the website Farmers Choice. Their website is very good, AND postage is reasonable AND you can choose your delivery day. Trufax! I also bought some pig’s ears.
The buying of the sweetbreads coincided with my Mum giving me Mark Hix’s new recipe book. It lists recipes month by month and is good at pointing out what is native and when it is best. There is a bit too much talk about foraging and fishing/hunting/poaching your own meat, not because I don’t find it fascinating, but because the reality of pretty much everyone I know is that doesn’t happen due to location restraints, I think, rather than time. I say this because a few years ago we were all told that there was no point in growing vegetables in cities because you just ended up with really polluted vegetables. It was in the papers – do you remember? I raised this point again on my herbs course at Dilston Physic Garden, as to how much benefit you lost by using herbs that grew in and around the city. Or if by using plants that breathed the same gases you did, whether that made them have a better synergy with you. All that aside, the Mark Hix book is good and should you wish to see what I’m talking about, you can find it here.
He suggests that sweetbreads be eaten in July. This is different to the “Spring” that I’ve read elsewhere. I guess June falls between the two nicely anyhow. Apparently you can do the same treatment with testicles. FYI.
The end bit of this recipe is a bit of a rat-race and you have to do things simultaneously. Just saying. I was a bit shocked in the change of pace from ‘lalalalala just change and soak lalalalalala’ to ‘BOIL, FRY, SIMMER, REDUCE, WATCH ALL THE PANS LIKE A HAWK AS NOTHING NEEDS COOKING FOR VERY LONG AT ALL’. Like you arrived at the Parochial Church Ramble and it turned out to be bleep-tests for ultra-runners.
Just do like a boy scout …
I had 250g of sweetbreads, so had to adjust the recipe, and it fed two people comfortably.
1 medium onion, 150ml lamb stock, 150g podded peas, 100ml double cream (I used extra thick), 1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
- Soak the sweetbreads in repeated changes of water until the water is pretty clear. This could take up to an hour (it took us about twenty minutes).
- Cover them with water and boil them for two minutes. Then drain and run COLD water over them. You will want to now peel away the outer membrane. It’s very fine (like the layer of cells between onion layers), but is definitely manageable:
- Now heat a knob of butter in a pan and fry the onion gently until soft. Add the stock and let it reduce til there is only a few tablespoons left mingled in with the onion.
- While the stock is reducing boil your peas for 3-4 and then cool them under running cold water.
- Add the cream to the onion/stock mix and let it reduce by a third.
- While the cream is reducing, heat a tablespoon oil in a frying pan, season the sweetbreads and fry them on a high heat until each side is crisp.
- Remove them from the pan (drain on kitchen towell if you feel the need), then add them to the cream mix along with the peas. Simmer it all together for a couple of minutes.
It is lovely and refreshing. VERY SWEET. Who knew meat could be this sweet? Almost like marshmallows, but a bit sweeter. Amazing. Nutty. Sweeter than testicles actually.
Would I make them again? Maybe. Would I order them in a restaurant? Yes. What do I think about the recipe? The peas added too much sweetness, but I’m not sure what you’d match with soemthing sweet, nutty and meaty. Any ideas? I was thinking maybe grapefruit? And lovage? As like a side salad?
Have you eaten sweetbreads? Are you too attached to your thyroid to eat that of another creature?