Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Lamb sweetbreads

Continuing my occasional series on offal, today I'd like to talk about sweetbreads. Lamb sweetbreads in particular. These are the pancreas (I think) of a lamb and if you fry them and serve them with a parsely salad, I think you'll be very happy.

But I'm getting a bit ahead of myself, because first you actually have to get hold of some sweetbreads, which isn't that easy. They don't, alas, do them in Waitrose, so if you want some you have to haul ass to a butcher. But they may very well not have any either, so you'll have to ring ahead and check.

I got mine, purely by chance, from Frank Godfrey, a butcher with two shops in North London I went in for something else and they had sweetbreads on special, so I got some because they are Giles' absolute favourite. They do them at Tom Pemberton's place, Hereford Road and they are delish.

Once you have tracked down and purchased your sweetbreads, it's all quite easy. They have to be poached and skinned before frying, which I must say isn't an especially lovely job - it's for pretty hardcore animal-lovers only who are so pleased to be eating in such a nose-to-tail way that they can feel only love and gratitude for the piece of animal before them. Me? I just felt a bit queasy and Giles had to do it.

Anyway, you do this by washing and then placing the sweetbreads in some fresh unsalted water, bringing to the boil and simmering for 5 minutes only. Drain the sweetbreads and leave to cool - or at least cool enough to handle.

Then go over the sweetbreads, pulling off bits of grossness, grisle, connective tissue and all that other stuff. You can remove the thin membrane that covers the whole thing if you like, or leave it on. Hugh F-W recommends leaving it on but to be honest I can't really see what difference it makes.

If you encounter an especially large sweetbread you can cut it in half to cook.

This is what they look like raw and skinned. They smell faintly of fish. But don't let any of this put you off. Cooked, they are creamy and interesting and luscious.

There are a number of ways of cooking sweetbreads, but the way we did it was to coat the meat in heavily seasoned flour (just salt and pepper) and fry it for about 4-5 minutes in very hot oil until golden and crispy.

We ate it with a parsley salad that consisted of:

1 large bunch parsley

1/2 shallot, finely chopped


lemon juice


  1. Finished product looks way better than the raw version. Do they need a jus or sauce of some sort, or were they lovely as is?

  2. No no, just as they are. They are quite rich, as offal quite often is, very creamy inside. The French do them usually in creamy sauces which I think is pretty yukky. The parsley and the acid of the onion cuts through all the creaminess & is I think a better accompaniment

  3. Ha! Hereford Rd!!

    I was taken there for lunch the last time I was in London, and in its lovely, unadorned way with British food (at what seemed to me most reasonable prices) it restored my faith in food in the UK

    AND I can't seem to fail to order sweetbreads either; well done for braving the gristle - not trying is the sin

    Your Australian correspondent

  4. Great restaurant. And Tom used to go to my old school, so there's another tick in the box for him.

    Nigel Slater rather grandly declares that he believes poaching and skinning sweetbreads to be a butcher's job!!! I mean, it's gross... but what a massive wuss.

  5. Sodding Dyspraxia means I have problems with patterns & ordering day-to-day which is a long way of saying I can't do anything in a logical order- (that's my excuse & sticking to it).
    It means my meals are always late if there is more than one dish. So one of my coping strategies is to always parboil veg that need roasting, so even if I've peeled the fuckers & half cooked them and forgotten to shove them in the oven, they will still cook in time...and actually is quite sensible even if not a fuckwit like me, as I can't bear all the hanging around...LLGxx

  6. You are quite right. I even wrote a whole post about how one must parboil anything being roasted and then merrily ignored my own advice. Who's the fuckwit now eh?

  7. I bought some lamb sweetbreads in Waitrose in Brighton today.

  8. & I did in Waitrose Marylebone High St this week. First time I've seen them.