Sweetbreads are some of the less familiar pieces of offal, but they shouldn’t be. Much offal can be rich and strong and something of an acquired taste. Sweetbreads are mild and, well, sweet. In fact they’re so light and delicate that it wasn’t until after about 5 minutes that my friend turned to me and asked, “is this meat? I thought you said it was bread.”
This really is an incredibly simple dish but you’ll knock your guests’ socks off with it.
Serves 4 as a starter
2 calves’ sweetbreads (buy online)
A shallot, peeled and halved
A stick of celery
Herbs – whatever’s kicking about
Radishes (with their tops, if possible), washed and quartered
Salt, pepper, oil
– Soak the sweetbreads in cold water for half an hour and drain. Bring a pan of water to the boil with a splosh of wine, the herbs, shallot and celery. Add a pinch of salt and add the sweetbreads. Gently poach for ten minutes – barely at a simmer – and remove with a slotted spoon to kitchen paper. Cool.
– Peel the membrane from the glands and slice to about the thickness of a slender pinkie. Pat thoroughly dry with kitchen paper and toss in flour. Heat a little oil in a non-stick frying pan and fry the sweetbreads for a couple of minutes on each side, seasoning with salt and pepper. The outsides should be crisp and golden without being too caramelised.
– Remove to a plate and add a splash of vinegar. Scrape up any bits left on the pan and add the butter and quartered radishes. Season and keep swishing around the pan until the butter is melted and the radishes are warmed through. Throw in the radish tops, if you have them (rocket will do nicely otherwise) and merely show them the pan. Remove from the heat.
– Serve the sweetbreads with radishes and the buttery goo left in the pan. Don’t bother with the wanky presentation.