Saturday, 31 July 2010


I have recently established quite a neat relationship with one wonderful little organic farm down in Hampshire. Rother Valley and I have developed a mutually beneficial friendship, where I try to, let's say, assist with potential business, and they, in turn, supply me - for a fee of course - with a glory of organic meat. The farm specialises in pure Aberdeen Angus beef - soulful, compact cows with melancholic eyes - but they also link up with farms around, that provide other meats - chicken, pork, lamb - as well as game.

An Aberdeen Angus

I use them, however - and I mean use - to source those weird and wonderful things, that most of their clients don't want, but for which I have space in my heart and belly - offal, really fatty or chewy parts. So far I have had pig trotters, pork belly, ox tongue; have also tried to buy brains and cows feet but with less luck. Sam, who runs the show at Rother Valley, has once wondered if I 'was making a Frankenstein'..

Last week it was the turn of sweetbreads. What a bizarre name for an equally bizarre part of a body. The thyroid and the thymus of a young sheep or a calf that has apparently acquired its name because of its mild, sweet flavour (the bread is an old English word for flesh). I find there is almost something sexy about the name, an image of a young wholesome wench in Swiss Alpes with jugs of creamy milk springs into mind..

I have wanted to try cooking sweetbreads for some time now, and then Rother Valley agreed to deliver a handful of these little breads to me for free, I had to act quickly - they really do taste better as fresh as a daisy (that Swiss maid obviously still lingers in my mind).

How to prepare sweetbreads:

1. put them into a bowl of cold water and leave to soak for good 2-3 hours.

Sweetbreads a la naturel, just before soaking

2. Bring a saucepan of water to boil, put your sweetbreads into it, turn down to simmer and poach for 3-5 minutes.

Sweetbreads cooked, shrivelled

3. Prepare a bowl of iced water and plunge the cooked breads into it for a couple of minutes. Take them out and take off the outer layer, which is like a thin see-through leather. Dispose that and any grisly or fatty bits.

4. Dust the breads in a little of seasoned flour and fry them quickly (2-3 minutes each side) in a pan with plenty of butter. They should be crispy on the outside and delicate and fluffy on the inside. they go beautifully with more robust flavours, such as bacon.

Fried sweetbreads with bacon

The picture above is rather pathetic, I know, but the result was quite moorish (although to my taste the sweetbreads came out a bit too mealy - overcooked I think).

This is how sweetbreads are supposed to look.

Sweetbreads with pea puree and bacon (photo thanks to

I would suggest wrapping smaller pieces of sweetbreads in bacon, perhaps with some buttered sage and serving them fried, with a little toast, as zakuski, with shots of chilled, but not frozen vodka.


kcmeesha said...

sorry,not my slice of breads :-)

Katrina said...

haha, have you tried? apparently a mousse out of sweetbreads is particularly delectable.

kcmeesha said...

No I am pretty weak in the area of eating internal organs.