I went into Alresford yesterday to meet a friend for coffee at Caracoli. On the way I popped into CE Evans the butcher and couldn’t resist the packet of sweetbreads they had behind the counter. It’s one of those ingredients that often tempts me on a restaurant menu, but which you so rarely see retailed, so I couldn’t believe my luck. Evans also have a proper wet fish counter where I discovered my first English samphire of the season; possibly my all time favourite vegetable. All the makings of 2 great dishes….
Sweetbreads need quite a bit of prepping. Ideally you need to soak them for 4 hours in salted water,changing the water a couple of times. Then you need to blanch them in boiling water before peeling off the membrane. For the best texture you should then chill them in the fridge for a few hours, pressed between 2 plates with a weight on top. A chef friend of mine loves them breadcrumbed, deep-fried and served with sauce gribiche, but for their first outing, I treat them like chicken livers for a speedy supper dish. (well… speedy if you don’t count the hours of sweetbread prep!)
Sweetbreads with bacon and cream
This isn’t really a weighing-out sort of dish, so please excuse the method only description! Heat a knob of butter in a large frying pan and fry the sweetbreads, letting them colour on all sides, but only just cook through (as you would a chicken liver). Remove them from the pan and leave to rest on a warm plate. Fry a couple of rashers of chopped streaky bacon in the same pan with a crushed clove of garlic and some chopped parsley, then add a splash of sherry vinegar, bubble away to almost nothing and add a slosh of double cream and some seasoning. Return the sweetbreads to the pan, bubble for a minute and tip onto sliced crusty bread or sourdough toast. The bread in the picture is just our everyday breadmachine loaf made with 50% strong white and 50% local stoneground wholemeal.
Sweetbreads with samphire and merguez
For lunch the next day the samphire came into play. We also had some merquez sausages from our trip to France that we’d started defrosting before I made my sweetbread find, so I decided to combine the 3. I twisted the merguez into bite-sized sausages and separated them with scissors then fried them until brown and sticky and took them out of the pan. Next came the sweetbreads, cooking them as above before leaving them to rest with the merguez. Next into the pan went an obscene amount of chopped new season garlic. After about a minute of cooking in the merguez fat, I added a couple of handfuls of washed samphire and tossed it all around a bit before returning the sweetbreads and merguez. This one just needed a bit of black pepper and a squeeze of lemon at the table as the samphire is so deliciously salty.
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