Veal sweetbreads are not for the culinary faint-of-heart. Made from the thyroid gland or pancreas of the animal – although other parts of the animal can be used as well – sweetbreads do, however, have a delicious flavour. Rich and sweet, this cut of meat was extremely popular in Britain in the 18th and 19th century when it was cheap and easy to get hold of. They aren’t so easy to buy these days, but if you can do so, it’s well worth it for the depth of flavour they hold.
Enough for a few people
- 1 tbsp vinegar
- 1 small onion or shallot
- Olive oil
- 750g veal sweetbreads
A simple recipe
1. Before you do any cooking, you need to soak your sweetbreads in cold water for around an hour. Once that’s done, trim them, cutting away any unpleasant looking bits like membrane or tube.
2. Now, pop the sweetbreads in a saucepan with your vinegar. Chop the onion, and put that in as well. Season lightly with pepper. Then, cover the whole lot with water and bring the water to the boil, simmering gently for 3 minutes.
3. Allow the pan to cool, and preheat the oven to 200°C (180°C for fan ovens).
4. When the water is cool, take your sweetbreads out of the pan. Cut them into slices – thick is better – and season them.
5. Now heat a frying pan over a high heat until it’s smoking. If you have a pastry brush, brush your sweetbread slices with oil and crisp them in the pan on both sides. If you don’t have a brush, just put a tsp of olive oil in the pan before adding the meat.
6. Finally, put the sweetbreads into the oven and cook for ten minutes.
How to serve them
This is a basic veal sweetbreads recipe. Alone, the meats will be delicious, but to really bring out the flavour of the sweetbreads, you should serve them with a sauce or some condiments. Veal sweetbreads go well with mustard, fennel, capers or lemon – a light mustard dressing would suffice. Or, if you want to add to their rustic flavour, truffle is a great addition. A salad of green leaves would also lighten the dish.