Lamb Sweetbreads with Smoked Butter Samphire and Elderflower Gooseberries

This morning I looked out of the window and the pouring rain and screwed my face up, I had to go out in that. I had to go to the Farmer’s Market and pick up some rainbow chard for the veg patch, arse. I headed out in the rain only to return 10 minutes later, not with any rainbow chard seedlings (Ash wasn’t able to make the market today) but with a punnet of plump gooseberries and a bag of bright green samphire, aces. Despite having loads of writing work I needed to get done these purchases were screaming to be turned into something wonderful.  I’ve mentioned before about my synesthesia, I tasted the sharp gooseberry followed by a bit of the salty samphire, the shapes could work together with a bit of help. I could feel the shape that the dish needed to be and so I turned to my larder to set about finding the components to make that form happen. I should add that Glen was really skeptical about my decision to marry samphire and gooseberry before he tasted this dish, and was eyeing up the tin of beaked beans in the cupboard for lunch, but he went on to eat  3 bowls of it, yeah it rocked.

The only flower that is purely for decoration is the violet on the top of the dish. Parsley, chive and onion flowers are incredibly concentrated and without these the dish will suffer. The 2 tarragon leaves add a lovely burst of aniseed to the dish and in just the right amount. I don’t think you should put stuff on a plate that doesn’t contribute to the dish, the violet is there because it looks pretty and is edible, it’s value is sensory, and a dish should make you happy in a holistic fashion (my god that sounds really wanky but its absolutely true in this instance!).


Ingredients:

 For the sweetbreads:

  • lamb sweetbreads
  • cornmeal
  • type 00  flour
  • Spiced salt (Halen Môn)
  • beaten egg
  • oil for frying

Elderflower gooseberries:

  • 1 punnet gooseberries
  • 2 tablespoons homemade elderflower syrup (otherwise use Belvoir cordial)
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 sprig rosemary

Samphire

  • 1 bag samphire (washed)
  • 1 knob smoked butter (mine is from Derimon Smokery on Anglesey who sell online)
  • freshly ground pepper

To serve:

  •  Parsley flower heads
  •  chive flowers
  •  onion flowers
  •  tarragon leaves
  •  violet
  •  marigold flower
  •  homemade Harvest Ketchup.

The homemade Harvest Ketchup recipe you will have to wait for until the harvest issue of Great Food Magazine is out because it is one of my “Recipes from Wyldelight Kitchen”. An alternative would be a really good sweet brown sauce like Tiptree (or your own obviously!). Method:

  1. Simply dust your prepared lamb sweetbreads in the flour seasoned with the spiced salt, then into the beaten egg then roll in the cornflour before deep frying for a minute or so depending on how big they are.
  2. Put your gooseberries in a saucepan with the syrup, rosemary and water and cook really gently for a few minutes until soft but still holding their shape.
  3. Blanch the samphire in boiling water for about a minute (I like mine to still “pop” when I bite into it. Drain then add your smoked butter and plenty of freshly ground pepper.
  4. To assemble simply put some of your smoked butter samphire on a dish, top with sweetbreads, surround with your elderflower poached gooseberries (and a bit of syrup), dot splurges of your sweet ketchup and scatter your herbs and flowers evenly about the plate. Dead easy, really tasty.
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Lamb Sweetbreads and Early Summer Veg with Sheep’s Curd

Despite telling her many times, Glen’s mum still insists that sweetbreads are lamb’s bollocks, they’re not. Sweetbreads are the thymus or pancreatic glands from lambs and calves. This recipe uses the thymus glands from the neck of Spring lambs, their season is short so as soon as they start to arrive in my butchers I stock up the freezer.

They take a little bit of preparation but they really are worth it. Sweetbreads have a wonderfully creamy texture and delicate lamb flavour. Being quite fatty I tend to serve them with a squeeze of lemon if cooking them on the BBQ or like this dish, I make a zesty green sauce. The sheep’s curd is from Homewood Cheeses and it’s light creamy saltiness really makes the dish.

Ingredients:

  • lamb sweetbreads
  • unsalted butter
  • 2 shallots
  • good stock, I use veg or a very light chicken stock (Essential Cuisine is perfect as its powdered so you can control exactly how concentrated it is)
  • young veg such as baby new potatoes, chanternay carrots, asparagus, peas, lettuce, broad beans
  • dried sliced garlic (or fresh)
  • salt and pepper
  • fresh sheep’s curd, fennel fronds and pea shoots to serve

For the green sauce:

  • parsley
  • mint
  • juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • olive oil
  • 1/4 finely chopped red chilli
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped capers
  • salt and pepper

Method:

  1. To prepare the sweetbreads soak them for a few hours in cold water, changing it a couple of times to remove any blood. Then peel away the membrane surrounding the sweetbread and discard.
  2. Finely chop your shallots and gently sweat off on the butter. Add your stock, garlic slivers and the sturdier veg such as the new potatoes followed by the carrots etc. You want all your veg to be just cooked and still with a bit of bite to your carrots and pop to your peas. Depending on the size of your sweetbreads they should take about 7 minutes to poach so pop them in too. Check for seasoning.
  3. Whilst your sweetbreads are poaching prepare your sauce. Finely chop everything and combine.
  4. Serve the poached sweetbreads and veg in their own broth, scatter with fennel fronds, pea shoots and dollops of green sauce.

I also made a liquorice foam to place on the sweetbreads which you can just about make out in the photo but I preferred it with the mint foam that I made for the second time I made this, not essential but just added another layer of delicate flavour.

Hot Smoked Chicken Gizzards

Compared to the rest of the world the UK tends to be a lot more squeamish about nose to tail eating.  I was brought up in Hong Kong where everything from the animal is eaten and chickens are sold with heads and feet still attached.  I happen to love chicken feet but outside of a Chinese supermarket they are pretty hard to find here, so where do they all go? Likewise poultry gizzards are popular throughout the rest of the world and yet when was the last time you saw some for sale?

Here in Melton we have two fantastic Eastern European food shops.  One has the most fantastic deli selling cooked meats and cheeses (their smoked garlic brawn is amazing) and the other focusses more on preserved goods and has a brilliant selection of vodkas of all descriptions (also amazing!).  Today I popped in for some Pierogi and found they had some hot smoked chicken gizzards for sale, well, not to turn down a chance for some kitchen experimenting I immediately bought some and headed back to the cottage.

I bought about 40 gizzards which were pretty heavily smoked and faintly garlicky.  My first thought was to flash fry them – they were like amazing chicken smoked bacon! Because they had been hot smoked they were already cooked so a really quick fry made them lovely and crispy on the outside and meaty on the inside, however if left slightly too long they toughen (like bacon) so if you miss the perfect moment you then have to carry on until they are thoroughly crispy like scratchings!

A quick forage in the garden and fridge provided some baby carrot tops, beetroot and chard leaves, some baby broad beans (frozen last year), a quick feta sauce and some nutty rapeseed oil to accompany. The feta sauce I whizzed up ended up being drizzled all over the dish as it was so good!

Feta sauce was simply feta cheese, lemon juice, a bit of freshly ground pepper and a splash of double cream (normally I would use yoghurt but I didn’t have any plain so used the cream instead) simply mixed until smooth.  If you grow your own carrots then you will know how amazing the young tops are, they are one of those things like courgette flowers or nasturtiums that have to be eaten straight away to get the best out of them.

So that was today’s quick starter of hot smoked chicken gizzards, definitely something I will be buying again and more experiments to come!