Sweetbreads with ginger and chilli

Within a day or two of my arrival in Calcutta I had my first brain curry. Mildly spiced and buttery, I loved its melting smooth texture, and wanted to reproduce the dish on return. When brains became increasingly difficult to find in England I experimented with sweetbreads instead, which worked a treat. Serve with basmati rice and a mixed green salad.


  • 500 g lamb’s sweetbreads
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 2 fresh green or red chillies
  • 3 cm piece fresh root ginger
  • 2 large onions
  • 75 g unsalted butter
  • handful of coriander leaves
  • sea salt


Soak the sweetbreads in cold salted water for an hour or two, changing the water once or twice to get rid of all traces of blood. For the final half hour of soaking add the wine vinegar to the water.

Meanwhile, prepare the other ingredients. Cut open the chillies under running water and discard the seeds and stems. Peel the ginger and chop finely together with the chillies. Peel the onions and slice into thin rings.

Drain the sweetbreads and pull off any skin that comes away easily. Melt 50 g of the butter in a large, heavy-based frying pan and fry the onions over a fairly low heat until golden and completely soft. Add the ginger and chillies and fry, stirring, for about a minute. Then turn the heat down to as low as possible and add the remaining 25 g butter. Once melted, add the drained sweetbreads and stir around. Cover and cook, stirring now and then, for 10-15 minutes.

Season to taste with a little sea salt. Transfer to a heated serving dish; if necessary you can cover the dish and keep it warm in a very low oven for up to half an hour until you are ready to eat. Just before serving, sprinkle the coriander leaves over the sweetbreads.