Sautéed Lambs’ Sweetbreads, Lemon & Fennel Seeds on Grilled Polenta

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Appears in

The Sugar Club Cookbook

By Peter Gordon

Published 1997

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The first time I ate sweetbreads they were cooked in cream and veal stock and their appeal totally evaded me. It all seemed too creamy and soft. I like to cook them with something a little sharp in taste or to deep-fry them, either in batter or crumbed, to give them a good texture. You can also use veal sweetbreads, though these are horribly expensive. If you do, prepare them in the same way but poach them for longer, and when you come to sauté them, slice them on an angle into pieces.


  • 1 carrot, peeled and cut into quarters
  • 1 onion, peeled and sliced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped with the skin still on
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 lemon, cut into 6 slices
  • Small bunch fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 litre ( pints) water
  • 50ml (fl oz) vinegar
  • 1kg ( lb) lambs’ sweetbreads
  • 50ml (fl oz) olive oil
  • 50g (oz) unsalted butter
  • 1 red onion, peeled and finely sliced
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 2 lemons, grate the zest, then juice them
  • 100ml (fl oz) brown chicken stock
  • ½ cup chopped fresh parsley


  • 125g (oz) polenta grains, sieved to break up any lumps
  • 1 red onion, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 30ml (1fl oz) olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 500ml (18fl oz) chicken stock


Put all the ingredients from the carrot to the vinegar in a deep pot and bring to the boil, boil for 3 minutes, then gently add the sweetbreads and stir well. The sweetbreads must be well covered with liquid; if not, top up with hot water. Bring back to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes before removing the pot and leaving the sweetbreads to cool in the poaching liquor. Once cooled, drain them and pull any fatty bits off, then lay them on a plate and sit an identical plate on top. Place some weights (e.g. cans of food) on the upper plate and leave for 2 hours.

Meanwhile, make the polenta. Sauté the onion, rosemary and garlic in the olive oil until the onion softens. Add the salt and stock and bring to the boil. Turn to a simmer, then slowly trickle the polenta in, whisking as you go to prevent lumps forming. When all the polenta has been added, remove the whisk and stir with a spoon. Return to the boil and simmer for 1 minute. Pour the polenta on to an oiled plate and leave it to cool.

When you’re ready to serve the dish, cut the polenta into wedges and place on an oiled tray in a hot oven (220°C/425°F/Gas 7) for at least 5 minutes. Heat the olive oil and butter in a frying pan over a high heat until the butter starts to brown. Add the sliced onion and fennel seeds and sauté, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the sweetbreads and fry until golden on both sides, then add the lemon juice, zest and chicken stock. Bring to the boil, taste for seasoning and stir in the parsley. Spoon the sweetbreads on to the hot wedges of polenta and enjoy.