It is a shame not to press into service every bit of the spring lamb. This recipe uses an under-appreciated part, sweetbreads, the king of offal. Chilled asparagus velouté is even tastier with some added shavings of asparagus and crispy sweetbreads.

Chilled asparagus velouté with crispy sweetbreads is a delicious summer infusion. It seems a shame not to press into service every bit of a spring lamb, so this recipe uses an under-appreciated cut: sweetbreads, the king of offal. And the best of British asparagus.

It’s a myth that they are calves’ brains: they are actually glands, although this may not be much help to the squeamish. More importantly, they are utterly delicious paired with a chilled asparagus velouté, garnished with shaved raw asparagus. Raw asparagus is sweet and nutty and works perfectly in this chilled asparagus velouté. It works as a salad in its own right, too, with toasted pine nuts and pecorino. Serve it with any cured meat.


Serves 4
■ 2 small onions, chopped
■ Olive oil
■ 500ml (18fl oz) chicken stock
■ 700g (11⁄2lb) asparagus
■ 2 tbsp double cream
■ Salt and pepper
■ Juice of half a lemon
■ Handful parsley, finely chopped
■ 200g (7oz) lamb or veal sweetbreads
■ 200ml (7fl oz) milk
■ 1 carrot, chopped
■ 1 litre (13⁄4 pints) vegetable oil
■ 2 tbsp flour, seasoned
■ 2 eggs, beaten
■ 100g (31⁄2oz) dry breadcrumbs

Sweat half the chopped onion in olive oil, add the chicken stock and 200ml (7fl oz) water and bring to a gentle boil. Cut the tough bottom ends off eight asparagus spears and set the top halves aside. Roughly chop the rest of the spears and add to the pot along with the bottom ends. Simmer for two to four minutes, until the asparagus is tender. Purée until very smooth, then push through a sieve. Stir in double cream and season to taste, then refrigerate.

Working from root to just below the tip, shave thin strips from the reserved asparagus spears with a vegetable peeler. Save the tips for an extra garnish. Dress the asparagus with lemon juice, olive oil and parsley and season. Set aside.

Soak sweetbreads in milk for 15 to 30 minutes. Simmer the rest of the chopped onion and carrot in a large pan of water for a few minutes, reduce heat to very low; add the sweetbreads. Poach for five minutes, drain and pat dry.

While hot, gently pull fat and membranes away and separate the meat into nuggets. Heat the vegetable oil to 170°C/338°F, or until a breadcrumb sizzles when dropped in. While it heats up, dip each piece of sweetbread in seasoned flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs. Repeat the egg and breadcrumb stage a second time for an extra-crispy coating. Deep-fry the nuggets in the hot oil until golden-brown. Drain and season the nuggets.
To serve, place a mound of shaved asparagus in the middle of four shallow bowls. Pour a pool of chilled velouté around it, and top with some nuggets of sweetbread and asparagus tips. Drizzle with olive oil to finish. There you have not only a delicious, but a perfect chilled asparagus velouté.