Over the years I’ve been an on and off veggie, but these days I’m largely an omnivore. I firmly believe, however, that if an animal meets its demise to fill our plate, the least we can do is give it a comfortable life, a quick and efficient end, and use every part.
I haven’t eaten heart, outside of haggis or pudding, since I was a child, but I remember loving it. Traditionally stuffed and roasted, they take long, slow cooking to tenderise.
A very welcome library addition for Christmas is my shiny copy of “The Complete Nose to Tail Eating: A Kind of British Cooking“. I’ve been very interested in Fergus Henderson’s brand of cooking for a while – lots of offal, offcuts and out of fashion cuts – but never actually tried a recipe.
So lambs hearts. I ordered mine from my butcher, as they’re actually surprisingly popular around here and I wanted to get four super fresh ones. If you’re getting offal, I highly recommend asking the butcher what day is best to drop in for it, i.e. delivery day. It’s not something that benefits from hanging around in a display case.
These came trimmed and cleaned and ready for stuffing, as requested, and just needed to be rinsed and dried.
The stuffing recipe is simple to follow and takes about 30 minutes including peeling and chopping. It also involves wine, which is new to me in stuffing recipes, so I cracked open a bottle of Rioja I got for Christmas.
Between the red onion and the red wine, the resulting mix has a distinctly pinkish colour. Left to cool, it’s liberally squished into the heart cavity with the aid of teaspoon and fingers. Streaky bacon (I used smoked) is wrapped around and tied off with cotton string, or would have been if I remembered to get some, so I used some short bamboo skewers I luckily had in the press. Note to self – read the whole way through the recipes in this book before starting them.
As I don’t have a nice cast iron casserole or a small, deep roasting tin – the hearts should fit snugly to keep the stock volume to a minimum – I used a suitably sized saucepan. If you’re doing the same (and not running for the hills already) then make sure it’s a completely oven safe pot. Melted plastic or burned wood are not welcome garnishes.
Pour over chicken stock, cover with foil and roast in a medium oven for about 2 1/2 hours. It’s suggested that the liquid gets strained and reduced and used as sauce, and that mashed turnips are served with it. I thickened my sauce with a little roux – it looked like Cream Of Beige, but tasted delicious – and mashed my turnips with potatoes and a good knob of butter.
It was very tasty indeed. The meat was tender and dense, and tasted like leg of lamb meets liver – so while we enjoyed it, it’s a strong taste that might not go down well for everyone. Given the very long cooking time its not one I’ll be making outside of a lazy weekend, but I’d be happy to have it again. Something green and crunchy would be nice with it as well as the root veg, like some al dente green beans.
One note on serving size – with sides, one per person is plenty. I overestimated completely, judging on size, especially as this cooking method doesn’t result in shrinkage. It’s filling stuff, good for cold weather eating, and worth trying at least once.