Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Valentines, Schmalentines

We aren't great believers in Valentines Day in our house, both hating the idea of prescribed romance. Despite this, S inexplicably bought me a huge bunch of flowers yesterday ("in case you're being a girl and saying that you don't care about Valentine's Day when you do really."), so I thought I'd better mark the occasion somehow. Nothing sweet for us though. He loves offal, so I thought I'd be a bit more literal with the heart motif and cook actual hearts*. I have had a couple of lambs' hearts knocking around the freezer for a while (bought on a whim, for £1 the pair, at the local farmers' market) - ideal opportunity to use them up, right?

Let me say right away that I feel a bit let down by my cookery book collection this time round, as there aren't many recipes out there which use heart. I could have made faggots (from Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's Meat Book) or Paprikash (ditto) - but I wanted to preserve the heart shape, which ruled out cutting up or mincing. The other common method is to stuff them, but I couldn't find a stuffing recipe that inspired me. Most were variations on sage and onion stuffing, even the recipe in Nose to Tail Eating, although this one at least was a much richer affair (including a red wine reduction). Rachael McCormack recommended looking in Turkish/Middle Eastern books - nothing. Perhaps I haven't got the right books? I had high hopes of Claudia Roden and Arto der Haroutunian, but no luck.

So in the end I abandoned the books. I used Nose to Tail Eating as it had the best description on how to prepare the hearts:

"trim the hearts of any excess fat nodules at their openings and any obvious sinews, and the flap at the top that looks like the bit that has a string to tighten at the top of a knapsack. Finally, with your finger, scoop out any blood clots at the base of the ventricles."

I gave them a quick wash too. Next for the stuffing. I wanted more meat, so into the Thermomix went an onion, some lamb mince, then seasonings - lemon zest, dried mint, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, lots of sumac, a merest hint of cayenne and, of course, salt and pepper. Everything was whizzed up together, then stuffed into the hearts (I had lots left over, so they got fried up as little patties for Adam's dinner). I browned the hearts in butter and olive oil, then added some lamb stock, a glug of beer (no wine to hand) and threw in some unpeeled garlic cloves, then simmered for a good couple of hours. I should have followed Marguerite Patten's lead** and pressure cooked them, but I was worried about the stuffing falling out. Next time.

I ended up with two hearts, which somehow managed to be tender and retain firmness at the same time, with a sauce which had reduced enough to be almost a glaze, and a stuffing which had just enough zest to it to cut through the richness of the hearts. We ate it simply on toasted sourdough. Very tasty.

*slightly inspired by an old Buffy episode in which Angel-as-Angelus gives Drusilla a fresh human heart to suck on. Yum.

** Marguerite Patten is a big fan of hearts. When I interviewed her last year she recounted a time when she asked her local butcher if people still bought hearts, and his reply was yes - for their dogs. She said that she was happy for the dogs of course, but what a shame that people didn't eat them themselves.


  1. Sounds delicious, certainly more exciting then all the fruit dipped in chocolate one sees at this time of year.

  2. Sorry, I've been a bit meat-centric so far, haven't I?