Saturday, 8 January 2011

Who said I never had a heart? Stuffed Lambs' Hearts

Well, here we go again; more offal! 

I have two favourite butchers at Castle Markets. Unfortunately I can't remember the name of either store, but I'll try to take note next time I'm down there. The first butcher is a right miserable sod. He only ever grunts at me and, unlike the others, he doesn't double bag anything, so there is often blood splattered down the outside of the carrier as he passes it to me. Once he even had a bit of go at me for pointing at the 6 pack of ham hocks, when I only wanted one. He'd put the 6 in a bag for me and as I explained that I had only wanted one, he moaned that I had pointed at the wrong packs and reluctantly swapped the 6 for 1. My God. If he doesn't want me to frequent his store, I can easily go elsewhere! Having said that, he does have the best chicken hearts and his hocks (and cheeks) are cheap. So I'll put up with the grunts and smile sweetly the next time I point at the wrong thing!

The other butcher is the absolute opposite. He smiles warmly, asks how I am and offers advice on the cuts of meat. In fact, all the staff on that stall are friendly and will have a bit of a banter with the customers. There's a fair bit of variety and the prices are reasonable.  It's the lamb's hearts that caught my eye this time and, on asking, I was advised to stuff them with either rice and herbs or sausage meat. The butcher also showed me the pig's hearts which are leaner and according to him 'more human-like'. Mmmm. Nice! The ox hearts are enormous and I was told that people will often cook these for their Sunday dinner. In trying to sell me more hearts, I am told that I need to forget what I'm eating and just tuck in; I manage to impress by stating that I've already tried chicken hearts!

Three hearts for about £1.80.

Once at home, I consulted my Nose to Tail Eating by Fergus Henderson and I was glad to find that there is a recipe for stuffed lamb's hearts. Eager to get on with cooking, I started working on the meat by cutting out any visible valves and slicing off any fatty lumps. There was also a reasonable layer of fat covering each heart but I left in tact as I had heard that hearts can be dry. I then scrapped out the blood clots with my fingers. This bit isn't overly pleasant and it did remind me of the horror stories we used to hear of scary biology lessons. You remember, the teacher would place a heart on each desk and force the pupils to dissect them. A number of kids promised that they would walk out of the class in protest if anything like that happened. Hell, I was probably one of them, and here I was conducting my own experiment.

Anyway a couple of the hearts had slashes in them, which does make them easier to clean, but to make sure I got everything out I soaked them in cold water for 20 minutes or so. After squeezing the water out I placed them in the fridge and got on with making the stuffing.

Clean and ready to go.

This recipe is for 6 people, so, having 3 hearts, I cut the ingredients in half;
3 clean hearts
salted butter
2 onions (Fergus calls for red onions, but I didn't have any, so I used white)
2 garlic cloves, chopped (I am pretty sure there is a typo in the book, as it actually calls for 2 garlic bulbs!)
1 large glass of red wine (about 250mls)
110 g of white bread with crusts chopped off, cubed
ground black pepper
handful of fresh sage leaves, chopped
9 rashes of streaky bacon
750 mls chicken/veg stock

Heat the oven to about 170C.

So first off, I melted the butter over a low to medium heat, added the onions and garlic and cooked until softened. I added the wine, reduced by half and added the bread. Then I seasoned with pepper and cooked on the lowest heat for 15 mins. It got a bit dry so I added more wine. According to Fergus I wanted the stuffing to have 'an unctuous but not squidgy quality'. What this actually means in practice, I'm not too sure, so I just aimed for a stuffing like mixture! Once stuffing like, I cooled and added the chopped sage.

Stuffing mix; tastes way better than it looks!
I then set about stuffing the hearts, which was pretty tricky.  I used both fingers and utensils to cram in as much of the mixture as I could. Originally I'd been disappointed to see that two of the hearts had slashes in them, but they were actually the easiest to stuff! I then wrapped the bacon around the hearts, covering off each of the stuffing entrances and tied up with string to keep everything intact.

I placed the hearts in a casserole dish, with a lid. You could also use a roasting dish and make a lid out of foil. I poured in the stock, until the hearts were almost covered and cooked for two and a half hours.

Two and a quarter hours later I turned the oven off, but kept the hearts in there. This was because I needed to keep the hearts somewhere warm whilst preparing the sauce. Fifteen minutes later I strained the liquid from the casserole and put the hearts back in the oven. I heated the liquid up in a pan and let it bubble away for about 15 mins, skimming of the fat and any scum. Once it had thickened up into a gravy, I removed the string and served the hearts with the gravy, some curly kale and broccoli.

Gav went first and declared them a success. He admitted to being a bit nervous. Bless. He is my guinea-pig at the moment. He was right though; they were a success. They were perfectly tender and, although they looked like they had a texture similar to liver, that texture was lost in the mouth. There was an ever so slight offaly taste but they tasted mostly of lamb meat. The fat on the hearts added more lamb flavour and the stuffing added a touch of sweetness.

One each was ample and the third is in the fridge to eat cold. They worked out at about 60p each.and taking into account the preparation required and the resulting dish, I think they are my favourite cheap cut to date. They even top pig's cheeks as they're not as gory to prepare and, apart from the bacon, they are cheaper overall.

I reckon I could stuff them with a variety of stuff and I may give a rice and thyme mixture a go next.  Although I have seen them stuffed with goats' cheese; maybe Stilton would be worth a go, or maybe some bread soaked in white wine with lots of Parmesan mixed in would work. Hmmmm. So many ideas!!

Anyone else tried them? Got any recipes to share? Have I done enough to persuade lamb heart virgins to try one? Go on..... I dare you!


  1. wow I have tried chicken hearts and have to admit I wasn't keen as I'm not a fan of offal. I do love lamb though and that is really cheap! I am tempted to try this definitely

  2. They definitely are another budget marvel. I'm looking forward to my heart sandwich at lunchtime today!

  3. Do try them Komal and let me know how they are. They're so much nicer than chicken hearts!

    Enjoy your sandwich Gav!

  4. The cold heart & tomato sandwich I had for my lunch was beautiful!

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  6. Thanks Anonymous. I'm glad you're enjoying!!