This wasn’t meant to be this weekend’s recipe. Right now you should be reading about herb and flower butters but then I realised that next weekend is Father’s Day and – much as I like to think of myself as an equal opportunities food writer – something more macho might be in order in case any of you are starting to think about what to cook as a treat for the old man. And that’s how we’ve all ended up instead with this recipe for deliciously, meltingly soft lambs hearts cooked in a way that takes inspiration from the Moorish influences of southern Spain.
The sweetness of the date / lemon / parsley stuffing and the sherry braising lifts the hearts out of the heaviness (and summer-inappropriateness) of the more traditional British recipes. My old cookery books tell me that cooking with lambs’ hearts wasn’t particularly unusual in England in the 1800s – but the fact they called it ‘Love in Disguise’ also reveals a quite charming squeamishness. I hesitate to say what hearts are like in case you’re thinking ‘Gee thanks, Angela – maybe next week you can reveal the taste mysteries of toast’ but here goes: they’re like a cross between kidneys and liver, only nicer.
Online suppliers include Eversfield Organic and Graig Farm Organics. I’d have thought your local butcher will be able to order them in for you but if all independent butcher avenues fail, I got some hearts from Waitrose recently and they were lovely.
Stuffed Lambs Hearts – for 4:
- 4 large lamb hearts – I strongly suggest you buy them fully prepped, with the arteries and ventricles cut out by the butcher
- 1 leek
- 60g chestnut mushrooms
- 40g sourdough breadcrumbs
- an unwaxed lemon
- handful flat leaf parsley
- half of a whole nutmeg
- 8 pitted dried dates
- plain flour
- 16 rashers streaky bacon
- 550ml chicken stock
- 200ml dry sherry – fino or manzanilla
- 50g butter
- 2tbsp olive oil
You’ll also need a dozen or so cocktail sticks.
Preheat the oven at 180C.
1. Rinse the hearts thoroughly – inside and out – in cold water. Sit them in a bowl of lightly salted cold water until you need them and when you do, pat them dry.
2. Trim the leek, quarter it lengthways and finely chop. Chop the mushrooms quite small and then sauté both in half of the butter and oil. Transfer to a bowl and mix with the breadcrumbs, lemon rind and juice, chopped parsley, a good few gratings of nutmeg and the chopped dates. Taste and season.
3. Pack this mixture inside each of the hearts. Really squish it in to get them as full of these lovely flavours as possible.
4. Now you need to seal up the hearts so that all that deliciousness doesn’t fall out as they cook. That’s what the bacon is for. Wrap the rashers over the top and around the sides of the heart, and then push through cocktail sticks to ensure the bacon rashers stay in place. Dredge the hearts all over with plain flour.
5. Using the same pan as you sautéed the vegetables in, get the rest of the butter & oil hot and quickly brown each of the hearts all over. I do them two at a time. Remove the hearts to a baking dish in which they can sit quite snugly.
6. Pour the stock & sherry into the sauté pan. Let it bubble for a couple of minutes and then pour it all over and around the hearts. Cover and cook in the oven for 2 hours.
Serve with mash or rice to soak up the juices – they’re amazing – and some wilted greens.
So then, next weekend really will be all about making herb and flower butters. Possibly the perfect Fathers Day activity for any dads looking to get in touch with their feminine side.