Braised stuffed lamb hearts

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This Valentine's Day, why not cook with some heart – real heart, that is. Blogger Food Urchin reports on previous Valentine's meals and explains why lamb's heart is on the menu. He gives handy hints and tips for cooking heart and a recipe for braised stuffed lamb heart.

As Shakespeare once said, whilst mulling over a pint of watery ale in some tavern somewhere, the course of true love never did run smooth. And I should know, as my romantic record is littered with calamity, especially with regards to Valentine’s Day. Take a teenage trip to the cinema for instance, to watch Alive, a story of a plane crash where the survivors kept alive by eating the dead. I paid for the tickets, I bought the popcorn and everything was going so well until my date announced quietly during the credits at the end that she was a vegetarian.

Another time, I spent an evening with a girlfriend penned in at rather packed local Italian. Halfway through the meal, feeling lightheaded and a tad squiffy, I popped to the toilet to freshen up and returned to my table and carried on with conversation; eyes down, focussing on my plate. When I finally looked up, my girlfriend had changed from a blonde to a bemused brunette, which was very confusing but a piercing burn from across the room soon signalled that I was sitting at the wrong table. The boyfriend who was hovering over me didn’t look too happy either.

And then there was the night spent down at casualty with a suspected broken toe. A Valentine’s spent indoors this time with much sweat, tears and blood lavished on preparing a sumptuous meal. Boy, the girl that I was cooking for was going to be so lucky. However, when it came to plating up the starter, a piece of chicken had the nerve to fall on the floor and so I lashed out at it in anger and planted my foot firmly in the dishwasher. The lucky girl who came running into the kitchen after hearing my howling became my wife soon after, so in some ways that Valentine’s Day was quite fortuitous but given past history, I try not to pay too much attention to the commercial love-fest these days.

That said, if I don’t make any sort of effort for this coming Friday, I might just get it in the eye from Cupid’s arrow so the game plan I am drawing up at present is to serve up a delicious and tasty plateful of lambs’ heart.

Now, you might consider dishing up some glistening heart for a romantic supper to be another recipe for disaster, especially if you are squeamish. But with some care and attention, this ball of muscle, the most life-giving of edible organs can make for excellent eating indeed. I would even go so far as to say that lambs’ hearts are offally good. Badoom-tish.

The key to cooking heart in my opinion, as with all tough, well exercised meat, is to cook it low and slow. With ox heart, which is huge in comparison to lamb, you can go down the route of marinating slices in herbs, oil and vinegar and then flash frying, treating it like steak. However, l prefer the warm cosseted mouthful of heart that has been braised for a couple of hours at least and this is where lambs’ heart comes into its own. The flavour is strong, there is no denying that, and the accompanying red wine sauce is quite rich but you can lighten things up easily enough. With this recipe, I use plenty of lemon thyme and parsley in the sausage stuffing mix and I like to sprinkle gremolata (namely finely chopped parsley, lemon zest and garlic) over afterwards for an extra fresh citrus kick. And because comfort eating is on the agenda here, I like to serve up heart on mashed potato, although polenta or any other mashed root vegetable would also be nice.

In the preparation, there is the slightly grisly business of trimming out any nasty tubes or gristle but you can always ask your butcher to do that for you. Furthermore, by wrapping the heart in streaky bacon you do sort of hide the fact of what you are eating and bacon does deliver a sort of all-round win to a dish don’t you think?

If the suggestion of eating heart on Valentine’s Day does still wrinkles noses though, try this recipe out anyway and try blindfolding your partner before sliding a forkful of tenderness into their mouth.

Who knows where it might lead.




Stuffed lamb hearts

For the braise

  • 300ml of red wine, spicy Shiraz is good
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 carrot, roughly chopped
  • 1 celery stick, roughly chopped
  • 1 bouquet garni, (thyme, parsley and bay)
  • 5 tbsp of balsamic vinegar, good quality (to finish the sauce)


Preheat the oven to 140°C/gas mark 1
Place a frying pan on a medium heat, add a splash of olive oil and add the onion and garlic. Gently stir for about 10 minutes until soft, then remove from the heat and leave to cool completely. Once cool, place in a bowl with the sausage meat, herbs and breadcrumbs and mix together well. Season with salt and pepper and mix again. Stuff the mix into the cavities of the lamb hearts and set asdide
Depending on the size of the hearts, wrap each one in 2–3 rashers of bacon and secure with some butcher's string
To prepare the braise, place a small casserole or oven-proof saucepan on the hob over a medium heat. Add the chopped onion, carrot and celery and stir until the vegetables begin to soften and caramelise. Wipe clean the frying pan used for frying the onions with some kitchen paper and place on the hob over a medium heat
Add the hearts to the frying pan and carefully brown all over. Once they are evenly coloured, place them in the casserole dish on top of the vegetables, along with the bouquet garni. Deglaze the frying pan with a splash of red wine and pour over the hearts, along with the rest of the red wine. Bring to boil, cover with a lid and the place the casserole into the oven. Leave to braise for 2 hours
Meanwhile, place a clean saucepan on the hob over a high heat, add the balsamic vinegar and reduce until syrupy. Remove from the heat and leave to one side
When the hearts are tender, remove from the casserole and keep warm. Pass the braising liquor through a sieve into the saucepan with the Balsamic reduction, pressing the vegetables down with a ladle or spoon to extract maximum flavour
There might be some excess oil floating on top – try to skim as much of that away as possible using a spoon or by dabbing with kitchen paper. Place the saucepan back over a high heat and reduce by half, stirring often, until the sauce coats the back of a wooden spoon
To serve, slice the hearts evenly and place them on your chosen bed of vegetables. Drizzle the sauce over the top and add some gremolata if desired

Danny is a food adventurer, home grower, supper club host and writer of the entertaining and quirky epicurean blog, Food Urchin.

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