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Have a heart

Tasting

FULL OF FLAVOUR Stuffed, roasted lamb’s hearts.

Food

Redmond Cabot

Conscious of the need to provide for our Spanish visitor, Alberto, I decided to go all out – and not just for one meal. My method was to buy a bulk of good Irish meat from our local butcher and make large pots of stew concoctions to provide lunch and dinner over the following week.
A trip to Séan in super De Burca’s butchers in Castlebar left me with four fine collections of meat for under €40. I left with four lambs hearts, about two pounds of rib steak cut up, and same again with beef shoulder, as well as a good scattering of their home-made sausages.
I planned to trim the hearts centre and fill with vegetables to bake in oven. While preparing and trimming out the chewy bits, I thought ‘this meat is too tender, ’twould be a waste to roast it; possibly too brutal’. I had thought heart should be treated like game or cheap cuts of meat, with long, slow cooking, but looking at and feeling this meat it felt different.
I chopped the lovely looking soft meat to manageable, beautiful tender pieces, seasoned it with salt, put it on a pan with hot oil and some butter inside, and dropped the meat in and cooked it as delicately as possible, bearing in mind that it would cook like liver: briefly.
Onto a plate with kitchen roll, and as the warm meat sat there I squeezed a quarter lemon over the plate. I then proceeded to eat said dish slowly and continuously with enjoyment as I cooked up the rest of the butchers bag.
For the remaining dishes I just opened the cupboard and had some fun playing with what was there. First, the beef cuts were browned on the pan while sausages went in oven. Then the real fun began.
Chopped rib steak was matched with black pepper, rosemary, thyme, barley and onions. Shoulder stewing meat was matched with bay leaf, spuds and carrots (forgot the onions for this one). For liquid, I cooked with canned lager this time, as previous efforts with Guinness had yielded a flavour that was a bit intense.
The remaining heart pieces were matched with De Burca’s homemade sausages and turmeric, a tin of coconut milk, cubed courgette, onions, pearl barley and a touch of red chilli for a very interesting dish.
And the mistakes? Well, all the favour combinations were good and interesting, the sausage and heart in coconut standing out. However, the two other dishes I slow-cooked in oven and did not add enough liquid. I realised this after they’d been cooking for four hours at too high a temperature, and saw the meat had dry-cooked. I replenished with water, so all was not lost. And Alberto and I did not have to plan, cook or make any lunch or dinner for the next seven days!

Braised, stuffed lamb hearts in wine
The idea of eating a heart can, for some, be difficult. It can induce a bit of squeamishness. But sure of you don’t try, you don’t know! The flavour of its hard-working meat is superb. Trust me.

What you require

  • 2 lambs hearts
  • 2 carrots, washed and cut
  • 2 medium white onion
  • Thyme
  • Stock
  • Glass of red wine
  • Sprig of rosemary
  • Seasoning
  • Oil

What you do
To prepare your hearts simply trim off any layers of fat around each heart. Then look inside and remove any tubes, arteries and strange bits. Use a scissors of you like. Wash under a tap. Cook the onions, thyme, carrots and garlic until soft. Remove from the pan and brown the hearts in the same pan. Remove the hearts and deglaze the pan by pouring in the wine in over a medium-high heat. This combines all the lovely flavours. Spoon the veg mix into the hearts and place upright on a high-sided cooking dish for the oven. Pour in the wine from the pan and cook in a pre-heated 185-degree oven for 25 minutes.
Other people would cut the hearts into two-inch pieces, place on tinfoil, season, drizzle with oil and cook under the grill. Remember, it’s actually a tender, rich meat, so over-cooking is not appreciated.
Serve with new potatoes and fresh green salad with vinaigrette dressing.

Red Cabot is interested in food, nature and small things. He sells his food at Westport Country Markets in St Anne’s Boxing Club, James’s Street car park, Westport, every Thursday, from 8am to 1pm.

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