The Art of Heart: Stuffed Lambs' Hearts with Ginger Snap Gravy (1899).
A surprisingly simple, succulent and inexpensive dish made novel with a ginger snap thickened sauce.
My butcher reliably informs, that the heart of a beast is the only organ which can be eaten direct from the kill, without the need for bleeding. He also endorses lamb hearts for their delicious and tender nature. I couldn't agree more; and in terms of nutritional value, they are only second to the liver in iron content, in addition to being rich in folate, zinc, selenium and major B-complex vitamins – with well documented cardio-vascular protective and cholesterol lowering properties.
Lambs heart dishes have been enjoyed for thousands of years, across many cultures, and greatly appreciated in times of austerity as a cheaper pluck of meat. In more recent times, they've also become prerequisite in nose-to-tail dining experiences.
Attractive and appetising recipes are plentiful, but today I plate a very simple en casserole version derived from recipes circulating in the late 1890s. Aside from thrift and simplicity, what caught my eye, was the dish's unusual ginger snap thickened gravy – which as it turns out, was not unusual at all. Indeed, these spicy, crisp baked biscuits were often used as an alternative to flour for thickening during the 19th and 20th centuries.
The key to a tender heart, is normally low and slow cookery, but on this occasion I followed recipe instructions zealously. Half expecting tougher rounds. I was pleasantly surprised when they cut easily. Unsqueamish friends also delighted in their flavour and in hindsight these would make a dainty entree plated in neat slices.
Stuffed Lambs' Hearts with Ginger Snap Gravy
4 lambs hearts
1 - 1 1/2 cups of breadcrumb stuffing (as basic or elaborate as desired)
Oil, fat or suet for browning
1 large onion, sliced
A clove of garlic
2/3 cup red wine vinegar
500mls stock (I used my own homemade chicken stock, but historically recipes might call for plain boiled water)
Cracked black pepper and salt to season
Favoured herbs (I used thyme and fennel from the garden)
3 - 4 ginger snap biscuits
Parsley to garnish
Toothpicks will help to secure the stuffing (I forgot to use them)
1. Assemble your breadcrumb stuffing (I used 1 cup of breadcrumbs, a diced red onion, garlic, bacon, parsley, fennel and seasoning)
2. Take four lambs hearts and wash them in cold water, removing any blood clots that may have lodged.
3. Pat hearts dry and trim away excess fat and venous gristle.
4. To make stuffing hearts a much less fiddly operation, snip or cut through the internal chamber walls to create one large hollow. Fill cavity and use a toothpick to secure.
5. To a hot fry pan, add oil, fat or suet and lightly brown hearts.
6. Add sliced onion, crushed garlic, red wine vinegar, stock, bay leaves, herbs, pepper and salt.
7. Cover and pop in the oven at 180°C / 356°F, or cover and reduce heat to gentle simmer on stove top.
8. After 35 minutes, crumble in three or four ginger snaps.
9. Return to heat for another 10 minutes (until sauce thickens).
10. Serve hearts with gravy and a garnishing of parsley.
I ended up with a lot of leftover stuffing, so incorporated the excess into meatloaf the following day.
N. B. Sheep hearts are generally larger than lambs, so extend the total bake time to 1 hour.
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