Friday, 13 January 2012
My resolution this year is to convince everyone to try odd bits. One of the most approachable and easiest to begin with is heart. This is a beef heart. Now if you are adventurous, you can buy a whole heart and prepare it yourself. It's not hard, all you need is time and a sharp knife.
If not, you can ask your butcher to clean it for you, just give him some advance notice. He will probably also sell you part of a cleaned heart, as a whole beef heart weighs around 1.8 to 2.25kg / 4 to 5lbs, and even after cleaning there is a lot of meat, but once it's cleaned you can freeze it. Heart is always comes slit, it is part of the inspection process at the abattoirs, so simply follow the cut and open it up. Give the heart a rinse under cold water and pat dry. Inside you can see the sinews holding the chambers together and the silverskin.
Remove these with a sharp knife, leaving solid pieces of meat. You can cut the heart into sections, this makes it easier to work with. Remove the fat from the outside of the heart and set aside to render, it is great for frying. If the membrane on the outside of the heart seems thick, remove it too.
Now you will have solid pieces of meat. There are two methods for cooking heart: slow or fast. I suggest you try the second method. (You can also eat it raw as heart tartare). Cut the trimmed meat into slices and cook them in you favourite stir-fry recipe, or make beef stroganoff. Yes, I know it's usually made with beef fillet, but heart has so much more flavour and it's cheaper.
Beef Stroganoff is a classic Russian dish from the eighteenth century, but wasn't named until the nineteenth century after the diplomat Count Paul Stroganoff. Legend has it that his chef made him the dish when he working in Siberia. My recipe is from the Russian volume in the Time Life Foods of the World series.
Mix a tablespoon of mustard powder with a teaspoon of sugar and a pinch of salt, then add enough water to make a thick paste.
Peel four good sized onions, cut them in half lengthwise, then slice thinly. Clean and slice 450g / 1lb of button mushrooms. In a large frying pan, heat some beef fat and when it is very hot add the onions and mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat and cook stirring often until the onions soften. Transfer the cooked vegetables to a sieve to drain.
Slice about 750g / 1 2/3 lbs of cleaned heart into 6mm / 1/4in slices and season with salt and pepper. Wipe out the pan, the place over medium high heat adding some more beef fat and when its hot, cook the heart in batches, keeping it medium rare. Transfer the heart to a bowl. When all the heart is cooked, return it with the vegetable mixture back to the pan and place over low heat.
Stir in the mustard paste and about 500ml / 2cups of sour cream, a large spoonful at a time, until you have enough sauce. Heat through, but don't overcook, the heart must be at least pink, check the seasoning and serve.
You should have enough for six.