It’s no secret that I champion using offal in everyday cooking. I’m a bit of a hypocrite though, because I don’t use it anywhere near as much as I should. Part of the problem is that I don’t have access to a butcher near where I live so I either have to rely on the local supermarket’s offerings, order a meat box, be super-organised and get to the farmer’s market at the weekend or make a special trip to Balham to visit Chadwick’s. I do a combination of all but it’s not really satisfactory – for some reason my local supermarket has a very tiny organic meat section, my freezer is too small for a regular meat box delivery, I’m away at the weekend a lot so farmer’s market is out of section (also their range is pretty small), and I don’t always have time to get to Balham. However, I survive and manage to get decent meat most of the time.
However, what all this means is that I don’t get to buy organ meats and cheap cuts often enough. I’m not a massive shopping planner, I like to get to the shop or stall and see what looks good before I buy so if I don’t see it, I don’t get it. Also I really want my organ meats to be high quality so I need to know that where I’m buying them from cares about that too. That’s why I love getting meat boxes because you can generally get a really good idea about what their values are; the only issue now is, since we moved flats, our kitchen is really tiny and there’s no space for a second freezer like we used to have, so I can’t buy in bulk anymore! Our freezer is generally quite packed – the top drawer is weird and wonderful herbs and spices from Malaysia, the bottom drawer is full bones, chicken skin, wings and other odds and ends from when I joint a carcass as well as bags of off-cuts of vegetables, all ready to make stocks. The middle two shelves is where I have to try and squeeze in raw meat and fish and pre-made food for emergency dinners. It’s a jigsaw puzzle everytime I need to take something out!
So when a lovely friend came to stay and gave us some vouchers for Pipers Farm as a thank you gift, it was months before I cleared enough space in the freezer even for a small box! But I finally got around to ordering one of their fantastic value meat boxes and I added four lamb’s heart as well. (Incidentally, I’ve just noticed that they’ve added a whole range of new meat boxes, including an offal meat box which is excellent news!) After my success with lamb’s heart rendang, I’d been meaning to try out a lamb’s heart tagine, and I was hugely impressed with the result. It turned out even better than the rendang, even more tender, with even less of that offaly flavour.
I served the tagine with a whole bunch of greens – okra with feta, quinoa tabouleh (substitute cauliflower rice if you don’t eat quinoa) and quick stir-fried rainbow chard, but the okra feta was ridiculously simple and ridiculously tasty, so I had to include the recipe here! The lamb’s heart is very roughly based on the River Cottage lamb tagine, and the method for the okra is inspired by an Ottolenghi feature in the Guardian.
Lamb’s Heart Tagine
Ingredients. Serves four.
- 4 lamb’s heart, trimmed of fat and cut into small cubes (about the first thumb joint in width and length), about 650g in total
- 3 tbsp. ras-el-hanout (see note below)
- 2 onions, thinly sliced
- 1 tin of tomatoes
- 1 tbsp. tomato puree
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 4 garlic cloves, crushed
250g100g dried apricots (unsulphured, they should be dark brown in colour)
- Juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
- 1 tbsp. honey (use less or none at all; if you’re a regular Paleo eater you’ll be used to your savoury food not being sweet!)
- Salt and pepper
- 1 pomegranate, seeds removed
- Handful of fresh coriander, finely chopped
- Pistachio nuts, toasted and chopped
Method. Marinading time: 3 hours minimum. Preparation time: 15 minutes. Cooking time: 3 hours.
- Place the lamb’s heart cubes in a bowl, sprinkle with ras-el-hanout, mix very well, cover and leave to marinate for 3 hours or preferably overnight.
- When you’re ready to cook, preheat the oven to 150C. Place an ovenproof casserole dish on the stovetop over a medium-high flame, add the lamb’s heart, the sliced onions and the tin of tomatoes, stir well, cover with some water and bring to a simmer. When bubbling, place the whole thing in the oven for 2 hours, stirring after the first hour.
- When the tagine has had its two hours, take it out of the oven and add the tomato puree, olive oil, apricots and lemon juice and zest, stir well, then place it back in the oven for another hour.
- After the third hour, take the tagine back out, stir well and taste; if you think it needs to have the honey, add it now and season with salt, pepper or lemon juice as needed. Leave to rest for ten minutes or so with the cover on while you finish the rest of the meal.
- When ready to serve, sprinkle with the pomegranate seeds, the fresh coriander and the pistachio nuts.
I highly recommend making your own ras-el-hanout (and all spice mixes for that matter) – it makes a world of difference just to smell the spices gently toasting away before grinding them fresh. My ras-el-hanout recipe is from BBC GoodFood and is really very good:
- Ingredients: 2.5 tbsp. whole cumin, 2 tbsp. whole coriander seeds, 1 cinnamon stick (broken into small pieces), 1/2 tsp cardamom seeds (break open 10 cardamom pods and pick out the seeds, discarding the outer husk), pinch of saffron strands, 2tsp. whole black peppercorns, 1 tsp. ground turmeric, 2 tsp. ground ginger
- Method: Toast all the whole spices (so everything except for the saffron, turmeric and ginger) for a couple of minutes until aromatic and a shade darker. Add to a coffee grinder (I use this one) and grind until fine. Add the turmeric and ground ginger to the coffee grinder and give another pulse or two to combine thoroughly.
- This amount of spice mix will fill one small spice jar and you’ll use around a third of it for the tagine recipe.
Okra and Feta
Ingredients. Serves four.
- 300g small okra, kept whole, stalk trimmed if necessary
- 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- Juice from 1 lemon
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- Handful of parsley, finely chopped
- 50g feta, crumbled
Method. Preparation time: 5 minutes. Cooking time: 7–8 minutes
- Increase the oven temperature to 180C. Place the okra, sliced onion, olive oil and salt and pepper in a bowl and mix well. Shake out the okra into a baking tray, making sure they’re on top of the onions and in a single layer and put it in the oven for 7–8 minutes until just cooked but still firm.
- Mix together the lemon, olive oil and parsley in a small bowl or jar.
- Place the okra in a serving dish, pour over the dressing, roughly mix, then crumble over the feta and serve.