The dish started out as a bit of an experiment in cooking using a method of cooking that is used in many restaurant kitchens. This technique is known as sous- vide (French for under vacuum) and involves two basic operations. Firstly, the ingredient/s are placed in a plastic bag, then the air is removed using a device called a vacuum sealer. Once the air is removed the device heat-seals the bag.
The second operation is to place the bag into a preheated water bath. This water bath is no ordinary piece of kitchen equipment. The water is heated and held to a precise temperature and does not vary outside of +/- 0.1 (or less in some cases). Ingredients are cooked at a much lower temperature (usually between 56.5 to 70°C) like this for many hours, even days. The fact that the water bath only reaches the set temperature means it is impossible to overcook the food. As the temperatures are lower than cooking in an oven or grill, the cells that make up the food do not burst thus retaining moisture and flavour. Tough connective tissue (collagen) within meat is broken down and converted to gelatin making even the toughest meat meltingly tender.
Now to the main ingredient for my dish……lamb hearts!! Yuck you may say but this underrated piece of meat has an amazing flavour and texture which is exploited when cooked using the sous-vide technique.
First I trimmed the heart of any unwanted tissue. Then I made a marinade of chili powder, cumin, coriander and a glug of rapeseed oil and massaged it into the meat. Sealed in food quality bags and under vacuum the hearts were then placed into the water bath at 60 °C. for 24 hours.
After the lamb had been cooked I realised I had no idea how it was going to taste. I opened the bag, reserving any liquor, and sliced the meat revealing a light pinkish interior, and a texture that reminds me of duck. The taste was sublime! Smooth tender slithers of sweetness and an almost creamy texture.
I started the dish with a simple sauce of onion, garlic and finely diced chili sweated in some butter until soft. Then I added the liquid from the bags that the hearts were cooked in. I reduced this down by about half and then added some double cream and a tsp of smoked paprika. The final dish is, in essence, based on the Hungarian parikash.
The hearts (yes I ate two!) were sliced lengthwise and warmed through in the sauce and served with some buttered cous cous. A very cheap and easy to cook dish that is now one of my favorites.