The more we look at some of the worlds great foods the more we are finding that so many have been born out of poverty, food shortage and simply the need to survive the perils of winter, looking forward to a new spring. So we have the Andouillettes of France, the tripes and the offal dishes of Rome and the glories of cured pork culminating in perhaps the best known prosciutto di Parma – but there are so many more!!
We are living in a very uncertain world. Global warming, a pandemic, and now a superpower leader waging a brutal war in Europe. All this has made us reflect, step back, and take a breath. It is easy to feel powerless in these circumstances and in some ways we are. Equally though we can all do something! Doing something positive is good for each of us. We have been looking harder at reducing food waste and also looking to be inspired by some of these ‘less sought after’ food elements. On reflection I think we should be exploring these foods so much more!
We recently published a great recipe for Italian Lamb Kidney with Anchovy and Lemon . In this same vein this recipe is based on a Sicilian lamb ragù which we had first from those rather nice people at ‘Pasta Evangelists’ based in London. They are a generous company and shared the recipe for the ragù in their excellent cook book. We have taken a slight sideways step from this recipe in that we used lamb heart rather than lamb shoulder for the dish. We felt this was very much in the spirit of using items from what is referred to in Roman cuisine as the “quint quarto” or the “fifth quarter”. The “quint quarto” comprise the ‘less noble’ parts of the animal often referred to as the offal.
Before we go any further – this dish is fabulous made using lamb shoulder. If you are open to some new ideas – it is every bit as good, though slightly different using lamb’s heart as in this recipe. If you are not happy with the idea of using heart (at a fraction of the price) then use shoulder!
You will be pleased that you have – it is a great dish – but with lamb’s heart it is also fabulous!
This recipe used 2 lamb hearts which cost just over £1.50 in the UK 2022. The major vessels were chopped off, the top and the heart muscle sliced lengthways to reveal the heart valves which were also removed. The meat is incredibly lean as you can see from the picture on the right . The muscle was then chopped into 1cm cubes and browned in a hot frying pan over direct heat with a little olive oil. The chopped mushrooms were added to the pan and fried off for a couple of minutes more. These were then put to one side.
In the same pan the onion was added and cooked till it started to become translucent. Stir in the garlic and continue cooking. After one minute the carrot and celery was then added and the sofrito cooked until it took on a little colour. If the mixture becomes a little dry add a splash of the stock.
Add the red wine and deglaze the pan. Allow the alcohol to boil off then add the stock and the tomatoes and simmer over medium direct heat for 10 minutes or so. At this point we transferred this mix to a small casserole dish and added back the meat and the mushrooms. The final addition was the sugar, mint, rosemary bay and thyme. The Big Green Egg was then set up for indirect cooking and the casserole was left without a lid to cook for around 2-2.5 hrs at 120-30C. Initially the sauce will look very wet and a little incipid but over the period of the slow cooking it will become thicker, darker and richer. Ultimately finishing with a super rich sauce which sticks beautifully to the pasta. As this is not truly a regional dish we played with some different pasta types. It went well with pappardelle, our usual Tuscan standby as you can see above. It would work well with rigatoni reflecting the dishes Sicilian origin – but we finally settled on casarecce – again Sicilian in origin and a perfect pairing for the lovely dish.
Which ever way you chose to serve it, a little pangrattato adds a lovely additional texture……………….
………………………do give it a go soon!!
Sicilian lamb and mushroom ragù: with a twist
A hearty lamb ragù in every sense of the word
- 2 lamb hearts
- 100g chopped mushrooms
- 1 small onion
- 1 finally chopped/minced garlic clove
- 1 large carrot finely diced
- 1 stick celery finely diced
- 50ml red wine
- 250-500 ml lamb stock
- 800g good quality tinned tomatoes
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp of chopped mint leaves
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary
- 1 Bay leaf
- 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
- Salt and pepper
- Step 1 Remove the major vessels from the hearts, slice open the hearts and cut into 1cm cubes – discard valves. Brown in a hot frying-an over direct heat with a little olive oil. Chop the mushrooms roughly and add to the pan and fry off for a couple of minutes more. Put both to one side.
- Step 2 In the same pan add the onions and cook till it started to become translucent. Stir in the garlic and continue cooking. After one minute add the carrot and the celery cook until it takes on a little colour. If the mixture becomes dry add a splash of the stock.
- Step 3 Add the red wine and deglaze the pan. Allow the alcohol to boil off then add the stock and the tomatoes and simmer over medium direct heat for 10 minutes or so. Transfer to a small casserole dish and add back the meat and the mushrooms. Add the sugar, mint, rosemary bay and thyme.
- Step 4 Set up the Big Green Egg for indirect cooking and cook the casserole without a lid to cook for around 2-2.5 hrs at 120-30C. Initially the sauce will look wet and insipid but over the period of the slow cooking it will become thicker, darker and richer. Ultimately finishing with a super rich sauce which sticks beautifully to the pasta.
- Step 5 Serve with pasta of your choice – I would suggest one of the short pastas and a little parmesan or pangrattato