Saturday 26 July 2014

The Hannibal Special - Stuffed Roast Heart with Devilled Kidneys and Garlic Liver Pâté

I am absolutely in love with the new Hannibal series. I devoured season 1 on DVD, and now I’m hungry for more. One of the reasons I’m so smitten with Hannibal is the delicious set design, particularly the mouthwateringly gourmet meals prepared and served by everyone’s favourite cannibal. By the end of each episode, I was ravenous.

I know that that sounds like the sort of thing that might get one put onto some kind of watch list, but… well all I can say in my defence is that the food styling really is truly exceptional. Watching the first 2 minutes of this video might help you see what I mean (that, or convince you that I should be committed). Inspired by the assorted body parts based banquets Hannibal is renowned for producing for his dinner guests, I decided to try my own hand at such a feast.

Fair warning, this post ain’t short.

It puts the recipe in the basket…

    Wash, dry and cut plenty of liver into large chunks. Slice a shallot and roughly chop some garlic and fry in butter, along with fresh thyme. Add the liver and cook until browned, but still pink inside. Empty the pan into a blender. Deglaze the pan with port, reduce a little, then add the sauce to the liver. Add cream, butter and seasoning, then whizz into a fine paste. Strain the paste through a sieve into your serving bowl, then pour melted butter on top to seal. Leave in the fridge for a few hours. Pâté, check.

    Dice mushrooms and onions and fry in butter. Add chopped fresh parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme (I don’t know about you, but by the time I get to the 3rd herb I’m just singing Scarborough Fair…). When softened, add breadcrumbs and fry for a few more minutes. Scrape into a bowl and let cool a little before mashing in sausage meat to finish. Stuffing, check.

    Split open and wash out the heart. Trim off the worst of the fat and any large blood vessels or connective tissue. Pat dry before seasoning and rubbing with a little oil, inside and out. Cram the stuffing into the cavities and close it back up, securing it with butcher’s twine. Sear it on all sides in a hot pan before placing it atop some roughly chunked carrot and onion in a baking dish. Deglaze the pan with red wine, pour over the heart and add some more wine to the tray. Place in the oven at a low heat. Cook for a half hour per half kilo, basting regularly. When finished, let sit, then drain the juices into a pan. Add more wine and reduce into a thick gravy. Heart, check.

    While the heart is in the oven, carefully clean half a dozen kidneys. Cut them in half to expose the core, snip it out and rinse them well. Pat dry before tossing them in a mixture of flour, cayenne pepper and mustard powder. Fry them in butter (Christ, I just realised how much butter went into this!) for a couple of minutes, then flip them, fry some more, and remove from the pan. In the same pan, fry sliced shallot to soften, followed by halved button mushrooms. Cook until browned, then add plenty of crème fraîche, a teaspoon of wholegrain mustard and a splash of Worcestershire sauce (pronounced Yzllrjsstrh sauce). Return the kidneys to the pan and heat through. Kidneys, check.

    Serve the pâté with toasted crusty bread and green olives, sprinkle half a handful of redcurrants over the kidneys and pour a drizzle of gravy over the carved heart. Bon appétit.

Which, uh… haha. Which animals did you get the organs from? Just, you know, out of curiosity.

Relax, everything’s above board. See? Chicken, Beef and Lamb. Go ahead, take a closer look.


For the Pâté
  • 400g chicken liver
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 shallot
  • a large sprig of thyme
  • 75ml of port (or sherry, or even a sweet red wine. Or use some brandy or even whiskey, I won’t stop you)
  • 100ml cream
  • 150g butter
  • some toast and olives to serve

For the Roast Heart
  • 1 cow’s heart
  • 2 portobello mushrooms
  • 2 shallots
  • a handful of fresh parsley
  • a handful of fresh sage
  • a handful of fresh rosemary
  • a handful of fresh thyme
  • 2 cups of breadcrumbs
  • 2 sausages
  • some random vegetables
  • about a glass of red wine
  • butter
  • olive oil
  • butcher’s string (not an ingredient, but don’t forget it!)

For the Devilled Kidneys
  • 6 lamb’s kidneys
  • 3 shallots
  • 150g baby button mushrooms
  • 1 tsp mustard powder
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 100ml crème fraîche
  • 1tsp wholegrain mustard
  • a dash of worcestershire sauce
  • a large bunch of redcurrants
  • butter
  • olive oil

It can be tricky enough to get beef heart these days. I ordered all of the meat a week ahead from my butcher, to make sure he had it. The heart will usually be split open already, as part of the quality control process, but if it’s not you can ask your butcher to do that and even trim it a bit for you. Heart sizes vary pretty considerably, but the one I got was 1.2kg (3lbs).

I bought the meat the day I used it, and I cannot stress enough how important this is. The fresher, the better. This is true of food in general, but particularly so with offal. Don’t leave it in the fridge for a few days before getting around to cooking it. A great thing about organs though is that they’re cheap. I got all the heart, liver and kidneys (plus extra) for just €15. Bargain.

Umm, maybe I should have mentioned this earlier, but I’m not a big fan of offal.

Honestly, I’d still recommend you give this a try, particularly the heart. Cow’s heart is just pure, lean muscle, same as standard beef, but with a texture more like duck. As for the rest, chicken liver is a mild tasting liver and lamb’s kidneys are mild tasting kidneys. They’re the perfect gateway organs! Plus, they’re heavily flavoured in these dishes, you’re not eating them straight. To make them even milder, you can soak the organs in salt water (or milk) for about an hour before using them.

Also, organs tend to pack a greater concentration of nutrients than the flesh. So, yeah. Cheap, nutritious and, if cooked right, delicious. What’s not to love? Seriously, give them a go and you might be surprised.

Your argument is compelling and amazing. I am totally convinced.

    Great! Get this party started by making the pâté. While this can be made while the heart is in the oven and then served warm (some people even prefer it that way), it’ll be less stressful if you make it first and allow it to set. Also, I quite like the combination of flavours and temperatures that you get by serving cold pâté with hot dishes like these. Anyway, start by cleaning and trimming the livers. Do this by just cutting off any connective tissue that you find, along with any green-tinged areas, then rinsing well. There might also be a thin membrane covering the liver, peel this off. Your butcher may have already done all this for you, but just make sure. Pat them dry with kitchen paper.

    Slice up the shallot and garlic and strip the tiny leaves off of the sprig of thyme. Don’t be too fussy, they’ll be blended later. Heat a knob of butter in a frying pan and fry them while you cut the liver. Liver seems to come in lumps of all variety of shapes and sizes. Don’t worry about that and just chop them into pieces about 2cm wide. If you cut them up into really small bits, they’ll brown the whole way through when you cook them, whereas we want them to still be pink in the middle. So add the liver to the pan and fry until nicely browned on the outside, it’ll only take a few minutes.

    Tip the contents of the pan into a food processor or blender or whatever. Put the pan back on the heat and pour in the port. Use a wooden spoon to help it clean off and dissolve all the bits that stuck to the pan. This is called deglazing, and if you tell everyone that you’re deglazing they’ll think you’re very fancy and cool and want to be your friend. Let the liquid boil for a couple of minutes to reduce it, then pour that into the blender too. Now add the cream, 100g of the butter and some salt and pepper.

    Blend everything until it’s just a smooth paste. As smooth as this looks, it’ll actually be pretty gritty, so strain it through a sieve into a small bowls. Push the paste through the sieve using the back of a spoon. Eventually, you’ll have your bowls filled and the inside of the sieve will be left with the grit that you didn’t want. Just throw that away. Put the rest of the butter in a cup and melt it in the microwave. Smooth out the top of your liver paste to make it level, then pour the melted butter on top. This will create a seal of fat which protects the pâté, keeping it fresh for longer. Leave the bowls on the counter to cool down a little, then move them to the fridge where it will set.

That’s the pâté done! Next up is the stuffed heart.

    Take out your heart and have a good look at it. That thing pumped about 45 litres of blood around an animal approximately 8 times bigger than you. And now you’re going to eat it, so that you may gain its, uh… bravery? In any case, open it up and trim away anything that just looks like blood vessels or connective tissue as opposed to meat. You can also get rid of any large lumps of fat. Rinse the whole thing out, washing away the clotted blood that might be hanging around. Now fill a big bowl with salted water and leave the heart in that for maybe half an hour. This will have the dual effect of slightly tenderising the meat as well as helping clean it out some more.

    We’ll go ahead with the stuffing, because that’s dead simple. Start by making sure you have your breadcrumbs ready. If you have a decent hunk of quality bread that’s gone a bit stale, that’s ideal. Don’t waste your time shredding your knuckles trying to put it through a cheese grater, either use a blender or simply cut it up small with a knife. The “crumbs” don’t need to actually be crumb sized, so don’t stress it.

     All you have to do now is cut up the portobello mushrooms and the 2 shallots, fairly small. Fry them in a bit of butter over a medium-low heat for a few minutes to get things started, then throw in all your Simon & Garfunkel herbs. Once the shallots are softened and looking juicy, dump in the breadcrumbs. Stir everything well to get all the flavours mixed up in the bread and fry for another 3-4 minutes.

    Transfer the stuffing mixture into a bowl and allow it to cool for a few minutes. Using a knife, slice the sausages down their length, peel off their skin and discard it. Add the freshly circumcised sausage meat to the warm stuffing and mush it all together with a fork. Try to mix in the meat as much as possible, and after a minute or so it should look pretty consistent.

    At this point, your heart will have soaked long enough, so take it out of the water and rinse it once more. Pat the whole thing dry with kitchen paper and grind salt and pepper over it. Rub it in with olive oil, getting both the inside and outside of the heart. Now pick up big handfuls of your stuffing and pack it into wherever it’ll fit, filling all the cavities. When the heart looks fit to burst (literally, not out of "love" or anything) force it closed and tie it up with butcher’s string. Use plenty and make sure it’s good and tight. Stuffing will probably be erupting out of every available opening, just push it back in. No escape!

    Preheat the oven to 150ºC. Get a frying pan nice and hot and then plonk the heart into it. Turn the heart every minute or so, browning each side, as well as the top and bottom. While that’s going on, give some vegetables (whatever you have lying around, but onion, carrot and celery are good) a scrub and very roughly chunk them up. Scatter them in a baking try and lift the heart out of the pan and onto the veg. While the pan is still hot, add in a little red wine to deglaze. Pour that over the heart, and add some more wine to the base of the tray, to keep the vegetables from getting too dry.

    Slide the tray into your oven as it is and cook for 30 minutes for every half kilo of heart. If you’re kicking yourself right now for neither asking your butcher, nor weighing it yourself… it’s probably about a kilo. Maybe a little more. Anyway, every 20-30 minutes, take it out, scoop the juices from the bottom of the tray and pour them back over the meat to keep it from drying out. When it’s cooked, take it out and pour the juices into a saucepan. Cover the meat in foil and leave it somewhere warm for at least 10 minutes. Simmer the juices and add whatever’s left of your glass of wine. Reduce until it thickens, giving you a fittingly rich sauce to serve with the heart.

While the heart is roasting in the oven, you can prepare the final (body)part of this feast, the kidneys.

    The most time-consuming thing about cooking kidneys is cleaning them, but once that’s out of the way, the rest of the recipe is piss easy (renal pun, boo ya!). First of all, peel off the whitish skin covering the organ and discard it. Lay the kidney on it’s back, with the white bit in the centre sticking up. Take a knife and slice it straight down the middle, exposing the core. This bundle of fibrous white tissue has to go, it’s too tough and chewy to eat. If you have a sharp scissors, use that to snip each of the “spokes” of the core, letting you remove it much more easily. Otherwise make do with a knife.

    Once you have removed the cores from all of your kidney halves, rinse them well in the sink before patting them dry using kitchen paper again. Now mix the flour, cayenne pepper and mustard powder either in a bag or a large bowl. Throw in the kidneys and either shake them around in the bag or toss them around in the bowl to completely coat them in the dry mixture.

    Heat up butter in yet another pan (last one, promise!) and fry the kidneys for 2-3 minutes. Flip them over and fry for the same again. Take them out of the pan and set them aside. In the time that they’re cooking, you can slice up the shallots and cut the mushrooms in half. Now you can cook the shallots in the empty pan and fry until soft, before adding the mushrooms. Keep frying until they brown a bit, then add the crème fraîche, the wholegrain mustard and the Worcestershire sauce. Once the sauce has warmed up, turn the heat down and return the kidneys to the pan to finish cooking for about 5 minutes.

That’s the devilled kidneys done, and at this point your stuffed heart is probably just about ready too. All that’s left is to serve this feast!

About damn time!

All good things to those who wait.

    Take the pâté out of the fridge and serve with lightly toasted crusty bread (like ciabatta) and green olives. I had some week old leftover carefully aged bread dough in the fridge which I had thrown in the oven and completely forgotten about and almost burned slow cooked to give it a dense crust the night before. That worked perfectly and didn’t need any extra toasting, but just use what you’ve got available, if you aren’t as classy as me.

    For the kidneys, serve with a small bunch of redcurrants. The spiced, creamy sauce and the kidney meat are a delicious, but very heavy, combination. The occasional burst of sweet sourness from the berries will give your tastebuds a swift, refreshing kick.

    Once the beef heart has finished resting (it’s been a long day), remove it to a cutting board and pour any extra juices into the gravy. Snip away the butcher’s string and carve the heart into slices. Serve with a drizzle of the gravy.

Done, done, and done. A banquet worthy of Dr Lecter. Chianti optional. Kudos if you stuck with it till the end! Here, have another photo for your troubles.

(The food stylist for Hannibal actually runs her own blog detailing the food behind each episode, if you’re interested in that sort of thing.)


  1. Haha, your writing crack me up! I'm sitting here giggling and bookmarking like some kind of maniac. I love your blog so much! I totally want to try some offal now, just because of you!

  2. I'm frankly amazed that you kept reading through this recipe! It's far too long! It took me an insane amount of time to write it, because I kept stopping and saying "flip man, who the heck is actually gonna read this!?"

    But thanks for pushing through, I really appreciate it! You're far too kind with your words Tora :)

    And you should totally try offal! So many people hate it on principle, so they never give it a shot. I'm planning on making another version of the Pâté, to do as a stand-alone recipe. It's really really good, and so easy to make your own. But I think it gets a bit lost in this giant post.