I have always understood the north/south divide that exists in our country, friendly rivalry usually, and especially epicurean tastes. It is fair to say that most regional fare, cooked well, is very good indeed.
One of my favourite dishes is Lancashire Hot Pot, which in my Savoy days we used to serve for the annual lunch of what used to be Granada TV.
I always felt a slight irony about how it was served, in large copper salvers, in the opulent surroundings of the Lancaster Room.
A number of customers, whose roots lie north of the Watford Gap, often engage me in conversation about their fondness for specialities from their home towns.
Recently, I was asked about Stuffed Sheep's Hearts. I am well aware that pluck might not be everyone's cup of tea, but my passion for unusual or uncommon dishes, is well documented.
Ever one to rise to the challenge, I scoured my old cookery books for a suitable recipe.
I eventually found one, but it did not have any particular appeal, so I came up with the following:
Roast lamb hearts with tarragon & chanterelles
Ingredients (Serves 4)
4 lamb hearts
100g diced raw chicken
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon
1 egg white
2 tbsp double cream
1 tsp green peppercorns
4 sheets of pig's caul
250g chanterelles, or other variety of wild mushrooms
50g melted butter
Salt and milled pepper
1) Rinse the hearts in cold water, and cut away any sinews. Soak in cold salted water for two hours.
2) Meanwhile, make the stuffing by blitzing the chicken, garlic and tarragon in a food processor. Add the egg white, peppercorns and cream, and a little salt, and mix well.
3) Rinse the hearts and dry them with kitchen paper. Lay the caul out on a clean surface, stuff the filling into the cavities of the hearts, and wrap the caul around them, to seal in the stuffing.
4) Place the hearts into a roasting tray with the butter, lightly season them, and roast in a moderate oven, gas mark 4/180ºC, for one hour, basting every fifteen minutes.
5) When cooked, remove the hearts and keep warm.
6) Add the cleaned chanterelles to the cooking juices, and cook for two to three minutes. Remove them and put them with the hearts. 5) Add the Madeira and stock to the pan juices, and reduce by half, and thicken with a little arrowroot if desired.
6) Season to taste, arrange the hearts and mushrooms on plates, and pour the sauce over. Serve with some creamy mash.