One of my fondest memories of my recent stay in Cuba was an all-inclusive hotel in Varadero where we spent five nights. Although the hotel was basic (the rating couldn't have been higher than three stars, and this is from an ex-tour-operator), the staff were friendly and the food well cooked. It was a wonderful occasion for me to rekindle my love for offal.
Offal gets a bad reputation frequently. All those bloody intestines making us feel like vultures picking over the remains of a dead animal. Yet, I love viscera. And I agree with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's who recently said that "meat-eaters ought to eat all the parts of an animal, not just the pretty bits". Apparently he has an Offal Manifesto. This column is my way of signing up to it.
Paprikash of hearts and livers
2 lamb or pigs' hearts
500g lamb or pigs' liver
2 tbsp olive, rapeseed or sunflower oil (or lard)
1kg onions, peeled and finely chopped
1 tbsp sweet paprika
1 tbsp smoked paprika (or Spanish pimentón)
2 tsp hot paprika
200ml tomato passata
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cut the hearts in half lengthways and trim out the coarse ventricles. Rinse the hearts in cold water, and pat dry. Trim any coarse sinews off the liver and cut it into four pieces.
Heat a tablespoon of oil in a heavy casserole, add the onions and cook gently, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent. Add all the paprika, stir in well and cook for a couple of minutes.
Heat the rest of the oil in a separate pan and brown all the offal pieces in it, turning occasionally so they colour all over. Add the offal to the onion pot, together with the passata and a small glass of water. Bring to a very gentle simmer and cover. Cook over the lowest possible heat or in a very low oven (120C/250C/gas mark ½) for at least two hours, until the meat is very tender. Check occasionally, turning and adding a little water if it looks dry.
When the meat is cooked, check the consistency of the sauce: it should be thick, rich and pulpy. If need be, cook it for a few more minutes. Adjust the seasoning as necessary. You could finish the dish by stirring in a spoonful of soured cream or, as I prefer to do, just take soured cream to the table to serve with it. Accompany with mash or rice.
The music to go with this recipe MUST be rich in content. Just like the ubiquitous iron in lamb or pigs' livers. That's why my first musical offer is Cuban artist WIlliam Vivanco with a little number whose genre I could very well call "Afro-trova". Olokun is one of the deities commonly found in the Yoruba pnatheon. He is the owner of the depths of the ocean. Enjoy.
Hear that sizzling sound? It's Babe Ruth's bluesy sound. Ha, bet you'd already forgot about this band! Well, let me tell you something, this is an usual blog that likes to promote itself as the place where music and food go hand in hand together. Now, Gimmie Some Leg, will ya?
And after such a hearty meal of hearts and livers (no pun intended), how about some chocolate? But only if you have it Tom Waits' style. And if you don't fancy any, I'll have your portion, thank you very much. Happy eating!
Next Post: "Sunday Mornings: Coffee, Reflections and Music", to be published on Sunday 12th May at 10am (GMT)
Photo taken from guardian.co.uk