1 FEBRUARY 1986, Page 39

Fast food and faint hearts

WE ARE having such an early Lent this year that St Valentine's day comes two days after Ash Wednesday, by which time we should all have started some fast or other unless you follow the dictates of health freaks, macrobiotic doctors, most of the American nation (if we believe the propaganda) and live in a perpetual limbo of Lenten lentils, brown rice and wholemeal crusts washed down by herbal teas. If on the other hand you are still into old-fashioned, delicious food and drink you will probably be giving up something alcoholic or fattening, which alcohol is for most people. Loss of weight is always nice after dutiful abstinence so if you need to trim down lay in stocks of no-calorie ginger ale and angostura bitters for cocktails, decaffeinated coffee for the evening or you won't get to sleep. Steam suitable green vegetables and onions, poach fish and chicken in good stocks of their own mak- ing, have two fruits and two Ryvitas a day, eat supper early and you will all be streamlined svelties for Easter and terribly, terribly bored but bright-eyed and bouncy.

That said, let us have a receipt for heart to celebrate St Valentine. If you have never tried heart please do, it is very like wild duck in texture and served with a sauce Bigarade is hardly distinguishable.

Veal hearts Valentine 2 veal hearts 1 medium onion chopped 1 clove of garlic crushed 1 tablespoon chopped parsley 4oz of chopped mushrooms 4oz of good sausage meat 8oz fresh bread crumbs 1 egg Salt, pepper, nutmeg and sage 3 tablespoons port or sherry 4 shallots and 4 juniper berries Streaky bacon and chicken fat White wine and beef stock

Wash the hearts in warm water. Cut away all veins and arteries to make a nice cavity for the stuffing; soak in milk for an hour. Drain, dry well with kitchen towel then season with ground pepper, salt and nutmeg. For the stuffing, stir fry the onion, garlic and parsley in a little chicken fat for a minute, add the mushrooms and sausage meat and let them brown a little, stirring and mixing all together. Pour in the bread- crumbs, two chopped leaves of sage, sea- son with salt and pepper. Take off the heat and moisten with the port and some beaten egg to bind all the ingredients. Stuff the hearts with this mixture, wrap each one in slices of streaky bacon and secure with toothpicks. Heat some more chicken fat in your pan and quickly brown the hearts on all sides. Place them in a snug casserole and cover with equal quantities of white wine and beef stock. Insert the shallots, the crushed juniper berries and a bouquet garni. Cover the pot and bake in a pre- heated oven at Gas 4, F 355°, C 179° for two hours, uncovering it for the last half- hour. Turn the hearts over after one hour's cooking. When ready carve into thin slices and place on a warm dish, taste the sauce for seasoning, boil for a few minutes to reduce and strengthen, then pour it over the sliced hearts. Serve with a dish of mushrooms and sauté potatoes.

For a simple Lenten dish I can't think of anything much more delicious, though hardly non-fattening, than spaghetti mixed with courgettes or, as the Italians would have it: Spaghetti con zucchine l'hlbs of spaghetti 2lbs of zucchine 2 shallots 1 medium onion 1 carrot 1 stick of celery 4oz of butter, 1 tablespoon olive oil 1 tin (14oz) chopped tomatoes Freshly grated Parmesan cheese Black pepper, frying oil

Try to obtain 'Milli de Cecco' spaghetti, it is in a blue cellophane packet with a jolly lady on the front.

Chop all the vegetables finely except the zucchine. Put them in a large saucepan (big enough to contain the cooked spaghetti eventually) with the butter and olive oil, cook gently until soft, add the tomatoes, season with salt and pepper, cover and simmer for half an hour. Cut the zucchine into discs of 1/8 inch thick and deep fry until golden, remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and leave to drain on kitchen paper. Sprinkle them with some nice salt, keep warm. Meanwhile you have been cooking the spaghetti in the usual manner in lots of salted boiling water; drain them when they are still very much al dente and fling them into the saucepan containing the sauce. Mix well together, cover and leave on a tiny heat to complete the cooking for about five minutes. Pour on to a great warmed dish and cover with the fried zucchine. This is ample for six fasters.

Jennifer Paterson