Credit: Photographed by Earl Carter

Beef heart with onions and fried sage

David Moyle is a chef. He is a food editor of The Saturday Paper.

Credit: Photographed by Earl Carter

The fitness-conscious community was recently exposed to a bodybuilding internet sensation and social media influencer known as the “Liver King”.

Brian Johnson earnt his reputation from a diet that he said, for the most part, was raw liver. He often posted TikTok clips of himself shirtless and growling at the camera while tearing into a whole liver with his teeth. Unsurprisingly, the uber-ripped Liver King now has been exposed for topping up his secret muscle-making foods with significant levels of human growth hormone.

The world was divided into those outraged over Johnson’s lies and those disappointed at not having an internet personality crack the code of human nutrition and peak performance.

Why do I raise this? I have begun noticing a lot of organ meats being turned into supplements: that is, dried and ground into pills. So why not just ingest these meats in their most delicious form? Grilled with onions and served with polenta.

This recipe is basically a version of a classic northern Italian dish of grilled liver. Liver and heart are quite similar in that they both have a mineral flavour that I love. While beef heart is probably more confronting at first, once you come to terms with the fact that a heart is literally just a muscle, similar to any other in the body, you can just view it as a flavoursome cut of meat.

The key to this dish is the pan work. To carefully pan-sear the meat and not burn the flour is the basis to the sauce and the difference between deliciousness and a sludgy brown mess. Don’t be afraid to keep adding water or even an extra sprinkle of flour into the sauce.

If using liver for this recipe, reduce the cooking time, as the density of the heart meat makes it very resilient to heat. I’d use a medium heat for the heart and a high heat for the liver. 


​Serves 4

Time: 30 minutes preparation + 30 minutes cooking

  • 1 beef heart (about 800g)
  • 100g flour
  • 1200ml chicken stock
  • 100g butter
  • ½ cup polenta
  • 100g parmesan cheese
  • salt and cracked pepper
  • 60ml olive oil
  • 20 sage leaves
  • 5 shallots, sliced
  • 60ml red wine vinegar
  • 60ml Marsala
  • 30ml water
  1. Get your butcher to clean up the heart and cut it into steaks. Alternatively, this is not an overly difficult task to take on yourself – just follow the chambers in the heart to separate each section, then clean off the sinew and fat with a sharp knife.
  2. Cut each steak to an even thickness so the cooking can be consistent, then dust in the flour, shaking off any excess.
  3. Bring the stock and 60g of the butter to the boil, then sprinkle in the polenta and simmer gently, stirring regularly for 10 minutes until cooked. Finish with the parmesan cheese, season with salt and pepper and leave on the lowest heat possible with a lid on, ready to serve once the heart is cooked.
  4. In a heavy-based pan heat the olive oil until hot, then place half of the sage leaves in the pan and fry until translucent and crisp. Remove the leaves with a slotted spoon and drain on absorbent paper.
  5. Add the sliced shallots to the pan and cook over a medium heat, stirring until caramelised. Deglaze the pan with the vinegar, then tip the shallots and any residual juice onto a plate.
  6. Return the pan to the heat, wipe it out with paper towel, add a little more olive oil and lay the steaks straight into the pan.
  7. Halfway through cooking on the first side (about two minutes), place the remaining butter into the pan and shake so that it foams evenly. Turn the beef heart over, then add the other half of the sage leaves.
  8. Turn the heat off and shake so the butter and the sage distribute evenly.
  9. Lift the heart out and place it to rest on top of the shallots so the blood drains into the onion mix.
  10. Remove the sage leaves from the pan and discard before deglazing the pan with the Marsala. Return the onions to the pan with the deglazing liquid and add the water. Bring this to the boil and season.
  11. Place a couple of spoonfuls of the polenta on each plate, then carve the beef heart steaks across the grain. Place the heart on the polenta and spoon the sauce over.
  12. Finish with the fried sage and extra cracked pepper.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on September 9, 2023 as "Art to heart".

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