Wednesday, 5 January 2011

The Liver Question?

Some things in life don’t often make sense; we put value on age in one breath and extol the virtues of youth in the next.  Take sheep for example, we put so much value in their youth that it’s almost impossible to buy mutton in normal outlets.

This even extends to the offal world and the difference in price between Calves liver and Beef is immense.  You are looking at an incredibly humble £1.90 per kilo of organic Beef liver and anywhere over £24 for a kilo of its infant equivalent.

Normally I’d champion the cheaper cut but in the case of liver younger definitely seems better.  The sweet creamy metallic tang of a good bit of Calves liver is hard to beat but does it have that much competition?

With careful preparation you can make most liver taste fantastic.  You just need to follow some simple rules.  Always remove any connective tissue (sounds sexy I know), gently remove the membrane from the outside and slice it thinly.  A good butcher can prepare the liver for you given notice to save you time.

Even Jack O’Sheas in Selfridge’s food hall commits the cardinal sin of leaving the membrane on as I found to my cost the other day.  So always make sure you check before you buy.

Liver and Onions is as old as the hills and how most of us will have enjoyed it before.  Another classic from my days in the kitchen is Calves liver pan fried with butter and deglazed with Brandy and Cream.  Definitely not one for the calorie conscious but delicious all the same.

Lambs liver is not often used but can be quite nice simply served with parsley and garlic.  Pan frying gently in butter after seasoning, softening the garlic without colouring.  Deglaze the pan with some white wine vinegar and serve.  An easy way to enjoy this rarely used morsel.

You’ll most likely find Pigs liver in a terrine but it is amazing cooked quickly on skewers wrapped in bacon as a Liver-lollipop if you like.  Pigs liver is definitely a good one to turn to if Calves is not readily available, the taste is stronger but it has great texture and worth a try.

I love to cook my Liver simply with some very crispy Bacon and red wine.  Cook the bacon in the pan till it’s crisp and has rendered its fat down.  Then dust the liver in seasoned flour and sear for a minute on each side.  Throw in a glass of red wine and let this reduce and thicken then serve.

Simple quick and easy is the way forward for me but how do you like yours?


  1. It's a shame about the membrane on the outside. Also the colour is so dark, did you ever figure out if it was *because* it was rose veal, or did they slip you an older liver? (ooh-err)

    I quite fancy some liver now.

  2. It wasn't the best liver I've had but I'd hope they weren't slipping in some old stuff and passing it off as Calves liver. I'll have a chat with them when I'm down next in Selfridges.

  3. Sorry. I can't make myself like liver. It's probably a hangover from my childhood where liver and onions night was like WWIII with all three of us kids - we were made to sit for hours on end until it was all finished. Tears, screaming, temper tamtrums ensued, but my parents stood fast. Lord only knows why they bothered. We all still hate liver.

    Obv I love liver pates, etc.

  4. I used to like a bit of liver but about 10 years ago became very anaemic so rather sickened myself of it trying to top up on iron.Used to like it with a gravy made with leeks and bacon and some mashed potato.If the liver smells a bit strong you can soak it in milk first to calm the flavour.
    might actually try it again!

  5. The key is the timing - overcooked liver is almost always rubbery and rank - hence why all but the poshest cordon bleu independent schools struggle to serve anything but prime retread in grey sludge... lambs liver, thinly sliced, dusted with seasoned flour and sesame seeds, and pan-fried in butter and oil (to get the temp nice and high to start/sear) - yum! I find a heavy frying pan retains the heat well and avoids 'boiling' the liver (not good).

  6. Totally agree Nick, hot heavy based pans only! Treat it like minute steak, so hot you get colour quickly but flip it over fast so you still get something that's nice and pink inside!

  7. Ok. That's it. I'm going to try liver again. And if it all goes terribly terribly wrong, you know who's getting the blame......