I’m sure we all know by now that Salmon, Kale, blueberries, garlic, and dark chocolate are known to be superfoods and should be regularly included in our diet. As I understand it the eleven most nutritionally dense foods on the planet are as follows:
- Egg Yolks
- Dark Chocolate
Today I want to talk about number 7 – Liver. Calves liver, beef liver, chicken livers, or lambs liver, they’re all an absolute nutritional powerhouse. Rich in protein, low and calories and packed with essential vitamins and minerals. Despite it’s declining popularity, liver is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. If you don’t believe me look it up. It’s better than a multi-vitamin.
When I was a child one meal of liver each week was considered vital for good health. Then the 1980s came, and a new word entered our every day vocabulary – cholesterol. All foods considered to contain cholesterol were suddenly out of favour, amongst them, eggs, shellfish, and liver. The knee-jerk reaction to such foods has since been debunked, and whilst eggs and shellfish have returned to our dinner plates, liver, is lagging behind and is largely ignored.
Mum used to cook liver, or lambs fry, as it’s called down under, the same way I think everyone cooked it at the time. It was floured and fried with onions and bacon, and then either simmered on the stove top, or popped into the oven for an hour or so. It was awful and absolutely my most hated food. No wonder it’s been slow to return to favour.
However, if it’s prepared, and cooked correctly it can be absolutely delicious. We don’t have it weekly, but we do have it now and again, particularly if I can get a nice young lambs liver.
The preparation is vital to the end result. Some butchers will slice it for you, but I’d recommend purchasing your liver whole, and be prepared to throw out at least half of it.
Firstly, you’ll need to skin it. There’s a very thin membrane that covers the whole liver, and if you cook it with the membrane on, it’ll toughen, and spoil your dish. It’s fiddly to remove it, but the end result will be worth it.
Then remove any particularly fatty parts from surface.
Next you need to slice very thin slices from the liver.
Keep slicing until you start to reach a series of large holes where the valves are. Turn it over and slice what you can from the underside. Again only take thin slices and stop as soon as you reach the large holes. You’ll most likely have almost as much to discard as you’ve sliced off. If you’ve got a dog, he’ll love it. It not, you could mince it to add to hamburger mince if you wanted to, or you could just throw it out. Personally, I give some to the dog, and put the rest into the rubbish.
Now, how to cook it. Decide what sort of dish you want. If you want liver and bacon, leave the slices as they are. Tonight I was making a dish inspired by stroganoff, so I cut the thin slices further into thin strips. I’m not going to provide the recipe (mainly because I don’t cook to a recipe). But hopefully I’ll give you some ideas that you can other run with, or ideas that will inspire you to use liver in place of some other meat in a dish you are familiar with.
Now you need to cook it very quickly. It’s for this reason that I never flour it as it increases the time it takes to cook, and if it’s cooked even a minute to long you’ll risk it becoming tough. Heat some butter and olive oil in a fry pan until it’s hot and foamy, and then add either the thin slices of liver, or stripes of liver depending what you’re planning to do with it when cooked. Only put a few slices in the fry pan at once, turn them almost immediately and remove. It should still be rare. Cook in small batches and pile onto a plate for it to rest. The heat will continue the cooking process while you now turn your attention to rest of the dish.
Tonight I planned to turn it into a pasta dish. I cooked the pasta according to the directions, timing it so as to be ready when everything else was cooked. After I’d quickly seared, and removed the thin strips of liver from the fry pan, I added some chopped onion, garlic, mushrooms and zucchini (courgettes). Then I added about a tablespoon of tomato paste, which adds a bit of thickness to the sauce, and also stops everything looking mushroom grey. About a minute before the pasta was ready I tossed the liver back in to heat it through along with a big dollop of sour cream.
Once the pasta was strained I mixed the two together and garnished with a bit more sour cream and some chopped parsley.
Thats our favourite way of having liver. Sometimes though we do still have the more traditional liver and bacon with mashed potatoes and vegetables. To cook it with the bacon, I firstly get all my vegetables ready and don’t start cooking the liver until the potatoes are about half done. Then I quickly cook the thin slices of liver and remove them to a plate before cooking the bacon, onions and gravy. The liver again gets added back in only to heat through at the last minute.
So, that’s how I cook liver. Liver seems to be something people either enjoy, or they hate it. If you’re one of the latter, why not give it another go, your body will thank you for it, and you’ll be bursting with vitality from all those nutrients and all that iron. Wait till spring though and make sure you get a nice one from spring lamb. Then prepare it properly and cook it quickly. You may be pleasantly surprised.