Ox Liver, Bacon & Onions.
I feel as though I am constantly at war with people over liver. Often times I feel as though I am the last man on Earth that sees value in the offal. I have gone on the defensive so many times when I have told somebody that I am having liver for tea and they melt like a sad candle in disdain, reminding me how disgusting I am. I’m not disgusting; I’m disgusted because liver is amazing. And I’m going to tell you why.
People just don’t understand the mechanics of liver and how if it is cooked with the right ingredients, has the capability to lift a meal. It has a flavour that is so unique and cannot be imitated by any other protein. It has a unique property to its iron laden flavour base and a rigidly creamy texture that meat cannot obtain no matter how slowly it is cooked. I also have given myself headaches before for eye rolling so hard at people who scream that they hate liver but on the same token boast that they love pate. It’s the same thing. If you love pate; you love liver. It’s that simple.
Liver was something my mother often cooked for me when I was growing up and was never given to me with a sense of hesitation. I credit this kitchen logic to my mother who had a very sturdy kitchen presence and always made meals – no matter what was on the plate – extremely tasty and memorable. She also had a fantastic ‘this is what you’re eating, if you don’t like it, you can cook something for yourself’ policy, which only widened my palette further and for that I am eternally grateful.
She used to cook liver in an amazingly rich and juicy bacon and onion combination with a side of mash – a recipe I have cultivated and represented to you here with only minor adjustments. This dish really highlights the importance of flavour balancing and that when added at the right stages and cooked for the right amount of time, can be a fantastic accompaniment to offal with such an acquired taste.
Take a few cuts of liver (you can find offal like this very reasonably priced in supermarkets) and chop into bitesize chunks. Drop them into a bowl before covering with some milk. Allow them to rest, covered, in the fridge for up to an hour. Soaking liver in milk will allow any ‘tinny’ taste to be removed from them, as well as allow them to tenderise.
Drain the liver (the milk will look like the milk leftover from Coco Pops, it’s quite amusing) before patting them dry with some kitchen paper. I used ox liver here because it it’s flavour is a lot more full throttle than that of say, lamb – but pork liver is also quite nice if you’re just starting out. Put them in a ziplock bag. Sprinkle over a small sprinkle of flour along with some salt, pepper and ground caraway seeds, zip up the bag and give it a shake.
In a wide pan, melt a little butter and fry some lardons until they begin to curl before tossing in some roughly chopped onions and sea salt and frying until they soften. Grate in a garlic clove and sprinkle in some dried oregano. Add the contents of the ziplock bag to this onion pan and fry through until the liver has begun to lose its pinkness. Make a jug of beef stock and pour a small splash in and stir so that it coagulates with the flour to create a sticky texture.
Now add the rest of the jug and continue stirring. Bring everything to a bubble before adding salt and a few lashings of Worcestershire sauce and drop to a simmer. This is where I tend to drop it really low and leave to bubble for around 40 minutes while I make some mashed potatoes to accompany it – however I have been knowing to eat this with just some buttered pieces of good bread. If you are to go down this route and therefore want to eat it quicker, allow this to bubble away at a medium bubble for maybe 15 – 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
When cooked right, if I may say so myself, liver can really surprise you. Two of my best friends and I, when in University, would take it in turns every Tuesday to cook for each other and drink to the point of foolishness. One time, during my night of hosting, I cooked this meal without hesitation. As this was a staple meal in my family kitchen, I wasn’t aware of the cautious opinions people had towards liver and was dumbstruck when they thought it was a risky dinner party choice, however in salute to my family, I proceeded to serve.
Not only did they eat the food but they also enjoyed it and several years later we are all still the best of friends, despite their hesitance to the liver dish. It’s a recipe I am both proud and protective of due to connection to my life and I urge you to introduce it to your supper time with no reluctance. You won’t regret it.