Obvious, but how could I let that title pass me by? I also considered "De-liver-ance" and "An Offal-y Big Adventure." Sometimes I spend forever diddling over a title and now I have an embarrassment of riches. But truly, liver: it ain't that bad. It's not all that cheap either, unfortunately - a 300g pot of chicken livers costs $3.50. Considering the nature of offal - the fact that it's so undesirable - shouldn't it be cheaper? But after prowling through my Nigella books and also spurred on by Claudia Roden's The Food Of Italy, I decided to dip my toe into the heady world of eating vital organs.
Above: Claudia Roden's Chicken Livers with Marsala. As well as being generally disliked by children world-over, liver is also not going to win any Miss Photogenic sashes any time soon. Even soft-focus didn't really help.
Overheard in our kitchen:
Me: Tim, don't hate me but...
Tim: (urgently) What did you do?
Me: We're having liver for dinner.
Tim: Ah. (nonplussed silence ensues.)
This was actually genuinely very, very good. Oh, I won't lie, livers can have a funky texture - almost chalky in places, and disarmingly squishy in others - but they taste fine. Tim really liked it too. But then how could you turn down anything dripping with butter, bacon, and ambrosial Marsala wine? Probably a running shoe could be embiggened by being cooked in those ingredients.
Fegatini di Pollo al Marsala (sounds so much sexier in Italian, doesn't it?)
200g chicken livers
1 small onion, chopped
2 slices pancetta or bacon, chopped
6 T dry Marsala
Clean the livers and leave them whole. I should point out here that I diced them, because I felt I could handle them better in smaller chunks. Fry the onion in the butter, until soft but not browned. Add the bacon and fry for 2 minutes, stirring, then add the chicken livers. Saute quickly, turning over the pieces until browned but still pink inside. Add salt and pepper to taste and the Marsala. Cook for 1-2 minutes longer, then serve over noodles with lots of chopped parsely.
That wasn't the end of my foray into liver though. Inspired by a couple of meatball recipes in Nigella's How To Eat, I thought that combining beef mince and chopped liver to make meatballs would not only make the mince go further, it would provide intriguing flavour and add lots more vitamins. Livers are very, very healthy you know. Probably wouldn't be so healthy if chickens were able to drink alcohol like humans.
Now I want to put liver into every meatball recipe. These were fabulous - soft and light and almost smoky in flavour. And because of the liver, we got eight meatballs each. Woohoo! I also added an egg, a grated carrot, some bran, a pinch of ground cloves, and a tablespoon of semolina. Frankly, the mixture looked completely nasty, but once they started to bake the kitchen smelled incredible. I whipped up a quick sauce by reducing some red wine (the dregs of a bottle from Tim's and my night out a few weeks ago) and added a tin of chopped tomatoes, some dried oregano, and a spoonful of butter, before piling the whole lot over some rice. Tim flipping loved these. Hoorah for offal!
Above: The obligatory whisk-with-something-attached photo.
Not liver, but I'd completely forgotten to mention this so here it is. After Tim's tooth operation last week (the utterly stupid dentists only completed about a quarter of his necessary work and then sent him off, unable to get an appointment for another week) he was in some crazy pain, so a dinner in puree form was my challenge. I came up with a Potato, Carrot, and White Bean Mash, which filled his need for carbs (and my need for legumes) as well as providing vegetables and protein. It was beyond simple, I just boiled the heck out of 500g unpeeled floury potatoes (hey, it was a cold night and we eat big) and 2 chopped carrots. I drained a tin of cannelini beans, before tipping the veges over them in the colander. This I tipped back into the pot, and using the masher, pulverised the lot. Because of the nature of the ingredients, this is never going to be super-fluffy, but nonetheless it's worth getting out the whisk. I whisked in some milk, butter, salt and nutmeg, and piled this puffy, orange-and-white mash into two bowls. It turned out to be incredibly comforting stuff - warm, soft, buttery...If you are ever feeling fragile, I totally recommend it. It is probably worth mentioning that this would serve 3-4 normal people as a side dish.
It is so nice to be on holiday but a bit depressing that it's basically half over already. However, I can hardly describe the joy I felt in reading a book for its own sake. Just grabbing a book that I wanted to read. I turned to page one of Wicked: The Life and Times of The Wicked Witch on Sunday afternoon, and by Monday morning I'd finished it. It was so good - so fully realised - so sinister -and so heartbreaking by the end. Thanks to everyone who attempted to vote for me at the Bloggers' Choice Awards - I have no idea when it closes but I'm more than happy to reciprocate if there are any bloggers out there also having a go. And uh, yeah, their page is a little, shall we say, obtusely designed.
Next time: In complete contrast to chicken livers, I dabble in raw vegan cookery. I'm not joking! Although cookery is obviously the wrong term. Perhaps 'assembly'?