Odds and Sods: Baked liver with onions

Do innards, entrails and other wobbly bits still have a place in the kitchen? Jassy Davis thinks so and starts our series of offal recipes with a dish of baked livers and mash…

Offal isn’t everybody’s bucket of entrails. Some people’s eyes light up at the prospect of piling their plate high with organs and wobbly bits, but for most people in Britain the fifth quarter is something they’re only prepared to encounter in sausages, and even then they’d rather not know what’s gone into their banger.

Offal’s lot has been one of a slow, steady decline in the UK. It was given a bit of a fashionable fillip by Fergus Henderson, who’s been promoting nose to tail eating in his restaurant St John since 1994. With its butcher’s block menu of ox heart and chips, lamb’s tongue, and his signature dish of roast bone marrow with parsley salad, St John struck out into bits of the slaughterhouse most restaurants had long since abandoned.

It’s a philosophy that’s had a lingering affect. These days the easiest way to spot a fashionable foodie is to look for the person eschewing steak for sweetbreads and chitterlings.

But while the beau monde’s gourmets can’t wait to get their teeth around some tripe, overall offal consumption in the UK has halved in the past 30 years – we eat just 250g of offal each a year. At the risk of aligning myself with the country’s pretentious gourmands, it seems a pity to forgo the pleasures of entrails and innards. They bring texture, challenge and the flavour of hot blood into the kitchen. Not to mention being the only sensible and economic way to make good use of an animal’s death.

Liver seems like the easiest organ to begin with. It’s a bit of organ meat that seems to have escaped the lowly associations that dog other innards. Liver pâté has never made it off the menu and slices of pink pan-fried liver have a whiff of decadence about them, especially when served with a nice Chianti.

Calf’s liver sits at the top of the detox organ tree. Its smooth texture and delicate flavour makes it a good candidate for quick frying. Lamb’s liver is next, also good for frying pink as well as baking. Pig and ox livers are coarser and have stronger flavours, so they’re best braised until tender. For pâtés, chicken and ducks supply the richest slithers of offal.

In the UK there are two ways of serving liver that have hung on: quick-fried with bacon or baked with onion. I’ve opted for baking lamb’s liver with sweet, buttery onions, as it seems to suit the cold winter nights we’re being subjected to.

It’s not a long, slow braise. The lamb’s liver doesn’t need to be mellowed and softened with hours of cooking. Instead, it’s cooked until a skewer slides in easily, but the meat doesn’t fall off when it’s lifted from the dish. It means the liver still has some spring and chew to it, which acts as a nice contrast to the melting onions. Serve it with fluffy mash and squeaky steamed cabbage.

Baked lamb’s liver and onions

Serves 2

35g butter
2 onions, finely sliced
450g lamb’s liver
2 tbsp plain flour
Freshly grated nutmeg
200ml India pale ale
300ml hot beef stock
150g carrots, peeled and sliced
A few sprigs of fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
Mashed potato and steamed greens, to serve

1. Preheat the oven to gas mark 4/180°C/fan oven 160°C. Melt 20g butter in a pan and add the onions. Season, cover with a sheet of greaseproof paper (or a butter wrapper), cover and sweat over a low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft.

2. Meanwhile, slice the liver into thick pieces. Season the flour with salt, freshly ground black pepper and a pinch of freshly ground nutmeg and sprinkle over the liver.

3. Melt the remaining butter in a heatproof, ovenproof dish and fry the liver over a high heat in batches, turning, until browned and crusted. Set aside on a plate.

4. Pour the beer into the ovenproof dish and bubble, scraping the pan with a flat-bottomed wooden spoon, until the beer has reduced by half. Add the stock, carrots, thyme and bay leaf and bring to a simmer. Stir in the onions and slide the liver into the dish with any juices.

5. Cover and bake for 45 minutes or until the liver is just tender, but not overly so – stick in a skewer. If it goes in easily and the liver just clings on when you lift it, it’s ready. Serve with buttery mashed potato and lightly steamed spring greens or cabbage.

Share This Post

About Author Profile: Jassy Davis


10 thoughts on “Odds and Sods: Baked liver with onions

  1. Worm
    February 15, 2012 at 08:53

    yum. I’m definately an offal fan, despite enduring a decade of school liver and bacon made from what appeared to be veiny brown shoe leather. The best thing about offal (apart from the yummy flavours) is the price – half the cost of standard meat.

  2. russellworks@gmail.com'
    ian russell
    February 15, 2012 at 10:43

    I remember school dinner liver, it almost put me off for life. “…the pipes, the pipes are appalling!” (to the tune of Danny Boy). I reckon they used to bake it. It was probably cheaper than buying erasers.

    Lately I’ve been partial to a bit of tender, pink, pan-fried liver served with noodles or simply tossed in a salad of dressed leaves.

  3. tobyash@hotmail.com'
    February 15, 2012 at 10:52

    I love liver, but hate it when it’s all dried out. Cooking in ale and stock sounds delicious. Thanks Jassy.

  4. owls001@gmail.com'
    February 15, 2012 at 11:28

    Your liver looks overdone, I would light fry it to medium rare, along with the onions, about 6 mins. And chop it up to smaller pieces its not a chop.

    I serve mine with carrots and butter mash pots, as well as the onions of course.We don’t go for the salad and peppers cosmo nonsense, its supposed to be a quick winter meal!

    Oh and you will need Tomato Ketchup to go with that as well.

    Tripe and celery, now there’s a dinner!

  5. johngjobling@googlemail.com'
    February 15, 2012 at 11:37

    Hannibal of course, was an aficionado, accompanying the repast with a decent Chianti.
    Liver followed by semolina pudding, can only have been invented under the Attlee government, the smell wasn’t that bad, usually disguised by the pong of school milk and sweaty gym shoes.

    • john.hh43@googlemail.com'
      John Halliwell
      February 15, 2012 at 13:24

      I didn’t mind the offal meals, Malty, it was the dreaded semolina pudding, a product of the most sadistic mind, that sank boyhood spirits straight through the floorboards of the 19th Century dinner hut into which we were herded each mid-day. Eat it! Simply no option. I can still see the ferocious Miss F (No full name; she might still be alive – I don’t want her coming round here), her hair scraped back to a follicle popping degree, a physog that always reminded me of the terrifying figure in the execution chamber at Madame Tussauds, no make-up, spots, warts, the sinister down-turned mouth. She leaned against the kitchen wall, her unremitting gaze seemingly always on me as I tried desperately to consume the abomination without throwing up over little Jennifer sat opposite.

      I applaud Jassy’s appealing recipe, and that wonderful intro – just don’t mention semolina; I’m starting to feel queasy….

      • jgslang@gmail.com'
        February 15, 2012 at 14:42

        Prep school, Lincolnshire. 1959. Brawn for tea. A boy, maybe 8, can’t hold it in. Three masters standing over him. Shouting until the boy chokes the mess back down. Fertilised eggs. Watercress bearing great pendant clumps of earth, worms still crawling. Behind the kitchen door a sack of powdered egg. never used but a mute threat. Heart. Boiled heart. All true. I know it was economics but it was also cruelty. If I could remember their names I would print them.

  6. Brit
    February 15, 2012 at 13:32

    I eat liver often for breakfast, cow for preference (the richest), lightly fried, with eggs. But love all the dark and secret meats. In fact I suggested this series to Jassy though admitted the Parson’s Nose might be a bit de trop – can’t wait to see what she comes up with.

    And here I must quote one of my favourite passages of Joyce…

    “Mr Leopold Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls. He liked thick giblet soup, nutty gizzards, a stuffed roast heart, liverslices fried with crustcrumbs, fried hencods’ roes. Most of all he liked grilled mutton kidneys which gave to his palate a fine tang of faintly scented urine.”

    • Worm
      February 15, 2012 at 13:54

      Haha that passage has always stayed with me too! And ever since I read Ulysses I’ve been paranoid and on the lookout for the taste of lamb’s pee in devilled kidneys but haven’t detected it yet.

  7. bensix@live.co.uk'
    February 17, 2012 at 14:14

    Good post! As someone who hasn’t quite made up his mind on the ethics of meat-eating, I am at least sure that if you’re going to kill a thing you should make proper use of it. And, while I’m not sure I could quite stomach tongue – or, indeed, stomache – liver recipes sound rather tasty. Besides, it’s one of the most nutrient-dense foods around. And cheap as well! It’s a shame that dodgy school meals have given it such appalling publicity.

Comments are closed.