When Matt Moran was a little kid, whenever his family would slaughter a calf, it was his job to carry the bowl of offal to the kitchen. “It was mum’s special treat, and it wasn’t long before I was enjoying it too, especially the brains and the liver,” says Moran, adding that when the dish is prepared and cooked correctly, calves’ liver is an utter delicacy. Freshness is paramount, so be sure to cook it soon after purchase, he explains.
“The main thing to remember is to remove the membrane that encases the whole liver. Push your thumb under the membrane and peel it off in pieces. It makes the difference between a butter-soft piece of cooked liver and something that can be a little tough and chewy,” says Moran.
The best way to cook liver is to sear it quickly in a very hot pan. “Personally, I prefer to cook liver more on the rare side of things. It should definitely still retain a bit of pink in the centre, or you run the risk of drying it out and losing the beautiful tender texture,” hesays.
Onions and bacon are a classic pairing with liver, and for good reason. The sweetness of onions slowly sauted in butter is awesome, and even more so when it’s turned into a gravy with the addition of chicken stock and a splash of good quality balsamic vinegar. “Brown chicken stock, which is made from roasted chicken bones, has greater depth of flavour than regular chicken stock made with unroasted bones, but if you’re not inclined to go the extra mile and make your own, at least be sure to use a very good quality stock (no tetra-packs or stock cubes please),” says Moran, adding that bacon adds a beautiful smokiness to the mix. “I’ve used pancetta in this instance for a slightly more complex flavour, and crisped it to add a little crunch and texture to the finished dish. Add a handful of crushed sage or thyme into the pan adds beautiful aroma,” says Moran.
It’s a dish that’s likely to change the minds of those who turn their noses up at the thought of liver, he signs off.
>> 12 thin slices of pancetta bacon
>> 50 g butter
>> 2 brown onions (peeled and sliced)
>> 20 ml balsamic vinegar
>>200 ml brown chicken stock
>>2 tbs vegetable oil
>>1kg calves liver (trimmed and sliced into 2 cm thick slices)
>>12 sage leaves
>> Pre-heat the grill. Then lay out the pancetta slices on a baking tray. Place the baking tray under the hot grill and cook until golden and crisp. Drain the pancetta on paper towel and keep warm
>> Melt the butter in a frying pan over a high heat until the butter is foaming, then add the sliced onions and season with a little salt and pepper. Fry the onions until they are golden brown. This should take about five minutes.
>> Add the balsamic vinegar to the onion and boil until it has reduced to syrup then add the brown chicken stock. Bring to a simmer and cook gently for approximately five minutes until gravy has formed
>> Meanwhile, prepare the liver by heating a large fry pan over a high heat until very hot. Lightly season the liver with salt and pepper and add two tablespoons of vegetable oil to the hot fry pan, then add the liver to the pan, making sure not to overlap the slices.Add the sage leaves to the fry pan. These will crisp up and add flavour to the liver. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes on each side depending on your preference, then remove the liver and sage leaves from the fry pan and drain on a paper towel
>> Spoon the onion gravy onto the plate and place two slices of liver on the onions, then top with the crispy pancetta and sage leaves and serve with mashed potato