Guy Fawkes Night, 2014
Liver Pâté

Well, I've been feeling a bit liverish this past week.
That may have something to do with the 2kg of frozen livers I've had to consume after first deciding, while staring aghast at a ludicrous £2 charge for 100g of Port and Liver pâté in my Local Fucking Supermarket™ on a shopping trip for lunchtime sandwich fillers, that I really needed to try making my own.

So I started trawling for chicken livers amongst the butchers of Musselburgh, where I work. For my sins. On the plus side there are actually three butchers here - a minor miracle considering the rate at which poundshops are breeding but unfortunately only one of them seems to do any actual butchering. As far as I can tell the others simply re-sell prepared cuts of meat which they buy in bulk. Much like my Local Fucking Supermarket™. So really, what's the point? When I once suggested to one of these ersatz meat shop-keepers that I intended to cure my own bacon he responded with disbelief. I think he genuinely didn't know it was possible to obtain bacon by any means other than in industrial quantities from a factory in Denmark.
Anyhow, this actual butcher regularly but infrequently supplies one of his customers with chicken livers, and happened to have frozen some in anticipation. Unfortunately this customer buys them in 2kg batches (for what the butcher didn't say), so that was the only option on offer.

Sensing my reluctance at such an over-purchase (the pâté recipe I had in mind called for 350g) the butcher reduced his already-ridiculously-low price from £5 to £4, and eventually I just didn't have the heart to say no.
Since then I've been cooking and eating quite a lot of liver ;)

I've had liver sandwiches for lunch every day for the past two weeks, and for dinner; liver and baked potatoes, and more varieties of liver and pasta than I care to remember. I even went so far as to drag in my accommodating new flatmate Peter.
Welcome aboard Peter.

It turns out that a good liver pâté is dead easy to make and liver parfait makes quite a good topping for baked potatoes.

Bacon and Chicken Liver Pâté
snack meat fowl
I adapted this from John Torode's recipe in Chicken, mainly by adding port.

Makes about 600g

Check the chicken livers for any greenish stains and cut them off as even a scrap will make the pâté bitter. At the same time pull each lobe away from its connecting threads.

Heat 80g of the butter in a large non-stick frying pan until just foaming. Add the bacon and the onions, add the thyme, season well and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until the onions are soft and the bacon is thoroughly cooked.
Remove with a slotted spoon and put into a food processor.
Reheat the pan with more butter if necessary. Add the livers and fry quickly until cooked but still quite soft in the middle, about 2 minutes.

Increase the heat, Add the brandy and carefully ignite it with a match, tilting the pan to spread the flames across the livers. Season with a little salt, pepper and grated nutmeg, remove and add to the food processor.
Deglaze the pan with port, bubbling it away until you have only a couple of tablespoons remaining, then scrape the pan into the food processor.

Blend everything in the food processor, then pass the pâté through a coarse sieve as well.
It's essential for a smooth pâté that you press it through a sieve, but you'll find it damn hard work - there'll be a lot of fibre. Unfortunately there's no easy way around this, unless you've found some kind of mechanical sieve, so you'll just have to persevere. It's easiest doing this with the back of a wooden spoon or ladle and one of those conical sieves. I also found it difficult getting the pâté to purée in the processor (though I did use a blender), so you might have to add more port and a bit of melted butter too.
Return the pâté to the food processor and blend in the remaining 170g melted butter. Check the seasoning then press the pâté into a ceramic crock or individual pots and chill well.

The surface of the pâté will gradually oxidize - that is, it will darken in contact with the air. If you wish to avoid this, cover the pâté with a thin layer of clarified butter once it's in the pot/s.
Quite magnificent.
I reduced the relative quantity of bacon (and onion) from John's original, You might try using smoked bacon too, but probably in even smaller quantities.
Christmas Pâté
I made a Christmassy version using:
  • 400g duck livers well, slightly more, but who's counting?
  • 200g smoked pancetta
  • 300g shallots
  • ¼ cup sultanas covered with cognac to soak
  • ¼ cup dried cranberries covered with strawberry* vodka to soak
Cut the larger half of the fruit into halves and soak overnight, drain them off and add the liquor to the frying bacon and onions to flame off as above.
Cook the fruit briefly in the reduced port (just to heat through), drain, and set aside to stir in whole at the very end.
Very Festive!
* It turn's out that what I found in an old demijohn with the label mostly rubbed off was not, as I thought, Strawberry Vodka. According to Angus they don't do a strawberry version, but only a raspberry one. So that's probably what I used.

Imperfect Chicken Liver Pâté
snack fowl
I followed Felicity Cloake's perfect chicken liver pâté recipe except for bumping up the quantity of Madeira and not adding the entirely inappropriate ground ginger.

It makes a surprisingly bland and fluffy pâté with none of the depth and richness of John Torode's

Serves 4

Cut the livers into roughly 1.5cm pieces, and heat a knob of butter in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the shallot and thyme and soften, then turn up the heat to medium-high, add the livers and sauté for a couple of minutes until browned on the outside but still pink inside. Tip into a food processor.
I've no idea why Felicity thinks it necessary to cut up the liver into small pieces. As far as I can tell all it achieves is a pan full of soggy wet liver. I wouldn't bother.
Add the Madeira to the pan and boil until reduced to a couple of tablespoons. Tip into the food processor, add the cream, salt and spices and whizz until smooth. Add all but 75g of the butter, and whizz again. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.
I found it quite difficult to persuade the pâté to blend until I'd added all the (very melted) butter. By which point it's a sloppy goop. Though it does have the advantage of passing easily through the sieve.
Pass through a sieve into a serving dish and chill for half an hour. Melt the remaining butter and pour on top, then refrigerate until set.
Adequate, if a bit bland and foamy.

Chicken Livers with Pasta, Lemon & Garlic
fowl main pasta
I understand, though it's not completely obvious, that the recipe is by Shaun Hill:
The combination of chicken liver, lemon zest and garlic is very fine and an example of a dish's whole being more than just the sum of its component parts.
Can't say I noticed it myself, but with a bit of improvement the dish really shines. What it really needed was bacon.
And a bit less liver.

Serves 4

Marinate the zest in the juice for at least 1 hour.

Toss the liver in 1tbsp of the olive oil Heat a frying pan or wok until very hot. The livers need a sharp burst of heat so if your frying pan is small, cook them in several batches. Quickly fry the livers for about 2 minutes - they should be brown on the outside and pink in the centre. Turn out the livers onto kitchen paper, then pour the stock or water into the pan and bring to the boil. Add the garlic, half the cheese, the crème fraîche, a little grated nutmeg, and black pepper, then mix this the remaining olive oil in a blender. Sharpen the sauce with a little lemon juice.

Cook the pasta in a pan of boiling, salted water then drain and season.

Half-fill a small frying pan with sunflower oil and heat. Have a sieve and another pan to hand. Drain the zest and fry it, quickly and carefully. The zest will colour almost instantly so stop the process by tipping the oil through the sieve into the other pan.
You won't find it easy to do this in a large chip-pan by trying to keep the zest in a scoop - the zest spreads out enthusiastically, and you'll have trouble getting it out again.
Also - the oil does need to be pretty hot.

Toss the livers in the pasta, then pour on the sauce and scatter the rest of the cheese, the parsley, and fried lemon zest on top.
It's a fairly tasty way of eating liver, I guess. But it's not amazing.
As described it's also an awful lot of trouble - getting everything ready, hot, and at the same time, not least. It would be a lot easier to fry the lemon zest ahead of time and just have it drained on kitchen paper when required. It might make things simpler too to blend the garlic, cheese, and crème fraîche first, then just heat them through with the stock to de-glaze the pan, whisk in the oil and pour over the pasta.

I guess if you were making this in a restaurant context you'd have plenty of the pre-made sauce standing by.

Chicken Liver Parfait
snack starter fowl
Well, I'd made two different pâté and still had a lot of liver to use up, and this recipe offered itself. It's lighter than a pâté - more a sort of liver mousse, though I suppose you can serve it the same way.

Apparently its silky richness is one of Raymond's most popular brasserie dishes and you should make it two days in advance if possible so the flavours can fully develop and mature.

Serves 10-12. Eventually!

Soak the chicken livers in the milk, 500ml/18fl oz water and two teaspoons of the salt in a shallow dish for one hour. This will draw out most of the blood, which can make the livers bitter, giving the parfait a more delicate flavour. Rinse and drain the livers well.

Preheat the oven to 130C/270F/Gas ½.

Put the Madeira, port, shallots, thyme, garlic and Cognac in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Let the mixture bubble until reduced by one-third and then remove the pan from the heat. The bitterness of the alcohol will have evaporated off and the flavours of the herbs will infuse into the liquid.

Place the drained chicken livers and the contents of the pan in a blender or food processor and process, adding one egg at a time, for 3-4 minutes, or until the texture is silky smooth.

Gradually add the melted butter (if you add it too quickly, the parfait may split), the remaining salt and the pepper. Taste the mixture and correct the seasoning if necessary.

Line the base and sides of a 23cm x 9cm x 8cm/9in x 3½in x 3in terrine tin with greaseproof paper, leaving a 3cm/1in overlap above the top of the tin. The paper will protect the parfait from direct heat and prevent it discolouring and becoming hard.

Using the back of a ladle, press the parfait mixture through a fine sieve into a large bowl then pour into the terrine tin and cover with another piece of greaseproof paper cut to fit.

Place the terrine in a deep baking tray and pour in boiling water until it reaches two-thirds of the way up the sides of the tin. This bain marie method of cooking allows the heat of the oven to permeate through the water and cook the parfait very gently so that it is cooked though evenly.

Cover the tray loosely with a sheet of perforated foil and place it in the oven. Check the temperature of the parfait with a temperature probe after 40 minutes - the parfait is cooked when the middle has reached 65C-70C/150F-158F. Do not overcook or it will split and lose its fine texture.

When the parfait is cooked, remove the terrine tin from the baking tray, leave it to cool for 30 minutes at room temperature then refrigerate.

Discard the greaseproof paper from the top of the parfait then dip the tin in a deep tray of hot water. Slide a hot knife between the sides of the tin and the greaseproof lining then hold the edges of the lining and carefully lift the parfait from the tin onto a chopping board.

Peel away the greaseproof paper from the sides of the parfait. Warm a palette knife in hot water and smooth the top and sides of the parfait, trimming away any discolouration on the top. Return the parfait to the fridge for at least 30 minutes to firm it up, or place it in the freezer for 15 minutes.

To finish, beat the softened butter and lard together and spread a thin layer over the top of the parfait using a palette knife.

Line a flat baking tray with a sheet of clean greaseproof paper. Flip the parfait over onto the tray and spread the remaining butter/lard mixture over the sides and what has now become the top. Covering all the surfaces of the parfait with this mixture will prevent it from oxidising and discolouring.

Return the parfait to the fridge and chill for at least one day before serving; two days is ideal.

To serve, dip a knife into hot water and cut the parfait into thick slices. Serve with chutneys, pickles and toasted sourdough bread, or spread onto crostini to serve as canapés. Red Burgundy is the perfect wine match.
It's quite nice really, but covering it head to toe in butter and lard seemed an awful lot of trouble to go through. So I just left it in the loaf tin and scooped it out with a wooden spoon.
Mine had a slightly grainy texture which suggests it was on the edge of curdling - it really doesn't take long to cook.
My parfait also exuded quite a bit of liquid when left in the tin for a day or two - perhaps that's why Raymond goes to such lengths to cover his?

It makes a surprisingly good topping for baked potatoes!

Pasta with Liver and Chorizo
main meat fowl pasta
Oooh, I made a lovely liver pasta dish last night. Lovely!
Though you'll have to take my word for it as I forgot to take photos.

Basically I fried up some chorizo, parsley, lemon and garlic, added some of the sauce that I made for the less-than-overwhelming Chicken Livers with Pasta, Lemon & Garlic, and loosened with double cream.
I've also given the recipe for how I would have made the liver sauce from scratch if I didn't already have some leftover, though probably the recipe would need a slight redesign - perhaps incorporating all the garlic and cheese into the liver sauce, rather than doubling it up in the recipe later.


Serves 4

Make the sauce:
Toss the liver in 1tbsp of the olive oil Heat a frying pan or wok until very hot. The livers need a sharp burst of heat so if your frying pan is small, cook them in several batches. Quickly fry the livers for about 2 minutes - they should be brown on the outside and pink in the centre. Turn out the livers into a food processor or blender.
Pour water or stock into the pan and bring to the boil. Add the garlic, cheese, it might make sense to add all the recipe's garlic and cheese now? the crème fraîche, a little grated nutmeg, and black pepper, then mix everything with the remaining olive oil in a blender. Sharpen the sauce with a little lemon juice.

Make the pasta:
Boil your choice of pasta. Farfalle is nice.
finely slice (or chop) the chorizo I reckon bacon would work pretty well too - plus liver and bacon is a traditional combination, roughly chop a large bunch of parsley,
crush the garlic,
zest the lemon,
finely slice the chilli if using,
grate the cheese.

When the pasta is cooked drain it and set aside.
Return the pan to the heat, lubricate with olive oil and add the chorizo and any herbs you fancy. Fry for a short time until it colours, then add the crushed garlic and stir through. Throw in the chilli, lemon zest, and parsley to fry briefly, then add the liver sauce. Loosen with some pasta water if required.
Return the pasta to the pan, add most of the Parmesan, enough cream to coat and stir until mixed through. Don't overheat at this stage or the sauce may curdle. It should give the pasta a smooth glossy covering.

Serve topped with extra Parmesan (and some reserved parsley and lemon zest if you like - the deep-fried lemon zest above seems like a good idea too).
Lovely - you can hardly taste the liver!
I might revisit this when I don't already have some leftover liver sauce to hand.

Bacon-Wrapped Dates Stuffed with Liver Pâté
meat fowl starter
Well, I have a fridge full of liver pâté and a packet full of dates so waddaya gonna do?

Stone dates.
Stuff with liver pâté a touch of lemon peel might be quite nice.
Wrap in bacon (secured with a cocktail stick if necessary).
Grill or roast until the bacon is cooked.
Serve drizzled with lemon juice if you like.
Another excellent way to use up excess liver pâté.
I'll let you know when I've found out...
They're quite nice, if not overwhelming. A bit on the sweet, cloying side so don't overdo the stuffing, and a touch of something sharp to provide a little contrast is a good idea. You could mix some lemon peel into the liver pâté or serve drizzled with lemon juice. Or both.
I think the more traditional blue-cheese stuffing is a better bet, but still...

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