Chicken livers are packed full of nutrients, are low in fat and are really quick to cook. What’s not to like? I know some people are a little put off by the thought of eating offal or maybe just think it looks a little unappetising. Ok, it doesn’t look pretty, but I assure you it more than makes up for it in taste. It also offers very good value for money compared to other meats available nowadays. I think offal is seriously underrated and after the enjoyment of this recipe I will definitely be buying chicken livers and other varieties, such as calves and lambs liver, as well as kidneys, more often.
This recipe was inspired by a seven-spice chicken liver dish I had at Dock Kitchen, run by the hugely talented chef, Stevie Parle. I haven’t used seven spices here but simplified by using cumin, all spice and black pepper – enough of each to give a serious taste punch. The sweetness of the pomegranate seeds and freshness of the salad offset the rich spicy chicken livers perfectly. It really is a super quick meal to prepare so definitely one to enjoy in the week when time is poor but you crave a healthy but satisfying meal. Great served with warm flatbreads and hummus as a side if you’re feeling particularly puckish.
400g chicken livers (preferably organic)
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp olive or pressed rapeseed oil
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
1/4 tsp all spice
70g bag of lamb’s lettuce
100g flame-grilled red peppers, chopped into strips
1/4 tin of chickpeas, drained
Handful of pomegranate seeds
- Firstly, prepare the chicken livers. Using some kitchen scissors and cut away any green bits or sinew or they will taste bitter. Cut into as even sized pieces as possible.
- Season the chicken livers with salt. Heat a large frying pan with 1 tablespoon of the oil over a medium heat until hot, add the livers and fry for about 2 minutes on each side so that they are brown and caramelised. Any smaller pieces will take less time to cook so remove these earlier. The livers should be cooked all the way through but still pink in the middle. Rest the livers on a warm plate while you make the dressing.
- Put the red wine vinegar into the same pan and bubble for 5 seconds seconds before adding the rest of the oil and then the spices. Stir the pan and cook for about 30 seconds, add the pomegranate molasses and any juices from the chicken livers, give the pan a swirl to combine and then remove from the heat.
- Arrange the lamb’s lettuce, red pepper, chickpeas and the livers on plates. Drizzle the sticky dressing over the livers, sprinkle the pomegranate seeds over and serve.
It’s New Year and healthy eating should be on the agenda but I’m not ready for the transition from enjoying food with uncaring abandon to careful consumption just yet. Although I didn’t have my usual excess of Xmas goodies, as I was on holiday in Belize over the Xmas period, any normal restraint obviously flew out of the window. Which is as it should be whilst on a holiday. I made up for lack of mince pies and Xmas pudding with lots of chocolate as Belize has some excellent cocoa producers and I indulged in the most decadent dark chocolate torte (it was so good I ordered it the next day too) as well as the best chocolate gelato ever.
I’m easing in gently and being relatively virtuous for breakfast with homemade granola and yogurt (the bacon was sooo tasty though!) and vegetable soup (cream of swede was surprisingly delicious) for lunch, but wanting something more satisfying and hearty for dinner. What with golden-crusted pies currently adorning a lot of the food magazines I guess I’m not the only one who feels this way. The shock of binge then crash diet is too drastic for the body anyway and is not much fun so in my mind it’s best to not to change your diet too drastically. January is a bleak enough month already without having to abstain from all the fun things to eat and drink.
This comforting macaroni cheese dish is like being wrapped in a duck down duvet and will leave you sitting back and patting your stomach with a satisfied smile on your face. Try and buy good quality bacon that has lots of flavour and it won’t be pumped full of water and additives too. To get ahead make up to step 6 and set aside the dish until you’re ready to cook but add an extra 10 minutes to the cooking time to ensure piping hot all the way through. You could serve with a contrasting crisp green salad on the side to offset the creaminess, if you like. Happy New Year!
Serves 2, generously
2 rashers of smoked or dry cure bacon, chopped into strips
100g chestnut mushrooms
2 small leeks
2 tbsp plain flour
450ml full fat milk
50g mature cheddar cheese, grated
20g dried white breadcrumbs
4 cooked chestnuts
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
¼ tsp fresh nutmeg, grated
Salt and pepper
- Preheat oven to 190C/fan 170/Gas 5. Cook the macaroni in boiling water until al a dente – about 9 minutes. Add a splash of oil to it prevent from sticking together. Drain and set aside.
- Fry the bacon in a small amount of oil over a medium heat until golden. Remove and drain on kitchen paper. Repeat with the mushrooms.
- Turn down the heat then add 30g of the butter and cook the leeks gently until soft. Remove and set aside.
- In a small saucepan, melt the remaining butter over a gently. As soon as the butter melts add the flour and, over a medium heat, stir vigorously until you have a smooth paste. Begin adding the milk, a little at a time, incorporating well before adding the next amount of liquid. When you’ve added about half the milk you can start to add more milk whilst stirring briskly. Once all the milk is in turn down the heat, add the cheese and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring from time to time. Taste and season with grated nutmeg, salt and pepper.
- While the sauce is simmering, blitz the breadcrumbs and chestnuts in a mini processor until combined.
- Mix the leeks, mushrooms, bacon and thyme in an ovenproof dish. Pour over the sauce and mix gently. Top with the chestnut breadcrumbs and bake in preheated oven for about 15-20 minutes until golden on top and bubbling around edges. Once done, let it sit for a few minutes before tucking in.
Lamb is one of my favourite meats and it works so well with Middle Eastern spices. I have used leg steaks in this recipe, which is unusual for me as I usually favour the slow cook cuts such as shoulder or neck. I tend to buy a whole or half leg of lamb and then cut what I need for dishes such as this because it’s cheaper. You can’t beat cooking meat on the bbq but they can just as easily be cooked on a griddle pan if bbq’ing is not an option.
This dish is such an exciting mix of flavours, texture and colour and is a feast for the eyes as well as the tastebuds. If you don’t want to push the boat out and use saffron then the couscous is still tasty without. It’s not essential but it does add a beautiful colour and exotic note. The watermelon and feta side salad is so unexpectedly good (I sadly admit I had never tried the combination before) and the mint lifts it and is incredibly refreshing on the palette. It’s a perfect accompaniment so give it a go and I’m sure you’ll be as pleasantly surprised as I was.
When using spices, it’s definitely worth buying whole seeds and then creating a spice mix when you need it. It does require a small amount of extra effort than using ready-ground spices but they stay fresher for much longer and the flavour is more intense. By all means use ready ground spices if time is short.
Lamb and couscous
4 lamb leg steaks
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp sumac
1 tbsp olive oil
200g barley or normal couscous
Half lemon, zest only
200ml vegetable stock
4 spring onions, finely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
Large handful of fresh corriander, finely chopped
Handful of pistachios, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Half of mini watermelon, medium dice
Large handful of mint, chopped into thin strips
Half lemon, juice only
1 tsp olive oil
Pepper to taste
2 tsp tahini
4 tbsp natural or Greek yogurt
Half small garlic clove, crushed
Lemon juice to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
- Toast the cumin seeds in a dry frying pan over a medium heat until the aroma is released. Bash to a fine powder using a pestle & mortar and add to a dish big enough to hold the lamb. Mix together with the sumac and oil then add the lamb and coat thoroughly. Cover with clingfilm and set aside. Marinade for at least 1 hour if you can.
- Prepare the salad by combining all the ingredients, apart from the feta, in a serving bowl. Crumble the feta on top and set aside until ready to serve.
- Prepare the tahini dressing by combining all the ingredients together in a small bowl and season to taste. Set aside.
- Bring 200ml of vegetable stock in a saucepan to a simmer, then add the saffron and leave to infuse for 20 minutes. Bring the saffron infused stock back up to the boil and add the couscous, olive oil, lemon zest and raisins. Cover with a tight fitting lid and let stand for 10 minutes. Fluff up the grains with a fork and then add the spring onions and corriander.
- Heat up the bbq or griddle pan until smoking hot. Season the lamb on both sides and cook on a high heat for 3-4 minutes on each side depending on the size of the steaks and how pink you like it. Allow the meat to rest for a few minutes before serving.
- Place a lamb steak on a large spoonful of couscous and scatter with chopped pistachios. Serve with a dollop of the tahini dressing and the watermelon salad on the side.