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Taste Scene

Michael Devlin

Offal good gear

As opposed to eating liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti, I prefer mine with onions and bacon and possibly some mash on the side.

In all honesty, I don’t eat liver very often, although this is something I plan on remedying as time turns the page.

Cheap, cheerful and packed full of nutrients and minerals, it’s not exactly a dish you’ll hear kids shouting about.

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“Yah! Liver and onions for dinner!” said no kid ever.

And yet, this is a meal synonymous with my own childhood, from a time when dinner of an evening didn’t come via a myriad of choices. If the family was having liver and onions and mash and gravy on a Wednesday night and as a little human, you didn’t fancy it… you didn’t eat.

I don’t eat liver and onions very often any more because, well, the aul sap that I am, I know my own little humans don’t and won’t like it and so I am rarely disposed to fire up such a meal as a solo project.

That all changed in recent times though when a friend mentioned that liver is as cheap as chips from a butchers and in fact, cheaper than chips. Pound signs lit up in my eyes and I decided that I would take a trip down culinary-memory lane, if only for the craic. However, such was the craic (and the taste), that my appetite for liver is officially reawakened.

“You can buy liver in the supermarket but there’s something satisfying about seeing a butcher lift a big liver up onto the scales and cutting a wedge off.”

This was the opinion of the same friend last week when we had settled on the topic of liver and onions.

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It reminded me of a time, many moons ago, when I worked in an abattoir. A bloody offal place it was altogether (if you’ll pardon the pun) and as coincidence would have it, my section was named, ‘red offal.’ This meant dealing with hearts and livers and all the various other tasty sweetbreads which you don’t often see on restaurant menus and which are most often shipped to far off lands.

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As you can imagine, the abbatoir was something of a baptism of fire (and blood) for yours truly and after that first morning on the job packing twitching tongues into boxes, when it came to lunchtime, my appetite had withered and died. Up in the canteen, watching fellow workers tuck into burgers and sausages, I was somewhat taken aback at their nonchalance.

“I’ll take a cheese sandwich,” I suggested to the lady behind the counter.

What do you know, but the very next day I was elbowing my way to the head of the queue with the rest of them, eager for a burger of my own. It’s amazing how little time it takes for a body to acclimatise.

Anyways, back to me liver and onions…

Prior to cooking liver for the first time in recent memory, I checked in with the resident liver expert (ie, my mother), to see how the magic happens.

As it transpires, this particular magical potion is a simple enough affair and as is the case with maximising taste for many things, only the most minimal embellishment is required, which is just the way I like it.

My mother’s method for cooking requires a bit of frying and then, along with the necessary onions, a bit of stock and some flour are added so as to make a gravy.

This is covered, after a fashion, to make a sort of quick stew which is eventually seasoned and served up with, what else? That’s right, spuds.

As you can see from the picture, I’ve included a few green elements for my dish in a bid to lighten the load or at least makes the experience a little fresher.

INGREDIENTS

• about a pound of pork liver, thickly sliced

• 3 tbsps of plain flour

• seasoning

• 2 tbsp of butter

• 2 tbsp of veggie oil

• 100g of lardons or 4/5 slices of streaky bacon, chopped

• 1 large white onion, sliced

• 500ml of beef or chicken stock

• 1 tsp of tomato sauce

• 1 tbsp of Worcestershire sauce

• more seasoning

THE PLAN

Start by dumping the flour into a bowl and adding some salt and pepper. Dredge the liver slices through the seasoned flour and set aside.

Heat one tablespoon of butter in a large frying pan with the veggie oil. When sizzling, fry up the liver for about two minutes on either side, depending on thickness. You don’t have to cook them the whole way through as there will be more cooking later. Remove with slotted spoon and set aside.

Add the remaining butter, bacon and onions to the same pan and fry for about ten minutes, til the onions are soft and the bacon crisped.

Toss in the rest of the seasoned flour and stir it about for a minute or so. Now pour in the stock, stirring away as you go and then keep stirring to get rid of any lumps.

Simmer for a few minutes to cook out the flour and thicken and then add the ketchup and Worcestershire. Place the liver slices back in the pan, cover and give everything another few minutes to heat through. And that’s it. The best solo meal ever?

Serve up with some floury spuds and a bit of greenery.

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