The liver experimentation

Something I notice that happens a lot when people are trying to eat a healthier diet is they often get very narrow about what they eat.  There’s often a short list (real or in their head) of “approved” food and generally eat what they are already comfortable with from that list.  It leads to the same items on the shopping list and the same rotation of meals and snacks.

A healthy diet requires a wide variety nutrients.  Too narrow a choice of what we will eat may not only leave us deficient in essential nutrients but let’s face it, it makes for boring meal times.  Boredom with what is on our plate leads us back to old comfort foods.  The key, I believe, when working towards a healthier diet is being comfortable with trying food that we don’t normally eat and experimenting with preparing food in different ways.  The more we enjoy our healthy meals the easier it is to continue eating healthily.

When I think of a delicious family meal, liver doesn’t pop into mind but it’s hard to ignore the nutritional properties of organ meats so last night I took my own advise about giving nutritious foods I normally don’t eat a try.

Liver provides a high nutritional punch.  It’s really high in iron which is important to me as I’m often a bit low on the stuff.  It’s also high in protein and many vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids.  In particular, vitamin A (which is good for the immune system, eyes, hair and skin amongst other things) and vitamin B12, DHA, EPA and AA all which are essential for brain health.  Organ meats in general are 10 – 100 times higher in nutrients than the same size of muscle meats commonly eaten in the US and down under.  Liver is also relatively low in calories, so when we’re talking about high nutritional value for it’s calorie content, liver and other organ meats are up there.  (If you are pregnant liver is not recommended because it is believed that the high levels of vitamin A may be harmful to your fetus).

Another bonus of last night’s dinner is that we paid about 25% of the price for our liver than if we were to buy another cut of beef.  Organ meats are a budget friendly health food.

Some people avoid liver believing that since a liver is a filter system then it must be fill of toxins.  The liver has multiple functions, of which removing toxins from the blood is just one and in the detoxification process it doesn’t store toxins.  The second common objection is the taste!  It’s known to have a strong flavour and chewy texture.  Both which can be resolved with the right preparation.  I googled dozens of recipes before I came up with this one.

First I cooked up some bacon in a pan for flavour and cooking fat (I didn't add any other fat)

First I cooked up some bacon in a pan for flavour and cooking fat (I didn’t add any other fat)

Bacon is really trendy again at the moment.  Even though I agree with the notion that saturated fat isn’t the evil we once thought it was (I’ll write a post on that in the future) I think the leap from “saturated fat is good for us” therefore “bacon is a health food” is a bit large.  Many bacons, like other processed meats, often have salt, sugar and other preserving chemicals such as nitrates, nitrites and phosphates.  Whilst there are two sides to the debate on how bad (or not) these preservatives are for us I like to eat food that is as unprocessed as possible particularly when I weigh up the benefits of bacon.  There are significantly better sources of protein and fat than bacon.  Sorry bacon lovers, but I think bacon is an “occasional” food.  One thing bacon does have though, is a whole heap of taste, and that’s why I used it in this recipe.

Then some mushrooms, fresh sage and thyme and a little salt and pepper.  I was just going for getting a whole heap of flavour into the mix.

The mix before the liver went in.

I then added an onion and probably about five cloves of garlic to the bacon and cooked them up into translucent.  Then added sliced mushrooms, fresh sage, fresh thyme and a bit of salt and pepper.  My aim was to get a really flavourful mix.

Then for the main event.

Then for the main event.

I’ve got to be honest.  Liver looks and feels gross to me.  My husband did all the slicing and dicing of which I was grateful for.  We had 3 or 4 slices of beef liver like the piece in the photo which in hindsight was too much for the amount of the flavour mix we made.  We did eat (almost) all of it though so next time perhaps instead of less liver we’d use a little more bacon, two onions, lots of garlic and a bigger bag of mushies and herbs.

I tried to put the bacon, garlic, onion and mushroom mix to the side of the pan and then sear the liver on each side for about a minute before mixing it up, lowering the heat and letting it cook for about 10 minutes.  I ran out of room in the pan so I probably should have completely taken out the mix, seared the liver both sides, then added it all back together.  Some of the liver went in the pan ahead of later slices too which I wouldn’t do again as some pieces were perfectly cooked and other pieces a little chewy.

The final product.

The final product.

I had a heap of broccoli that we steamed to go with it.  We always have vegetables with our meal but even if you aren’t the biggest veggie fan (unlikely if you are reading this blog) a dish as heavy as this really does need veggies, particularly greens I think, to lighten it.

The Princess and I thought it was perfectly edible, in fact, we'd go as far as saying it was "nice" but not up there on our favourites list.

The Princess and I thought it was perfectly edible, in fact, we’d go as far as saying it was “nice” but not up there on our favourite meals list.

Both the boys, however, LOVED it.

Both the boys, however, LOVED it.

Overall I don’t think my first time cooking liver was an epic failure but it wasn’t a raving success either.  I think the recipe is sound but my execution of it needs some practice.  Like a lot of new flavours, we often need to try something several times before we are accustomed to it too.  This is something important to keep in mind if your taste buds are used to a high processed food diet.  Whilst liver might not be a regular on our shopping list just yet, I’m not going to rule out trying it again and I’m certainly going to continue to experiment with new, healthy, meal time options.

I’d like to know if anyone else has been experimenting with something new to them recently?

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14 Responses to The liver experimentation

  1. I made felafel the other day which we all enjoyed and have agreed will be a regular on our menu. And I want to try some more with lentils – mum did a nice salad with them the other night. I watched hugh fernly- whittingstall cook liver just the other night. I think I might have someone else prepare it for me first tho. Sometimes the smell of the meat cooking puts me right off. Does pate count as liver eating???? Cause I love pate 😉

  2. Liver is best cooked quickly. I once had a good liver recipe that involved thinly sliced liver and some sliced gherkins. Reading your blog reminds me that it is some years since I have seen liver in the supermarket here – not even chicken livers, which I am partial to (especially when pureed to make pate). Pate seems to be making a comeback on cafe menus.
    Like Bree, I am a felafel fan – quickly cooked patties in a pita pocket with loads of greens, hummus, natural yoghurt and a dash of chilli sauce. A wonderful fast food meal.
    VJ gave me some tofu recently and I have been intending to use it. I know it is best combined with garlic, ginger and a little soy sauce, but I don’t know how to cook it or for how long. Anyone able to help with this?

    • Lightly floured or crumbed and fried or pan seared for the tofu or just cubed and done through a stir fry. It is just a protein vehicle for sauce and other flavours.

    • runningmelon says:

      Do you cook your liver on a high or moderate heat? And for how long? How small do you cut the pieces? I think there is still a bit of playing around I need to do with those things.
      There’s firm tofu and soft tofu which is used for different things. I think firm would be more common in NZ and yes, it’s great in stir fries or curries in another way I like to cook it. There is a lot of controversy about the good and the bad of soy products… another post!

      • Golly – it’s ages since I have cooked liver. I seem to remember it was best very finely sliced and seared quickly on a moderate to high heat. If it is fine enough, it takes next to no time for the middle to cook and slightly pink in the middle means that it is tender. With cooked sliced onions and a thin gravy made from pan juices and seasoned with pepper and salt it was quite palatable – as long as you didn’t think “offal” while eating it!

        I think the recipe with gherkins involved gently cooking some sliced onions, searing the finely sliced liver, tossing in some sliced gherkins, turning off the element and gently stirring in some sour cream, seasoned with salt and pepper, served on rice. The creaminess made it taste a bit like a stroganoff. It was quick to make.

  3. Richard says:

    hi there try adding a little flournfor thickening and tin of chopped toms

    • Sarah says:

      Thanks for the suggestion. I noticed that a lot of the recipes floured the liver before cooking. Do you cook it on a high or moderate heat? And for how long?

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