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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?