I quite understand why people don’t like liver. Back at Dotheboy’s Hall, the liver served looked and tasted like a bit of rubbery old boot leather. I kid you not. I think it must have come from one of those mass-catering packets or tins. The boys were paid ½ p (a day) to wash up afterwards, which is why I have inside knowledge of what went on in the kitchens. Think septuagenerean cooks of Irish persuasion, blue nylon house coats, hair-nets, rancid Woodbines dripping ash, battered tea-urns and austerity trolleys- and you will get the picture.
It was many years later that I learnt that liver, if cooked properly (flashed in the pan), could be surprisingly delicious. It works well with a bitter-sweet tasting sauce. So I’ve dug out this retro classic: Liver with Dubonnet and Orange. I’m not one hundred per cent sure who exactly came up with this recipe first, but it was certainly included in Margaret Costa’s Four Seasons Cookery Book (1969). Two years later it features in The Good Food Guide Dinner Party Book, as served by Lacy’s restaurant, London.
How to make it? It’s a simple affair. Here’s the Lacy’s version (with helpful extra notes from the GS):
You take 1 lb of lamb’s liver and get your butcher to cut it into slices ½ inch thick. Heat oil and butter in a large frying pan at a low heat. Cook finely chopped onions and crushed garlic until soft, and beginning to colour. Coat the liver slices in seasoned flour and cook them in the pan over a very moderate heat. As ever don’t crowd the pan, otherwise they will start to boil rather than fry. As soon as the blood rises, flip the liver over and cook it for even less. You’re looking at a few minutes, I would have thought. Remove the slices to a separate plate and keep them warm.
Now for the sauce. Add a tablespoon of fresh orange juice and 4 fl oz Dubonnet to the onions and juices left in the pan, scraping the bottom with a wooden spoon to make sure everything is mixed. Bring to the boil and reduce on a high heat. This will, of course, thicken the sauce. When the sauce has reduced by a half, strain, and turn down the heat. Add the coarsley grated rind of an orange and 1 teaspoon grated rind of a lemon. Pour it over the liver, garnish with chopped parsley and serve immediately.
There you go. I never find recipes which involve sauce reduction entirely satisfactory. Quite often I find that there’s just not enough liquid. Reducing it in a small pan also helps, I think. What else? Whatever happens don’t overcook the liver. But then you know that.