Liver is often connected with jokes about shoe leather, mainly because it can be so tough when poorly cooked. Like badly cooked green vegetables, poor cooking of liver has added to its unpopularity, however cooked well it can be extremely tasty. Its strong flavour can take some getting used to and it is often difficult to get children to eat it, which is a pity because it has good nutritional value, with a high iron and Vitamin A content. I found two solutions to this problem with my children. Firstly, I made sure that I cooked bacon & liver (as opposed to liver & bacon) using a higher proportion of bacon, reasoning that getting my family to eat some liver was better than none. Secondly, the biggest objection was to eating lumps of liver so I chopped it so finely that when it was cooked it disappeared virtually completely into the tomatoey sauce, giving flavour without texture. I never lied about what I was serving, but gradually I cut the pieces larger. I really recommend this method to any family who find liver difficult to serve. Cooking it in a well flavoured sauce, such as a rich tomato, along with plenty of flavourful vegetables is also a great help. This dish has now become a family favourite and the news that it is on the menu is always well received: result, I think!
This warming stew recipe is my own invention and has lots of cheerful sunshine colours. I have also included some home dried orange peel, which adds a faint but enjoyable orangey tang, however this can be omitted (see information about orange peel in the ingredients section.) The root vegetables can be varied and the lentils replaced with a can of chick peas, red kidney or other beans. In the past I have substituted a can of baked beans in tomato sauce, but their distinctive flavour is very obvious – which is fine if you like baked beans (I’m not especially keen) but could be useful when introducing liver to children. The cooking time should be shortened if substituting tinned already cooked tinned peas or beans which simply need re-heating. Serve with boiled or buttery mashed potato.
Liver & Bacon Winter Vegetable Stew
1tbsp olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
4ozs/125g button mushrooms, quartered
1tsp dried mixed herbs
1lb mixed root vegetables: I used carrot, parsnip & swede (not potato), diced
1x400g/14oz tin of peeled plum tomatoes, chopped
½pint water, plus a little more if needed
1tbsp tomato puree
1tsp dried orange peel (optional)
2ozs/55g red lentils (alternatively add beans, see notes above)
175g-250g/6-8ozs smoked or unsmoked bacon – mixed bacon pieces are ideal
175g-250g/6-8ozs lambs or chicken livers (avoid strong flavoured pigs liver)
2 peppers (red,yellow or orange) single colour or mixed, diced
1tsp paprika plus a little to garnish
Salt & black pepper
Parsley (if available) to garnish
1. Chop onions and garlic and gently fry in the olive oil for about 5minutes or until soft.
2. Dice the bacon and add to the pan with the mushrooms and mixed herbs. Cook for a further 5minutes.
3. Remove any connecting tissues from the liver and either cut into bite sized pieces or chop extremely finely, to allow it to virtually disappear and just flavour the sauce. Stir the chopped liver into the pan and cook until it starts to change colour.
4. Dice the root vegetables into equally sized pieces and stir in along with the lentils (if using), the chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, orange peel, sugar and water. Season and flavour with the paprika. Cook over a low heat for around 45 minutes until the lentils are cooked. If the mixture starts to go dry as the lentils soak up the liquid it may be necessary to add a little more water. If use a tin of beans in place of lentils then the cooking time will be about 20 minutes. Around 10minutes before the end of the cooking time stir in the chopped peppers, which do not take long to cook.
5. Check seasoning and serve with simply boiled or buttery mashed potatoes to soak up the tomato gravy. If you have some parsley, you can scatter a few green sprigs for added colour along with a dusting of paprika.