Calves liver is a highly-prized dish but many overlook liver from the more mature animal. Maybe it’s the term ox liver that makes some categorise it similarly to mutton: from an older animal so it must be tough, stringy, fatty or something. Well they’d be wrong. I prize ox liver, not just because it’s great, tender and tasty but because it’s cheap too. You’ll easily get it from good independent butchers.
Of course, you can cook it in the traditional way with onions and there’s no reason that you couldn’t slow cook some sliced onions in the pan for 15 to 20 minutes before cooking the liver as in this recipe.
However, the twist here is the lovely gooseberry jam that goes so well with liver. Easy to make, and very cheap if you can get your hands on your own gooseberry bush, it’s an unusual condiment and really worth trying. The way I remember the proportions for the jam are one weight of gooseberries, one of granulated sugar and half of water. So if you used 1kg of gooseberries, use 1kg of sugar and weigh 500g of water. Or 1lb of fruit, 1lb of sugar and 8oz of water. Simple. And if you make lots, it can be stored in sterilised and sealed jam jars.
The same weight of granulated sugar
Half the weight of water
Ox liver – about 150g per person
Plain flour for dusting
A little red wine for deglazing the pan
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper
A knob of butter and a splash of vegetable or olive oil
Obviously the gooseberry jam has to be made in advance. So, first, put a side plate or saucer in the freezer for the jam to be tested on.
Wash and trim each end of the gooseberries before placing them in a large heavy-based saucepan along with the water. Bring to the boil and simmer for ten to 15 minutes to soften the fruit.
Then add the sugar and cook over a low heat until that’s melted before tuning up the heat and cooking on a rolling boil for ten minutes.
Take the pan off the heat, get the plate from the freezer and drop a teaspoonful of jam onto it. Allow it to cool for a few seconds and then test it by pushing it with your finger. If its surface wrinkles it’s ready. But if it seems a bit liquidy and slides around the plate, boil for another two or three minutes, remove from the heat and test again.
Once ready, skim off any scum that’s appeared on the surface, leave to cool for 15 to 20 minutes and then pour it into sterilised storage jars (if you’re planning on keeping it).
Wash the liver and cut into thinish slices – anywhere between half and one centimetre. Place a little flour in a bowl, add salt and pepper and then coat the liver with it. Heat a frying pan, add the oil and, when hot, the butter. Then fry the liver on each side. How long depends on you but I’d only do it about a minute each side. Too long and it’ll ruin. Remove from the pan and allow it to rest in a warm place.
Reheat the pan and add enough wine to pick up all the flavour and crusty bits left. Allow it to reduce a little but you’re just looking to have a tablespoonful for each person.
Place the liver on warm serving plates, spoon the scant amount of gravy around and place a dollop of gooseberry jam on top. Lovely served with mash or, as in the picture here, with crushed new potatoes.