Devilled chicken livers with Bramley-apple mash

Serves 4 as a first course

Chicken livers make a great economical snack, and are one of those humble ingredients that can be transformed into a rather special and luxurious dish.

Ingredients

1 medium-sized potato, mashed
1 Bramley apple, peeled, cored and roughly chopped
Caster sugar (optional)
80g of butter
250g-300g chicken livers, cleaned
Salt and pepper

For the sauce

4 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
6-10 black peppercorns, coarsely crushed
Good pinch of cayenne pepper
3tbsp cider vinegar
3tbsp water
40g butter
2tsp flour
200ml beef stock (a good cube dissolved in 200ml water will do, but fresh is better)
1tsp English mustard
2tbsp double cream
8 small gherkins, finely chopped
Salt and pepper

Method

Put the shallots, peppercorns and cayenne pepper in a saucepan with the vinegar and water. Simmer gently until the liquid has almost evaporated, then add the butter and stir in the flour. Gradually add the beef stock, stirring to avoid lumps forming, season lightly, add the mustard and simmer gently for 10-12 minutes. Add the double cream and continue to simmer until the sauce is of a gravy-like consistency. Add the gherkins and keep warm.

Meanwhile, put the apple in a saucepan with a knob of butter and a teaspoon of sugar and cook on a low heat, stirring every so often until the apple has disintegrated into a purée. Mix the apple with the mashed potato, add a couple more knobs of butter and season.

To serve, season the livers, melt the rest of the butter in a heavy frying pan until foaming and cook the livers for a couple of minutes on each side on a high heat, keeping them pink, then drain on kitchen paper and drop them into the sauce. Simmer for 20 seconds or so, then spoon the mash onto plates and spread out with the back of a spoon. Arrange the livers on top with the sauce.

Apple tart

Serves 4

This is a classic tarte fine as you used to find in French restaurants, but don’t really see around much now. To reinforce the apples, I’ve spiked the cream with some of Julian Temperley’s Somerset cider brandy.

Ingredients

250g-300g puff pastry, rolled to about 2mm thick and left to rest for at least an hour 6 medium-sized russet, Coxes or similar well-flavoured apples, peeled and cored 30g butter, melted
Caster sugar, to sprinkle

For the cream

60g Jersey cream
2tsp caster sugar
2tbsp Somerset cider brandy

Method

Preheat the oven to 200˚C/400˚F/gas mark 6. Cut the puff pastry into four discs measuring 12cm across and prick all over with a fork. Put the discs on to a baking tray lined with siliconised or greaseproof paper, or reuseable Teflon sheets such as Bake-O-Glide.

Slice the apples thinly with a sharp knife or a mandolin and lay them around the pastry discs, overlapping them and tucking the last slice under the first to form an even pattern. Brush the apples with butter and scatter generously with the sugar. Bake for about 30 minutes or until
the apples start to caramelise. Some will take longer to colour, so you may need to finish them off under a grill.

Mix the cream, sugar and cider brandy in a bowl and whisk until fairly stiff. Spoon it onto the centre of the tarts at the last minute or serve separately.

Mark Hix’s ‘Seasonal Food’ is available from Quadrille at £25