How to cook calf’s liver

Calf’s liver with guacamole

Serves 2

It was a recipe from a Robert Carrier cookbook, years ago, that inspired the following dish. Simply, it was a slice of cooked calf’s liver (I can’t recall whether it was fried in butter, or grilled) topped with sliced avocado, some chopped herbs and, I think, some kind of dressing. The only note that filled me with doubt was that the avocado was served hot.

Please forgive me, oh so legendary Miss Carrier Bag (his moniker, so fondly given by Ian Board, the late landlord of the similarly late Colony Room Club, in London’s Soho; mine was Miss Moulinex), but hot avocado has, how shall we say, never been quite my thing.

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However, the contrast here is revelatory, I think. It’s important to briefly grill the liver so that it has a nice burnished flavour to it, which, in turn, partners the cool and spicy guacamole so very well. I’ve always adored a slice of the hot partnered by a spoonful of the cold; a few cuts of hot gammon partnered by a bowlful of cold potato salad comes to mind at once. Be brave. Make this tomorrow.

For the guacamole

2 ripe avocados, flesh removed and coarsely chopped
Juice of 1 lime
2 fleshy green chillies, jalapeños
if possible, seeds removed and finely chopped
1tbspn chopped fresh coriander
2 spring onions, trimmed and
finely chopped

For the liver

2 thick-ish slices calf’s liver
Salt and pepper
A little olive oil

Mix all the ingredients for the guacamole in a bowl until it resembles a coarse paste. Press a small sheet of clingfilm over the surface and put in the fridge to become good and cold.

Heat a stove-top, ribbed grill (it’s not worth using a radiant grill, as this simply results in a steaming slice of hot liver) until very hot. Season the liver, brush with olive oil and place onto the grill.

Leave to cook for about one minute on each side, with the surfaces looking nicely striped from the grill. Place onto two warm plates and pile some of the guacamole alongside each serving. Eat at once, with a squeeze from a lime over the liver, if you like.


Calf’s liver with sweet onions, butter and crisply fried sage
Serves 2


During the summer months, it’s often possible to purchase giant spring onions-or ‘new’ onions as they’re sometimes called. These have the long green stems of a normal spring onion, but the bulb is much bigger-usually about the size of a large pickling onion. They’re also deliciously sweet and tender. When these are unavailable, you can use either small shallots or baby onions.

For the onions

25g butter
8-10 new spring-onion bulbs,
green stem removed
A little salt and pepper
Large pinch of sugar
125ml dry white wine
A trickle of white-wine vinegar

For the liver

3 thin slices calf’s liver, trimmed, and cut in half
Salt and pepper
25g butter, plus a little extra,
if necessary
8-10 sage leaves

In a small saucepan that will snugly accommodate the onions, melt the butter until just frothing and add the onions, seasoning and sugar.

Turn the heat down to low, stir the onions around a bit so that they’re well coated with butter. Allow to very slightly colour and then add the white wine and vinegar. Cover and quietly stew for 5-7 minutes or so, or until the onions are tender when poked with a small knife. Switch off the heat and keep warm.

Season the liver, then melt the butter in a large frying pan. Once it is frothing nicely and just about to turn nut brown, slide in the liver. Cook for about a minute, turn a piece over and see if it’s turned a pale golden colour and tinged with scorched parts here and there.

If so, flip the liver over and repeat the process on the other side. The liver should be slightly bouncy to a deft prod of the finger (if you favour liver that is pink within, as do I).

Now, lift out the liver and place it in a warm (not hot) dish and loosely cover with foil. Turn up the heat in the frying pan a little and add the sage leaves; if you think there isn’t enough butter in which to fry them, add a further thin slice.

Cook the sage leaves until they’ve become a little crisp, then remove the pan from the heat. Lift out the leaves with a slotted spoon and scatter them over the liver.

Uncover the pan of onions, place it over a moderate heat and reduce the winey/buttery juices until syrupy. In the meantime, place the liver upon two warmed plates, allowing three pieces per serving, together with the sage leaves. Spoon the onions and their juices over them and serve forthwith. Delicious with creamed potatoes.

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