If, like me, you put your own liver through hell from time-to-time, eating liver could easily be viewed as organ replacement therapy. Indeed, one of the first things they teach you at collège culinaire is to use every bit of the animal you possibly can. This can sometimes go beyond what the mainstream thinks is acceptable, so of course cooks have come up with lots of lovely euphemistic words to hide the contents of their plate – sweetbreads and sweetmeats being two of my favourites.
But liver is the one piece of offal that should really be on everyone’s menu, at least occasionally. It’s a veritable super-food, so rich in nutrients, from vitamins A, D, E, K, B12 and folic acid, to minerals such as copper and iron. An equal weight of liver contains almost 100 times all the vitamin-y goodness of the equivalent weight of even an iron-rich veg like spinach, and almost 25 times the equivalent weight of muscle-meat. And no, it doesn’t contain any toxins. If you think it does, you have completely misunderstood what the function of a liver is – sure it filters them out, but it doesn’t store them. Importantly, though, it also tastes sooo good when cooked properly – lamb’s liver in particular has a sweet, tender, slightly gamey flavour that goes down great in a simple red wine and onion gravy, with plenty of smashed garlic and chopped parsley. On mash. Yum. Comfort food at its best.
If the texture, or just the very thought of ‘organ meat’ puts you off, bear in mind that once upon a time, many civilisations *only* ate organ meat, throwing the muscle-meat we eat today away. However, if you still can’t come to terms with it, try these: lamb & lamb’s liver mint & coriander burgers. As you can see from the plate full I’ve served up, this is also comfort food 🙂
– 500g lean lamb meat
– 500g lamb’s liver
– 2 red onions
– 2 eggs
– butter, pepper, balsamic vinegar, chilli or mustard, lemon, garlic, coriander, mint & cinnamon to taste
So kick things off by chopping the onion and garlic and caramelising it slightly in a hot pan with plenty of butter and some balsamic vinegar. Let this cool before bringing the burger mix together. Blitz the lamb and the lamb’s liver, along with the cooled onion, eggs and various flavourings. I’ve gone with two pinches of cinnamon, the juice of half a lemon, and a tablespoon each of chopped fresh mint and fresh coriander leaves, with a good few twists of pepper (both white & black) and a hearty pinch of salt. You could add some chilli or mustard for a bit of heat, too. I’ve gone with one skinny red chilli pepper and a splash of tabasco.
I’m going to leave this mixture to infuse for a couple of hours in the fridge, which also makes it firmer and easier to work when it comes to getting down & dirty with your patties (as the actress said to the bishop).
When using flour to help with the next step, always season the flour – salt & white pepper at the very least. In this case, I’m throwing in a pinch or two of ground coriander and a pinch of cinnamon too. Chuck a handful of the seasoned flour on your board, pinch off a golf-ball sized lump of the patty mixture, and roll and hammer it with the palm of your hand. I tend to make mine small and thick, rather than large and thin, because I like a little bit of a medium-rare touch to my burgers, which tends to be difficult to reach if they are too skinny.
I cook burgers like I cook steak – in my cast-iron pan on the hob to begin with, two minutes on one side, then a minute on the other to let Maillard get his caramelised brown tasty goodness all over the edges, before transferring to a hot (220 degrees) oven for 4-5 minutes more (6-7 for medium, 10 for shoe-leather-like well-done). Burgers are still meat, remember, so be sure to rest them for a couple of minutes too.
Serve how you like, really. I’d tend to go with honey-infused natural yoghurt and a rough & ready salad, though could easily have done these as meatballs instead, on a bed of brown rice or cous-cous with chopped peppers and spring onions, and that honey-yoghurt sauce sloshed all over the top. As it is, I’m up against rice-hating philistines again tonight, so it’s crushed roasted potatoes and a garlic tomato salad with that yummy yoghurt.