Back in the early 80s I used to make a pig’s liver rice to stuff red or green peppers, which were baked in the oven. When a friend gave me 10 kilos of brown rice, the cooking time became so long, I turned the rice dish into a main meal and the peppers went inside it instead of being the container. I was in the butchers this week and notice pig’s liver on sale and nostalgia had me cooking something I hadn’t made for at least a decade.
Pig’s liver is the poor cousin to goose, duck, calf, lamb or chicken livers, but cooked properly, it’s full of flavour and incredibly cheap – personally, I prefer it to lamb’s liver, which I find too crumbly. Pork liver is one of the main ingredient in most rustic pâtés and is full of iron and vitamins. It makes a perfect simple pâté when fried with bacon and blended with caramelised, onion, garlic, herbs and clarified butter.
Pig’s Liver Rice recipe (serves 4):
1 lb pig’s liver (chopped)
4 slices of smoked streaky bacon (chopped)
1 large onion (chopped)
6 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
4 large tomatoes (grated)
1 medium courgette (chopped)
1 red or green pepper (chopped)
8 mushroom (chopped)
2 cups brown Basmati rice (soaked for 1 hour)
2 dessertspoonfuls of tomato purée
a squirt anchovy paste
1 pint of warm beef stock
a large glass of red wine
a splash red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons of herbs (rosemary, sage and thyme – ground in a mortar and pestle with coarse sea salt and black peppercorns)
8 torn basil leaves
2 bay leaves
2 dessertspoons plain flour
extra virgin olive oil
If using brown Basmati rice, do soak it for an hour before cooking!
Trim the liver of any sinews, ventricles, etc, and chop into bite sized pieces. Mix the ground herbs with the flour in a bowl and dust the liver before browning in olive oil. Using a cast iron casserole, fry in batches, don’t overcrowd the pan or you will be cooking in a flour porridge. You only want to brown the outside – there’s no need to cook the liver to death, it will get tough if you do so. Remove the browned liver to a plate.
Using the same casserole, fry the onion in extra virgin olive oil until it goes translucent and stir in the bacon. When the bacon has taken some colour, mix in the pepper, courgette, mushrooms and crushed garlic.
Grate in the fresh tomatoes (chop in half, grate the wet side and discard the skin).
Tear up some fresh basil leaves to commingle with the tomatoes.
Squirt in the tomato purée and anchovy paste, pour on a glass of wine, a splash of vinegar, half the stock and stir in the browned liver and bay leaves.
Rinse the soaked Basmati rice before mixing it into the dish. At this stage the pig’s liver rice should be wet like stew, but not runny like soup. More stock goes in later.
Bring the casserole up to a simmer, stir, cover with a lid and cook for one hour in a preheated oven at 150ºC, or until the rice is tender and the stock has been absorbed. Check the pig’s liver rice after half an hour and add more stock and seasoning as required. Don’t over cook it or the rice will disintegrate. This can be cooked on the hob, but it’s far less likely to burn in the oven.
Serve with a drizzle of truffle oil and some grated Parmesan cheese.
N.B. If cooking with risotto rice (on the hob), cooking time would be reduced to about 20 minutes, with additional stock being added as needed. Constant stirring required throughout and never rinse risotto rice.
Wine suggestion: Baron de Ley Gran Reserva Rioja.