Archive for the ‘Liver’ Category

Ziti Neapolitan-Style (Antonio Carluccio)

January 23, 2013

for the meatballs
1 garlic clove
1 tbsp parsley
40g (1½oz) fresh breadcrumbs
milk, for soaking
300g (11oz) minced beef
25g (1oz) freshly grated Parmesan
2 eggs
salt and freshly ground black pepper
oil, for frying
for the sauce
1 onion
5 basil leaves
4 tbsp olive oil
100g (4oz) chicken livers, chopped
2 x 400g (14oz) tins chopped tomatoes
for the layers
450g (1lb) dried ziti or penne
100g (4oz) spicy Neapolitan salami
350g (12oz) fontina or mozzarella cheese
4 eggs, lightly beaten
75g (3oz) freshly grated Parmesan

Step One

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas 6. To make the meatballs, first peel and chop the garlic, chop the parsely and soak the breadcrumbs in a little milk for 5 minutes, then squeeze them dry. Mix together the minced beef, the garlic, parsley, Parmesan, and breadcrumbs in a bowl. Lightly beat the eggs and add them to the bowl along with a little salt and pepper, and mix thoroughly. Use your hands to shape the mixture into walnut-sized meatballs. Heat a little oil in a frying pan and fry the meatballs in batches for about 3 minutes until browned on all sides. Remove and drain on kitchen paper.

Step Two

To make the sauce, peel and chop the onion and shred the basil leaves, then heat the oil in a clean pan and fry the onion until nearly transparent. Add the chicken livers and cook for another 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, cover and simmer for 20 minutes over a low heat. Add the basil and a little salt and pepper, if you like, and simmer for another 10 minutes.

Step Three

Cook the pasta for 5–7 minutes or until al dente, and drain. Toss with some of the sauce, so that the pasta is coated.

Step Four

Lightly butter a 20 x 25cm (8 x 10in) baking dish with sides 7.5cm (3in) deep. Spread a layer of sauce over the bottom, then add a layer of pasta. Slice and arrange some salami, some of the meatballs and slices of fontina or mozzarella cheese on top. Repeat this sequence until you reach the final layer of cheese, then pour on the beaten eggs which will bind the pasta together. Finish with a layer of sauce and the Parmesan. Bake for 25 minutes.When it is cooked let the dish stand for 5 minutes before dividing it into portions with a knife and serving.

Perfect Chicken Liver Pate (Felicity Cloake)

December 5, 2012

Serves 4

350g chicken livers, cleaned
175g butter, diced
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 tsp thyme leaves, finely chopped
75ml madeira
75ml double cream
½ tsp salt
1 allspice berry, ground
¼ tsp ground ginger

1. Cut the livers into roughly 1.5cm pieces, and heat a knob of butter in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the shallot and thyme and soften, then turn up the heat to medium-high, add the livers and saute for a couple of minutes until browned on the outside but still pink inside. Tip into a food processor.

2. Add the madeira to the pan and boil until reduced to a couple of tablespoons. Tip into the food processor, add the cream, salt and spices and whizz until smooth. Add all but 75g of the butter, and whizz again. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.

3. Pass through a sieve into a serving dish and chill for half an hour. Melt the remaining butter and pour on top, then refrigerate until set.

Chicken Liver Pate

April 26, 2012

Bruleed Chicken Liver Parfait (Heston Blumenthal)

April 15, 2012

Roast Chicken For Two (Jamie Oliver)

April 14, 2012

Chicken Liver Parfait (Jamie Oliver)

April 4, 2012

Pappadelle With Chicken Liver Ragu

December 15, 2011

Spaghetti bolognese (Elizabeth David)

November 25, 2011

Spaghetti bolognese
As recommended by Angela Hartnett, head chef at York & Albany

“A dish that is dear to my heart. My Italian grandmother instilled in me an appreciation of good food, and my cookbook, Cucina, is about Italian food. For me, this recipe by Elizabeth David is the ultimate.”

Serves 6

225g lean minced beef

115g chicken livers

85g uncooked ham (both fat and lean)

1 carrot

1 onion

1 small piece of celery

3 tsp concentrated tomato puree

1 glass white wine

2 wine glasses stock or water

Butter

Salt and pepper

Nutmeg

Cut the bacon or ham into very small pieces and brown them gently in a small saucepan in about 15g of butter. Add the onion, the carrot, and the celery, all finely chopped. When they have browned, put in the raw minced beef, and then turn it over and over so that it all browns evenly. Add the chopped chicken livers, and after two or three minutes the tomato puree, and then the white wine. Season with salt (taking into account the relative saltiness of the ham or bacon), pepper, and a scraping of nutmeg, and add the meat stock or water.

Cover the pan and simmer the sauce very gently for 30-40 minutes. Some cooks in Bologna add a cupful of cream or milk to the sauce, which makes it smoother. Another traditional variation is the addition of the ovarine or unlaid eggs which are found inside the hen, especially in the spring when the hens are laying. They are added at the same time as the chicken livers and form small golden globules when the sauce is finished. When the ragu is to be served with spaghetti or tagliatelle, mix it with the hot pasta in a heated dish so that the pasta is thoroughly impregnated with the sauce, and add a generous piece of butter before serving. Hand the grated cheese round separately.

Perfect Lasagne and links

November 24, 2011

How to cook perfect lasagne

Just to be clear, that’s ‘lasagne’ as in a baked dish of flat pasta and bolognese sauce. Do you prefer the British, American or Italian style

Felicity's perfect lasagne

Felicity’s perfect lasagne. Photograph: Felicity Cloake

Ah, the homely lasagne: a dish which, if not exactly lost in translation has, in the grand British tradition, been considerably mangled. I was quite taken aback the first time I encountered the real thing – or a London delicatessen’s version of the real thing, which arrived in our mouldy student dwelling courtesy of a parent visiting from the Big Smoke. As a pasta dish which contained neither tuna nor sweetcorn, it was bound to be a marvel, but there were other reasons for falling upon this manna from heaven – or, at least, Highgate.

The most striking thing about the new arrival was its proud and noble bearing – it stood up straight, rather than oozing saucily outwards across the plate like the stuff which came out of the college kitchen. In fact, Giorgio Locatelli describes lasagne in Made in Italy: Food and Stories as a “sturdy, quite dry pasta dish” which would come as news to fans of even the poshest of supermarket versions. “What I see is not lasagne,” he scolds, “but a version of shepherd’s pie, only made with pasta instead of potato.” All credit to us for our inspired fusion cooking – sometimes a gloopy, cheese feast just hits the spot – but I sense that a perfect lasagne will need to be truer to the original spirit of the dish to really cut the mostarda.

While we’re beating ourselves with the authenticity stick, even the name’s misleading: strictly, lasagne refers to flat, thin sheets of pasta – the same ones used in what is correctly referred to as lasagne al forno – baked lasagne, which, in the UK at least, tends to mean lasagne alla bolognese, or lasagne with a meaty, tomatoey sauce. It’s a bit like referring to steak and ale pie as simply “pie” – you’ve got a rough idea of what you’re going to get, but the all-important specifics are missing. So, for the avoidance of doubt, this article refers to a baked dish of lasagne and bolognese sauce – those in search of the perfect sausage and garlic, or chicken tikka versions must continue their quest elsewhere. Sorry.

Meat

Although we’re not aiming for “sheets of pasta floating in minced beef”, as Locatelli has it, as the principle flavour of any such lasagne, the meat aspect still deserves careful consideration. At Locanda Locatelli, they make it with their standard ragù alla bolognese, which, having tried and found wanting, I’m substituting for my own perfect bolognese sauce, which gently fries a mixture of coarsely minced beef, streaky bacon and finely chopped chicken livers with onion, carrot and celery, then slow-cooks the lot with milk, white wine and chopped tomatoes.

Layered, in the Locatelli fashion, with béchamel sauce and fresh egg pasta, and topped with “lots of grated parmesan that will crisp up in the oven”, I’m pretty pleased with this first attempt – the lasagne has plenty of structural integrity, and a rich meaty flavour that works as well here as the spaghetti it was originally designed to complement.

It’s an undeniably lengthy process, however, and I’m seduced by the recipe in The Silver Spoon, which simmers its minced beef sauce for just 30 minutes before assembling the lasagne. Despite similar ingredients, I’m disappointed by the results – in the grand scheme of things, this is a decent dish, but the robustly savoury slow-cooked version is a hard act to follow.

Angela Hartnett compromises on a two-hour simmer for her sauce, but with the important distinction of using finely diced chuck or rump steak instead of minced beef – more Italian, apparently. Trimming and chopping 750g of chuck doesn’t immediately endear me to her recipe, but I’m surprised at how much we all enjoy the finished dish – I found steak too chewy with spaghetti, but it seems to work much better with the softer, oven-baked pasta and the creamy béchamel sauce, making the whole thing meatier and more robust. I’d prefer a little more liquid though: although well-flavoured, without the tomatoes and wine of the other recipes it’s drier than surely even Locatelli could intend. Tasty, but not quite perfect. Not yet.

Gennaro Contaldo recipe gran lasagneGennaro Contaldo recipe gran lasagne. Photograph: Felicity Cloake

Gennaro Contaldo has an even more unusual take – a Gran Lasagne, which is a traditional pre-Lenten dish in Naples, rather like our own pancakes, except much, much fancier. Instead of a meaty ragù, it uses walnut-sized meatballs of beef and pork (yes, more meatballs), fried until golden, and then added to a simple tomato and onion sauce. The lasagne looks impressive, with its topping of grilled meatballs and vivid yellow egg yolks (of which more later) but as soon as I cut into my lumpy slab, the meatballs fall out. Not ideal.

I decide to opt for Angela’s chopped steak, slow-cooked with a couple of chicken livers for richness. Simon Hopkinson and Lindsay Bareham use 200g of livers to 500g minced beef in the Prawn Cocktail Years recipe, but I find the flavour a bit overpowering: 50g gives the sauce a more subtle richness.

Pasta

Prawn Cocktail Years recipe lasagnePrawn Cocktail Years recipe lasagne. Photograph: Felicity Cloake

Locatelli specifies fresh egg pasta, rolled very thinly and blanched before baking – I make a batch, and lovingly send it twice through my pasta roller’s thinnest setting (hey, I’m no nonna), but I can’t see that it’s worth the effort: after 40 minutes in the oven, it’s too soft for my taste. Even worse, the Prawn Cocktail Years version, cooked until tender before baking, almost melts in the mouth.

Angela Hartnett uses blanched dried pasta, which is both much quicker to prepare, and far more robust: even after baking, it holds its shape beautifully. You can get away without pre-cooking, but you’ll end up with a crisper, drier result, as the pasta will soak up much of the sauce as it cooks.

I prefer to use dried egg pasta, as in Simon and Lindsey’s recipe, rather than the flour and water variety, because the richer flavour is more of a match for the ragù and béchamel – as the dish’s most important ingredient it would be a shame to let the pasta fade into the background.

Other elements

I’m surprised to learn that béchamel sauce is not a tradition that has been honoured in the Italian-American community – in fact, I found one poster on an American food forum lamenting that their husband “loves lasagna. Unfortunately I don’t like ricotta. It’s a texture thing. Would love to see if someone has a really good recipe that would satisfy both our taste buds.”

Lidia Bastianich recipe lasagneLidia Bastianich recipe lasagne. Photograph: Felicity Cloake

This intrigues me – I’ve never thought of putting anything other than parmesan into a beef lasagne before (well, OK, my sister’s mother-in-law makes a fabulous lasagne topped with lots of lovely Scottish cheddar, but apart from that), so I do some research on Italian-American lasagne, and one name keeps recurring: Lidia Bastianich, a chef born in Istria, who emigrated to the States in the late 1950s.

Her recipe calls for layers of meat sauce, a ricotta and egg mixture, pasta and sliced mozzarella – it’s incredibly rich, and quite a different dish to the simple flavours of the Angela Hartnett recipe. Even the tester who claims that a lasagne can “never have too much cheese” is put off by the grainy texture of the ricotta.

Gennaro Contaldo also uses layers of ricotta, mozzarella and egg, although in the case of his lasagne di carnevale, the last is in hard-boiled form, which makes things even weirder – and distinctly more rubbery. Unless you need to use up a few eggs, I’d advise confining them to the pasta here.

In keeping with the generous amount of chicken liver in their recipe, Simon Hopkinson and Lindsay Bareham suggest a rich take on the classic béchamel, infusing the milk with onion and cloves, in the manner of a bread sauce, and then thinning the result with double cream. As well as sacrificing the velvety texture of the original, it makes the dish a bit sickly for my taste – I like the blandness of the sauce as a foil to the intense savouriness of the ragù. The Silver Spoon’s chopped butter between the layers, meanwhile just makes the dish a bit greasy.

Silver Spoon recipe lasagneSilver Spoon recipe lasagne. Photograph: Felicity Cloake

I don’t like the simple tomato and onion sauce in Gennaro’s southern meatball lasagne – a meaty bolognese ragù packs a lot more punch. Locatelli’s red wine seems to work better with Angela’s chopped steak than my original white, although I’m keeping the nutmeg and the tomatoes. I also like his idea of a cheese-free white sauce, but instead of confining the grated parmesan to the top of the lasagne, where it will toast to a golden brown, I’m stealing an idea from the Silver Spoon, and adding it in layers in the dish itself.

Perfect lasagne alla bolognese

Felicity's perfect lasagneFelicity’s perfect lasagne. Photograph: Felicity Cloake

As with so many classic Italian dishes, lasagne alla bolognese should be kept simple – a robustly savoury meat sauce, creamy bèchamel, and just a hint of cheese, all deferring to the real star of the show, the pasta. It may take a little more time to make than you’re used to, but I promise you, it’s worth it.

Serves 6

2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to cook the pasta
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 stick of celery, finely chopped
500g chuck steak, cut into small dice
50g chicken livers, trimmed and finely chopped
100ml red wine
400ml passata
Grated nutmeg
50g butter
50g plain flour
600ml whole milk
About 9 sheets dried egg lasagne (depending on the size of the sheets and your dish – you’ll need 3 layers of pasta)
100g grated parmesan

1. Heat the oil in a large, heavy-based frying pan and gently fry the onion until softened. Add the carrot and continue to cook for 5 minutes, then add the celery and cook for another 2 minutes. Turn up the heat, add the chopped beef and cook until browned all over, then stir in the chopped livers and cook for 3 minutes.

2. Pour in the wine and passata, season with salt, pepper and a pinch of grated nutmeg, then bring to a simmer. Cover partially, turn the heat down, and leave to simmer gently for 2 hours. Uncover, and simmer for another 30 minutes, or until the sauce is well flavoured and almost dry.

3. Pre-heat the oven to 200C. To make the béchamel, melt the butter in a medium pan, and then whisk in the flour. Cook for a couple of minutes, stirring, then gradually whisk in the milk, and bring to the boil, still stirring. Season and simmer for about 5 minutes until thickened.

4. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and add a couple of drops of olive oil. Blanch the pasta, in batches to stop it clumping together, for 1 minute, then drain, separate and leave to dry on a tea towel or greased plate or board.

5. To assemble the lasagne, take a deep, wide dish and coat the bottom with a third of the meat sauce, topped with a quarter of the béchamel, and a sprinkling of parmesan, and finally a layer of blanched pasta. Repeat two more layers, and then top the last layer of pasta with the rest of the béchamel, and the remaining parmesan. Grate a little nutmeg over the top, and cook for 40 minutes, until golden and bubbling.

6. Allow to rest for at least 20 minutes before serving – lasagne is better warm than hot, and even better the next day.

Perfect Spaghetti Bolognaise plus links

November 29, 2010

To write on spag bol is to wade into a mire of controversy thicker and darker than any ragu that ever came out of nonna’s kitchen. People feel very strongly indeed about what is, basically, a meat sauce of no more particular merit than, say, a shepherd’s pie, or a chilli, to the extent that, earlier this year, a group of Italian chefs organised a worldwide day of action to promote the “authentic” recipe, as laid down by the Academia Italiana della Cucina back in 1982.

The event was billed as a protest against the “improbable concoctions” served under the name around the globe, with a spokesman decrying the “remarkable variety of ingredients” that defiled his beloved bolognese – including cream. That’s cream, as used by the well-respected Italian cookery teacher and writer Ursula Ferrigno, and the rather less Italian, but pretty reliable Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

The fact is that there is no definitive recipe for a bolognese meat sauce, but to be worthy of the name, it should respect the traditions of the area. There’s nothing wrong with a tomato-based beef ragu, rich with garlic and olive oil, except that it’s not what, traditionally at least, they’d eat in Emilia Romagna, which is dairy country. As for serving such a hearty meat sauce with delicate spaghetti – well, that is wrong. But it still tastes pretty good.

Mince

The classic Italian cookery bible, The Silver Spoon, gives a ragu alla bolognese in its most basic form: minced steak, onion, celery, carrot and tomato purée, cooked for an hour and a half with a little water to keep it moist. The end result is tasty enough, but doesn’t deliver the richness of flavour I’d expect from a real Italian meat sauce, as opposed to something from a British school canteen. The recipe hints it can be adapted for use with “mixed meats”, so I go on the hunt for something a little more interesting.

Offally good or extra porky?

Elizabeth David bologneseElizabeth David bolognese. Photograph: Felicity Cloake

Elizabeth David’s recipe, which she begged from one “Zia Nerina, a splendid woman, titanic of proportion but angelic of face and manner, who in the 1950s owned and ran the Trattoria Nerina in Bologna”, features minced beef, chicken livers and chopped bacon or uncooked ham, in addition to the usual vegetables, plus white wine, stock, tomato purée and nutmeg. The liver gives the sauce more depth, although it’s slightly overpowering in this quantity, and I like the slight salty smokiness that the bacon imparts, although I suspect that Zia Nerina would have used cured ham instead. Much better.

Ursula Ferrigno also uses bacon, in the form of pancetta, but, interestingly, the minced meat in her recipe is half beef, half pork. Too porky, according to my flatmate: “you can hardly taste the beef at all”.

‘ey up chuck?

Marcella Hazan bologneseMarcella Hazan bolognese. Photograph: Felicity Cloake

Marcella Hazan, the queen of Italian home cookery across the pond, calls for “ground beef chuck” in her bolognese recipe. Having far preferred the texture of hand-minced meat in my shepherd’s pie, I decide to experiment with this one too; the sauce cooks for over three hours, which should be more than enough time for the slightly larger chunks of meat to soften nicely. It doesn’t work as well here though; the very chewiness which worked so well with the soft mash is all wrong with pasta, so it’s back, with some relief, to the ready-minced stuff.

Dairy?

The other key area of debate is the addition of dairy products, which feature heavily in the cuisine of the area, and, according to Marcella Hazan, whose recipe simmers the milk away to nothing before adding the wine, help to protect the meat against the acidic “bite” of the alcohol. Although the flavour is barely detectable in the finished sauce, some three hours later, the milk does add a definite sweetness which works well with the bright, fresh flavour of the white wine it accompanies. I also experiment with adding a generous dollop of double cream at the end of cooking, as Ursula Ferrigno does, but this seems to make it into quite another sauce altogether; delicious (when is cream ever not?) but overpoweringly rich, rather than meaty.

Red or white?

Georgio Locatelli bologneseGeorgio Locatelli bolognese. Photograph: Felicity Cloake

With the exception of the Silver Spoon, all of the recipes I try use wine – but Giorgio Locatelli is the only chef to call for red, the colour I’d generally associate with meaty ragus. His recipe is also the most tomatoey, demanding a litre of passata, and a tablespoon of purée, as well as a whole bottle of red, for 2kg minced beef. It definitely looks the part: much darker than the other recipes, and far richer and more savoury in flavour, it’s far more what I would expect a bolognese to be, yet, with old Giorgio hailing from Lombardy, some 300 miles from Bologna, I’m beginning to doubt his expertise on this particular subject, however delicious his sauce.

Slow cooked?

Heston Blumenthal bologneseHeston Blumenthal bolognese. Photograph: Felicity Cloake

Hazan’s recipe calls for the sauce to cooked for “3 hours, or more”. More, according to those discussing it online, is better, as generally seems to be the way with things you might just fancy for a weeknight supper. Heston Blumenthal, of course, takes this to a whole new level, by adapting her recipe so it cooks in a very low oven (110C) for “at least six hours”. (The oven is apparently more reliable and easier than the hob.) He also adds a “totally unconventional ingredient” in the form of star anise, which apparently enhances the flavour of the meat, without being discernible in the finished dish. Despite rendering me housebound for the best part of a day, I have to admit the results are incredible; tender, rich, and meaty, without any red wine or beef stock, it’s almost worth staying in for. I can definitely taste the star anise though.

There is no such thing as an “authentic” ragu alla bolognese, but to stay true to the spirit of the dish, white wine, meat and milk, rather than tomatoes or Chianti, should be the key flavours. Cook long and slow, freeze any extra for weeknight suppers, and serve with anything but spaghetti.

The perfect bolognese

Perfect bolognesePerfect bolognese. Photograph: Felicity Cloake

Serves 4

Generous knob of butter
100g smoked streaky bacon, finely diced
1 onion, finely diced
1 carrot, finely diced
2 sticks celery, finely diced
250g coarsely minced beef, at room temperature
40g chicken liver, finely chopped
150ml whole milk
Nutmeg, to grate
150ml dry white wine
400ml tin plum tomatoes

1. Melt the butter in a large flameproof casserole set over a gentle heat, and then add the bacon. Once the bacon fat has started to melt, add the onion, and cook gently until softened, then tip in the carrot, and cook for 5 minutes before adding the celery and cooking for a further 2 minutes.

2. Crumble the beef into the pan and brown, stirring occasionally to break up any lumps. Season, then stir in the liver, and let it cook for another 5 minutes.

3. Pre-heat the oven to 125C. Pour in the milk, and grate a little nutmeg over the top. Simmer gently until almost all the milk has evaporated, which should take about half an hour.

4. Pour in the wine and the tomatoes and stir well. Put the casserole into the oven, with the lid slightly ajar, and cook for at least 3 hours (4 is even better) until the meat is very tender. Check on it occasionally, and top up with a little water if it seems too dry, although this probably won’t be necessary. Serve with pasta or gnocchi, and grated Parmesan or pecorino cheese.