Tuesday 30 May 2017

Recipe Tuesday: Middle-Eastern Chicken Livers

This past weekend, was one of those which you look forward to for weeks, involving lots of planning when you think everything is coming together really well and then it all falls apart spectacularly.  Saturday was the FA Cup Final, Chelsea vs Arsenal. Being season ticket holders at Chelsea, DH and I managed to secure tickets so went to Wembley.  We lost.  The final score of 2:1 to Arsenal does not do justice to how terrible Chelsea played.  Without some miracle defending in the first half, the score would have been 5:1.

Sunday, the RPG I play in nearly got derailed by a certain participant's sense of humour.  One of our party is schizophrenic.  This person thought it would be funny to wind him up.  It isn't.  It is nasty.  And the GM let him know in no uncertain terms that such behaviour was not tolerable.  But it led us down a rabbit hole, we'd rather have avoided.

Yesterday, was a quiet, pottering around sort of day.  Monday was a bank holiday in the UK, so we slept in and watched far too much pre-recorded TV.   Any hope of attacking the lawn - in desperate need of a mow - or planting out the courgettes was derailed by rain.   Then along came dinner.  Recipe below.  I'd reached the final stage, where you stir in the yoghurt, when I opened the tub that had been lurking in the fridge for a few weeks and realised it was furry.  Definitely growing some sort of white fungi or bacteria.   Help!

DH came to the rescue, popping to the shops at the end of the street, while I switched everything off and stirred like mad to prevent the chicken livers over-cooking while we waited.  

Years ago, I wrote a blog post about chicken livers and I was quite surprised to discover that I hadn't included this recipe in it.  This is the first, non-pate chicken liver dish that I learned to cook.  It originally came from one of those week-by-week compendiums, collect all the parts and build yourself an amazing recipe collection, etc...  (You know the type.).  This is my version:

Middle-Eastern Chicken Livers

Serves 4


2 tablespoons oil/schmaltz 
350g-500g Chicken Livers
1 large onion chopped
150g mushrooms, sliced
1 large clove garlic, crushed
2 peppers/capsicum sliced (green or red are best for colour contrast)
2 carrots, sliced
1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
400ml plain yoghurt
A tablespoon of chopped coriander 

1 teaspoon curry powder (see note below)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground paprika
1 teaspoon flour (plain, self-raising or cornflour will do)

1.5 cups Basmati rice
3 cups boiling water

  1. Put the kettle on to boil for your rice.  Meanwhile, prep all your veg.  When the kettle has boiled, measure your rice into a saucepan with a tight fitting lid, add twice as much volume of boiling water, cover and boil for 2 minutes.  Switch off and leave undisturbed for 15 minutes.
  2. Combine the spices in a small ramekin dish.  Stir in a tablespoon or two of water to form a thick paste.
  3. Heat the cooking fat in a deep frying pan.  Fry the onion until it is soft and clear.
  4. Add the mushrooms.   Fry, stirring occasionally, until the mushroom water is almost evaporated then add the garlic and the peppers, stirring occasionally until the peppers have softened.
  5. Decant the veggies into a bowl.  Return the frying pan to the heat, add a little more oil if necessary.  Turn the heat down.  Spread the chicken livers over the hot surface.  Fry until browned on all sides and the livers are firm.  (Be gentle with the heat or they will toughen.)
  6. Return the veggies to the pan.  Add your spices and fry until the aroma rises.  Stir in the yoghurt, Worcestershire sauce and the carrots.  Bring to a gentle simmer and simmer for five minutes, stirring occasionally.  
  7. Scatter over the coriander and serve.  Enjoy


  • If you keep kosher, this works with soy-based non-dairy "yoghurt".
  • If you keep kosher and kosher your livers with flame before cooking with them, skip step 5.  Add your spices to the frying vegetables, then stir in the livers and proceed as per step 6 above.
  • I use home made curry powder, aka "Curry Powder Number 1".  In a small spice jar mix:  1 teaspoon of ground chilli, 2 teaspoons ground cumin, 2 teaspoons paprika, 1 teaspoon ground turmeric and the seeds from 6 green cardamom pods.  Put the lid on tight and shake vigorously to blend.  This is Curry Powder Number 1.

Tuesday 23 May 2017

Recipe Tuesday: Pilchard Madras

In case you've never come across the term before, "pilchard" is the Cornish name for a large sardine.  In Britain, while fresh sardines are sold as "sardines", "pilchards" are sold canned, usually in a tomato sauce but sometimes in brine.  Like regular cans of sardines - the small flat tins you can buy the world over -  the taste and smell is quite strongly fishy.  Despite this, they're a useful storecupboard item.  They're sold in 14oz/400g tins, currently for £1.09 each.   One can should feed four.

I like to cook them in a Madras curry, which mitigates the fishy flavour.  The original was made in a moment of pure inspiration, several years ago, and now I make it once in the blue moon, when I haven't preplanned dinner and fancy a curry.  That was the case a couple of weeks ago, so I thought I'd share the recipe with you.

Like all my curries, it's a one pot meal, padded with veggies (in this case, the last of the carrots which were half dead in the fridge).  Just add rice (which I have done, below).  For instructions on cooking a "regular" meat Madras, see the notes below the recipe.

Pilchard Madras

Makes 4 generous portions.  Total cost, including rice, £2.41.

1 large onion, chopped (12p)
1-2 cloves of garlic, crushed (5p)
100g-200g  mushrooms, sliced. (35p)
(Or, instead of the above, use a portion of base)
1x400g tin Pilchards in tomato sauce. (£1.09) 
1x400g tin chopped tomatoes (25p)
Additional veg:  e.g. 2-3 large carrots sliced or 1-2 peppers/capsicum, cubed, or a cup of frozen mixed veg (whatever is available) (15p)
1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil (I use rapeseed). (3p)
2 tablespoons lemon or lime juice (from a bottle). (5p)

Spices 1 (20p)
1 teaspoon ground chilli (more if you like heat)
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground fenugreek
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 whole green cardamom

Spices 2  
1 desertspoon garam marsala
1 desertspoon chopped fenugreek leaves (optional)

1.5 cups basmati rice or white, long grain rice (12p)
3 cups Boiling water

  1. Combine spices 1 in a small ramekin dish.  Add a tablespoon or two of water to form a thick paste and set aside.  (This will help stop the spices burning.)
  2. Heat your oil in a deep saucepan or large, deep frying pan.  Fry the onion until soft and glassy, stirring occasionally.  Add the mushrooms and, when they have made water and most of their water has evaporated, add the crushed garlic.  Continue frying for 1-2 more minutes.
  3. Make sure you have your tins of tomatoes and pilchards open.  Stir Spice 1 into the onion mix and fry until the aroma rises. 
  4. Quickly add your tins of tomatoes and pilchards, breaking up the pilchards with your wooden spoon/spatula as they land in the pan.  Stir in well.
  5. Add your optional veggies.  Bring to the boil, stirring all the time, then turn down to a simmer.  Stir occasionally.
  6. At this point, put the kettle on to boil for the rice.  When the kettle has boiled, measure out your rice and pour it into a saucepan with a tight-fitting lid.  Cover the rice with twice the volume of boiling water.  Bring the saucepan back to the boil, cover with the lid and boil for 2 minutes.  Switch off the power and leave it to situndisturbed for 15 minutes, or until the rice is cooked and all the water is absorbed.
  7. Immediately after you have switched off the rice, stir Spices 2 into your curry.  Simmer until the rice is done, stir in the lemon or lime juice and  serve.

  • To cook a regular meat Madras, add a step between step 1 and step 1 above. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil/cooking fat and brown 1lb/500g of cubed beef/lamb/chicken/pork.  Remove the browned meat to a plate, then proceed with steps 2, 3 and 4, returning the meat to the pan at step 4.  In step 5, simmer the meat mixture for an hour or until it is cooked and can be cut with a fork, stirring occasionally and adding extra water if it gets too dry.  Once the meat is tender, proceed with the remainder of the recipe  
  • I buy my spices in 500g bags from the Asian section of the supermarket or from Asian shops like Wing Yip and store them in old Douwe Egberts coffee jars. This is the cheapest way to buy them. Given how long they last, etc, I reckon 20p is a fair assessment of the cost of all the spices listed.
  • When you are feeling flush, buy big bunches of fresh fenugreek and coriander.  Wash them, chop them and freeze them loosely packed into the largest ziplock bags you can find. (You want to be able to break up the herbs when frozen.).  When you need fresh herbs to finish off a curry, add a spoonful/lump or two straight from the freezer. 
  • All the prices above are based on the cheapest option from Tesco.  Yes, you can get tins of chopped tomatoes for 25p, but only when they're on a 4 for £1 offer, when I usually stock up.