What am I, chopped liver?

Salt-marsh lamb with samphire and lemony pots

This week I have mostly been indulging in two ingredients I don’t eat at home very often – pig’s liver and salt-marsh lamb. In fact, I am ashamed to say that even though I have eaten pig’s brains before (Lithuania 2010) I have never eaten a pig’s liver. Chicken and calf, yes: pig, no. So, why pig’s liver? Well, I was inspired by Simon Hopkinson, and his beautifully shot series, The Good Cook on BBC1.

   Last week Simon shared a really simple, but delicious-sounding, recipe for calf’s liver with sweet and sour onions. (As an aside can I please just insert my rage at every single menu that writes calves liver!) I didn’t have chance to go to Tetbury’s very good butchers (Jesse Smith) during the week, so instead I tried to get some calf’s liver from my very bad generic supermarket. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t have any, but it did have pig liver and for only 65p a packet. How could a girl resist?!

   Simon recommends slow cooking red onions in butter until they are soft, before removing from the pan, and then adding the sliced liver. Stir-fry the offal for only 30 seconds so that it is just sealed and pink in the middle. Return the onions to the pan, splash in a little crème de cassis and vinegar (he says sherry vinegar but I only had red wine vinegar), let it bubble for another 15 seconds until the mix thickens ever so slightly, and serve. It isn’t the prettiest of dishes (hence no illustration here) but the flavour is fabulous. Think deeply savoury, sweet, and sour – and you have that smug feeling that you only spent 65p on enough liver to feed the whole family. The pork liver wasn’t too strong in flavour, it had a lovely soft texture and was a real bargain to boot. All in all, offally good. That is surely what satisfying meals are made of.

   That was Friday night’s dinner, but what of this weekend? Well, this weekend was all about salt-marsh lamb. I’d travelled down to Swansea and Mumbles during the week for work and had made a little trip to Swansea’s famous indoor market. Not brave enough to try the laverbread – I am sorry, I have limits – I instead bought a joint of salt-marsh lamb from the lovely Hugh Phillips Gower Butcher and some samphire from the neighbouring fishmongers.

Here’s what I did with it:

Ingredients (serves two, generously):

Salt-marsh lamb (your favourite joint, we had leg)

2 handfuls of samphire

5 potatoes

2 lemons

½ pint of chicken stock

Olive oil

5 garlic cloves

Method:

1. Place your joint of meat and any bones that have been taken out by your friendly butcher in a cast-iron roasting pot with a drizzle of olive oil and your garlic cloves (still in their papery husks). Roast with a lid on for at least three hours at 170°C. After three hours, check the lamb and if it falls away at the bone, it’s ready. Take out of the oven and keep in the warm pot to rest until you are ready to serve, ideally for at least 30 minutes. (The bones are chef’s treat – I mustn’t be the only one who likes to gnaw on them – and are also great for stock).

2. Meanwhile, slice your potatoes thinly and layer with the zest and juice of one lemon, salt and pepper (to taste), and the chicken stock. Cover with foil, and an hour before you are ready to serve cook in the oven at 200°C. Five minutes before serving, take the foil off to let the top of the potatoes crisp up.

3. Wash the samphire and blanch in boiling water with the juiced lemon shell for thirty seconds, then drain. (Don’t salt the water; the samphire is salty enough on its own)

4. Combine the zest of the second lemon with olive oil and a little lemon juice (to taste) in a jam jar and shake (with the lid on, obviously). Use this to dress your samphire and for a final flourish at the end.

5. Plate up the potatoes, samphire and lamb, and drizzle with your lemon oil and serve. The lamb should be succulent and sticky with the melted fat, with that distinctive taste of the salt marshes it fed on. The samphire should taste of the sea and satisfyingly pop in the mouth. The potatoes should be almost fudgey in texture, with a lovely, fresh, lemony flavour. And there you have it, a taste of the Gower. Tidy.

   So, fellow foodies, this week I implore you to try something new. Whether it be a bargainous bit of liver, or a pricey (but well worth it) bit of seasonal salt-marsh lamb and samphire, go forth and cook. No, really, do.

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