Really fancied Nandos – so improvised!
Ok, confession time. I cook chicken livers quite regularly; stroganoff, peri-peri etc. as I know they are nutritious and cheap, but I don’t love them. It’s more of a “chew slowly and think of England” situation. I don’t find them icky but they’re such a rich flavour and texture that after a few bits I find it a bit much; which isn’t good when they’re a main course dish.
All that changed with a delicious starter I had last week at a chic lunch-spot in Jo’burg – Chicken liver Bunny Chow 🙂
I didn’t think to take a photo at the restaurant (too busy scoffing) so this is an interpretation of what I remember – a great success, if I do say so myself!
I was asked for the bourguignon recipe I mentioned last week, so here it is! I use ox cheek instead of shin beef, and only a large glass-worth of wine so you can use something semi-decent. To keep the cost down I’ve used onion instead of shallots and stock cube stock instead of shop brought fresh stock, and omitted the mushrooms because I don’t like them included 🙂
Serves 4, very generously (Could even say 4 adults and 2 munchkins, with plenty of veg on the side)
- 1 tblsp duck fat, or fat of choice
- 90g Smoked bacon lardons
- 1kg Ox cheek, trimmed but left whole
- 1 x Onion, diced
- 2 x Carrot, cut lengthways then cut into 3 chunks
- 2 x celery stick, cut into 3
- 1tsp dried Thyme
- 2 cloves garlic, smashed
- 1 tblsp Tomato puree concentrate
- 250ml Red Wine (tradition says Burgundy/ Pinot Noir, but anything medium-bodied that you can actually drink will be fine)
- 200ml Beef stock (if using Oxo, use half a cube dissolved in 200ml boiling water)
- 2 x Bay leaf
Preheat oven @ 150°C (130°F, Gas Mark 2)
Heat the duck fat in a large, lidded casserole and fry the bacon lardons until starting to crisp and the lovely bacon-fat has rendered. Remove from the pot with a slotted spoon and set aside – I find the upturned casserole lid handy here. Saves on washing up 🙂
Season the ox cheeks well with S+P, and fry for about 5 mins on each side. We’re looking for a nice, dark brown crust so you may need to do these one at a time to prevent overcrowding, dependant on the size of your pot. Remove from pan and set aside with the lardons.
Add the onion, carrots, garlic and celery to the pot with the dried thyme and stir well to coat in the oil.
Sauté for a few minutes until the onions are translucent and the raw garlic smell has subsided. Stir in the tomato puree and allow it to cook out. Turn up the heat and add the red wine, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon or silicon spatula to deglaze the sucs. Allow the alcohol to burn off. Hint: when you sniff the pan it won’t singe your eyebrows 😉
Now return the meats to the pot, tucking a couple of bay leaves in with the ox cheeks. It may look a bit snug to start with but it will shrink a little during cooking. Carefully pour over the beef stock. You don’t need to cover the meat in water; this is braising, not stewing.
Apply the lid and put on the bottom shelf of the oven. Set timer for 2½ hrs (150 minutes). After about an hour take off the lid and turn the meat over in the braising liquid.
After 2½ hours the meat should be tender and the sauce thickened slightly. If you’re makng this ahead, now would be a good time to let it cool before portioning into suitable containers and freezing. This would also keep in the fridge for a couple of days. As with all such dishes, it tastes best reheated the next day.
Remove the lid and put the casserole on the hob. Bring to the boil then turn down to a simmer, uncovered, for 15-20mins. If you are reheating this after freezing and thawing, please ensure it’s fully heated through before serving. When you come to serve, break the meat into large chunks using a wooden spoon or spatula. A sprinkling of chopped, fresh parsley would be pretty but not essential.
Leftovers: I took half of the meat out (avoiding the veggies) after braising in the oven and still just firm enough to hold together, and froze with a few ladles of the sauce to serve another day as a chilli. However, as the meat is
über-tender after being reduced in the pot for 15-20mins, it would lend itself well to being stirred enthusiastically and turned into a ragu (meat sauce).
Keeping up with this week’s plan, last night’s dinner was chicken livers.
Sadly no piccies during prep as my camera conked out so only managed a phone pic of the finished dish – probably for the best.
Have to say that this was one of the tastiest chicken liver dishes I’ve had, with punchy spices and paprika (but no chilli), but it’s no Nandos Piri Piri 🙂
We like a challenge. Ox cheek (or beef cheek) was hard to get hold of in the UK for a while following the post-BSE/ CJD legislation, but the lovely folk at Waitrose have it all trimmed and ready to go!
I took a traditional Boeuf Bourguignon recipe and swapped in whole pieces of ox cheek, in place of the usual braising steak, and braised in a low oven for 3 hours. I’m not going to lie – it’s a an ugly, brute of a piece of meat. Using tongs helped a lot 🙂
2 large pieces, which were just under 1kg altogether, only just fitted in my 4.2 litre Le Creuset pot. After the first hour I took the casserole out of the oven and turned the meat over in the braising liquid. They had shrunk a little by then, which made the job easier. After 2½ hours both pieces were very tender and the sauce thickened a bit, but I turned the meat over again and popped it back in for a final half hour while I dealt with the veggies.
The mashed root veg was already prepped in the freezer, so reheated with butter in a sauté pan. Had a huge bag of kale to get through, so steamed a few handfuls of that too.
Served chunks of fork-tender ox cheek with the chunky braising veggies, buttered mash and bright green kale. Perfect Sunday lunch 🙂
I’ve never had a problem with eating offal in restaurants. Nothing too risqué, but calves liver with bacon or spicy chicken livers would be my first choice if I spotted them on the menu. I’ve enjoyed many a Rognons au madère at French bistros too, so not put off by strong flavours and challenging textures.
When it comes to cooking it at home I’ve not been quite so intrepid. I know how to deal with it and I don’t find it too oogey but it’s such a rich flavour that I have to be in the mood for it and, if I don’t fancy it within a day or two of buying or defrosting, there’s likely to be waste. Not good.
As I’ve been playing it a bit safe with my weekly menus lately, I’ve decided to make a concerted effort to include more of these ‘exotic’ cuts. Added bonus is they’re packed with iron, vitamin A* and vitamin D so will go nicely with the other, nutrient-dense ingredients I’m planning to use next week. Watch this space…….
DISCLAIMER: Vitamin A/ retinol toxicity. There are potential health risks associated with high doses (over 1,500 µgrams) of retinol. We do not use vitamin supplements or take cod liver oil but, if you do, please check guidelines before increasing consumption of liver and liver products to more than once a week.
I love carnitas. Nothing better than tacos or quesadillas with braised, shredded luscious pork…. drool.
As tacos are off my menu I prefer to take my carnitas on salad (á la Chipotle) or wrapped in gem lettuce leaves, topped with all the usual fajita trimmings. I also have a bit of a weakness for transforming gnarley looking, tough cuts of meat into to something delicious – as with my lamb curry. Enter – Pig Cheeks.
Like many offal cuts it benefits from slow cooking as the collagen breaks down to leave über-tender meat, but there’s no gaminess, weird texture or smell, and no “acquired taste” required. The finished texture after braising is similar to stewed shin of beef, and the flavour more rich than with pork shoulder cuts. Are you sold yet? If not, the final gem is that it only costs about £7/ kg (from Waitrose, all trimmed, zero extra effort required) and a half dozen cheeks (about 500g) will easily produce enough for 4 people so no need to spend all day cooking a cook a whole pig. DISCLAIMER: unless of course, you want to. In which case please invite me over 🙂
Back to the carnitas. This recipe doesn’t come out very spicy but it can easily be garnished with chillies or hot salsa if it takes your fancy. Always easier to add than to remove…..
Take a large, cast-iron pot and heat a couple of tablespoons of fat. Lard is traditional. Olive oil works fine. Season your 6 pigs cheeks with S+P and brown them in batches over a medium heat, setting aside to catch any resting juices. When the cheeks have all been browned (ooer… ) throw 100g cooking chorizo, chopped, into the pot and allow it to render its spicy paprika oil. When nicely browned, remove from the pot with a slotted spoon and set aside with the cheeks. Now, sauté 1 onion and 1 fennel bulb (both finely sliced) in the paprika infused oil until softened and translucent before adding 2 cloves garlic (minced). Take care not to burn the garlic at this stage. When the raw garlic smell has gone, pour in 200ml cold water to deglaze the bottom of the pot. Then stir in 1 tsp hot, smoked paprika, 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves (or ½ tsp dried thyme) 1 tsp ground cumin and half a cinnamon stick. Return the pigs cheek and chorizo to the pot, along with any resting juices, and combine well. Add enough cold water to cover the meat (approx. 400ml but will depend on size of pot) and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer for 2 hours.
When the time is up, turn off the heat. I like to take this opportunity to pop to the pub for a bit, but you could just crack on with dinner. Your choice. Remove the lid. It may look like meat stew with too much liquid. Be brave. Now stir enthusiastically for a few minutes until the pork breaks down, and you’ll see it soon transforms. If the finished mix is still too wet, just simmer with the lid off for a few minutes. I normally freeze half to two-thirds of the batch and prefer it to have a little extra liquid so when it’s been thawed and reheated I can let it simmer down without drying out.
Serve on lettuce cups with an assortment of guacamole, salsa, soured cream and grated cheese to garnish.