Calves liver with onion gravy and bacon

Liver is one of those real Marmite ingredients. You either love it or hate it but it’s always been a favourite of mine, even as a child. Perhaps this meltingly tender calves liver dish served with beer and onion gravy, buttery mash and crisp bacon will make it your favourite too! 

liver and bacon

Serves 2

  • Calves liver slices, not too thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • Butter, rapeseed oil
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1/2 bottle dark ale
  • Rich beef gel stockpot
  • 1 tbsp sherry vinegar
  • 1 tbsp fresh sage, finely chopped
  • Optional: streaky bacon
  • Salt and pepper
  • Mash: Potatoes, cream and butter

To make…

  • First, make the onion gravy. Sauté the sliced onions in a tablespoon of oil until soft and caramelised. Add a tbsp of flour, cook out for a couple of minutes. Stir in the beer and the stockpot. Allow to thicken and cook through on a low heat, season with salt and black pepper. Keep warm until you need to use it. 
  • Next prep the mash. Peel and quarter a couple of large potatoes and simmer in salted water for about 10 minutes until cooked. Drain, air dry and then mash with plenty of butter, a dash of cream and season with salt and pepper. You can use a ricer to get a very smooth mash or mash with a normal masher and whip the fats in with a fork so it’s lovely and creamy. Set aside. 
  • Now for the liver. It only takes a few minutes to cook so it’s important that the mash and gravy are cooked and ready to go and that you have your serving plates warmed.
  • Coat the liver slices in flour. Heat the pan, add the oil, cook the bacon until crisp. Set aside. Add a little more oil if necessary and cook the liver. It will only take a couple of minutes a side to get a good brown colour. Don’t be tempted to overlook it or it will be tough – it should stay soft and be pink inside. Add the butter and sage, nap the liver i.e. quickly spoon the melted butter over the liver, add the sherry vinegar to deglaze the pan. Set aside to rest for a couple of minutes.
  • Plate the liver with the pan juices, the bacon and mash and serve with the onion gravy. 

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Sausage meat pasta sauce with fennel and spinach

I buy pork sausage meat in 500g tubes from my butcher and always keep at least one handy in the freezer as it’s so versatile. I make my famous Pigeon Cottage party sausage rolls with it, use it as a base for all kinds of stuffings and it also provides the foundation for this delicious pasta sauce. The creamy sauce flavoured with fennel seeds, chilli, lemon zest, white wine and mustard is quite rich so folding in a generous amount of wilted spinach at the end balances the dish perfectly. Wild garlic leaves are in season at the moment and they would probably work quite well too. You can use whatever pasta you have to hand obviously but I find the short, frilly edged Malfada Corta from the Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference range is just perfect. It freezes well so I make enough for four, freeze half and cook the pasta and spinach fresh as and when I need it. If you have all your ingredients to hand, you can have this on the table in half an hour quite easily. 

sausage meat pasta

Serves 4

  • 500g pork sausage meat
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp of garlic, crushed to a paste
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 250g bag of fresh spinach
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds, lightly crushed
  • Zest of a lemon
  • Black pepper and salt
  • 4 tbsp double cream
  • 50ml white wine
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 pinch chilli flakes
  • To finish – grated Parmesan, extra-virgin olive oil
  • Pasta of your choice, about 50g per person

To make…

  • Heat the oil in pan and gently sauté the shallot until soft and golden. 
  • Add the fennel seeds and the pork sausage meat. Break it up with the back of a spoon as it cooks through for 5 or 6 minutes so there are no large lumps. Add the wine and stir for a couple of minutes whilst it reduces. 
  • Stir in the chilli flakes, garlic, lemon zest, mustard, cream and season with a little salt and plenty of ground black pepper. Keep it cooking on a low heat until the pasta is ready.
  • Cook the pasta in plenty of salted, boiling water according to the instructions on the packet. Usually about ten minutes. 
  • To prepare the spinach, wash it in plenty of cold water and then pile it into a colander or a large sieve and place it to drain over a bowl. Discard any cold water that drips through. To wilt it, boil a full kettle of water and pour it over the spinach. Put the colander in the sink and pour over the boiled water in the bowl. Two soakings should be enough. Once it cools a little, take the spinach out of the colander and squeeze it lightly into a rough ball with your hands. Place it onto a chopping board and chop it coarsely.
  • Drain the pasta once it’s ready, add the pasta and the chopped wilted spinach to the sauce and stir throughly. Allow it to warm through for a few minutes before adding to warmed pasta bowls – the sauce and the spinach should coat the pasta and not be runny.
  • To serve, drizzle with a dash of extra-virgin olive oil and grated Parmesan. 

Share, follow, like, enjoy!

  • To get the latest #TheFridayRecipe from the Pigeon Cottage Kitchen blog, just add your email address to the subscribe box at the top right-hand column of the website. 
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Baked stuffed cabbage leaves

I wasn’t a big fan of cabbage when I was young because it was almost always overcooked and tasteless. Now, I’d say it’s one of my favourite vegetables and I love finding new ways to cook it, like this recipe for stuffed and baked Savoy cabbage leaves; it’s also less carbs and calories than using pasta shells or lasagne sheets. If you have  ‘Money in the bank’ tomato sauce in the freezer and leftover risotto, roast vegetables, ricotta or roast meat like beef or lamb, you can make up your own stuffings and whip this up really quickly. If you don’t, this is how to make my version from scratch stuffed with spiced brown rice and minced lamb, topped with smooth tomato sauce and feta cheese. 

Baked stuffed cabbage

Serves 4

  • Savoy cabbage – peel eight of the largest ones away so they remain intact. Finely chop a quarter of the cabbage heart for the stuffing. 
  • 100g cooked brown rice (or leftover risotto)
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 400g minced beef or lamb (you could also use chopped leftover roast ham, beef or lamb)
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 50ml white wine
  • 2 tbsps olive oil
  • 50g feta or Mozzarella cheese
  • Sauce: I onion, I carrot, I stick of celery, 1 clove of garlic – chopped. 350g Passata, 1 tbsp red wine vinegar

To make…

  • To make the sauce, gently sauté the onion, celery, carrot and garlic in a tablespoon of the oil for 8 minutes until softened. Add the Passata, red wine vinegar, a tsp of salt and a pinch of sugar. Simmer for 20 minutes and then blitz with a hand blender until smooth. Set aside. 
  • Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil and place the cabbage leaves in the water, stalk ends up. Bring the water back to the boil and simmer for about 5 minutes; then remove the leaves, refresh with cold water and drain on kitchen paper. 
  • To make the stuffing, heat the oil and butter together and fry the chopped shallot with the garlic gently until soft and golden. Add the minced lamb and brown it, turning the heat up a bit. Mix in the chopped cabbage, cooked rice, oregano, paprika, chilli flakes, and white wine, seasoning well. Cook through for a few minutes – it should be quite sticky once any excess moisture cooks out. Remove the pan and let the mixture cool slightly. Now make a V-shaped cut to remove the thickest part of the stalk from the base of each leaf, place about a tablespoon of stuffing in the centre of each leaf, fold in the sides and roll the leaf up tightly.
  • Add a little of the tomato sauce to the base of a baking dish, then pack the rolled leaves closely together in a casserole and pour the remaining tomato sauce over; cover and cook in the oven for 11/2-2 hours at 170°C. 
  • Drizzle a little extra-virgin oil and some crumbled feta over the top before serving.

Share, follow, like, enjoy!

  • To get the latest #TheFridayRecipe from the Pigeon Cottage Kitchen blog, just add your email address to the subscribe box at the top right-hand column of the website. 
  • Follow me on Twitter @pigeoncottage,  on Instagram at Pigeon Cottage Kitchen, and the Pigeon Cottage Kitchen page on Facebook.
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