I’d spent Saturday evening finishing off my bookkeeping. Several columns balanced first time! I didn’t use any Tippex! So I was delighted when a friend rang, as I was putting it all away, suggesting an impromptu barbecue on Sunday given the weather was so unAprilish. By Sunday morning, showers had soaked his neck of the woods so the barbecue was off; my day was free. Great; I could catch up on the heaps of paperwork that have taken over my flat and get ahead for Monday.
If, like me, you offer crisis management (or another round the clock seryice) to your clients you expect to be called at any hour on any day. So, when a client texted me at about noon on Sunday, apologising for interrupting my weekend but wondering if I could talk, of course I was available.
We met and that, apart from an hour and a half’s break when we both dashed back to our respective homes for a breather, was the end of the heap-tackling, pre-Monday sorting fantasy.
While my weekend lacked contrast with my week, today’s lunch was full of it: the richness of the liver against the sharpness of the lime; sweet with chilli; soft and velvety versus crisp and crunchy; dark with light; deep brown, white, green and red; the intoxicating scent of gentle frying and the heady zing of citrus as I cut into the lime; hot and cold; maximum value from minimum spend. Flavours, textures, colours, smells, temperatures – for something so simple, it delivered the lot. It would have worked well at a barbecue …
Dark and light (Chicken liver with fennel and chilli salad)
200g chicken liver
Roasted garlic (optional)
Bulb of fennel
Half a red chilli
Half a lime
- Deseed and finely chop the chilli.
- Trim the top of the fennel, saving the bright green fronds. Strip off any coarse outer leaves of the fennel – or peel away the stringy bits using a vegetable peeler. Cut it into quarters and remove the triangles of hard core. Slice each quarter thinly. Today’s fennel at A&G was small and young so nothing needed to be stripped or peeled and the central core was sweet and tender so I left it in.
- Toss the fennel slithers in a slug of olive oil, add lime juice to taste (you want to coat the fennel, not drown it, and the lime should bring out the aniseed flavour, not overwhelm it). Add the chilli (if you prefer just a hint of heat, use less).
- Trim fat and skin from the liver; separate the lobes so you halve each liver. Gently fry it in the olive oil for six or so minutes, turning it from time to time so it browns all over, until it is still a little pink inside. Toss in the sticky garlic, leaving it long enough to warm up before serving.
- Decorate the salad with the bright green fronds, cutting them off the stems if they are delicate, chopping them if they are bushy. Lightly sprinkle Himalayan salt on the liver (unless you are watching you salt intake).
This chilli salad crops up a lot on my plates. It seems to go with so many things – a fishy fish, sweet cold lamb, a dry hard cheese … I’m salivating already.
I usually deglaze the pan after removing the liver, sometimes using it as a dressing if I’m serving it with lamb’s lettuce – another good contrast, the sweet softness of the leaves complementing the richness of the liver. Today I didn’t use the juices – it wouldn’t have worked with the fennel and lime – so the garlicky slick is waiting for me tomorrow … ready in case a crisis occurs.