This is my variation on an old Cape classic. In my family this pickly-type dish is often given as a gift in big Pyrex dishes. My childhood memories are scattered with images of my grandparents enjoying a microwaved helping in a small plate with nothing more than bread and butter. Back then I would marvel at their brave penchant for such seemingly exotic foods. Too, I’d wonder at the mysteries of Curried Vark Pens en Pootjies and the strange fair that would occur after a furtive slaughter in our backyard– home to Muscovy Ducks, Chickens and Geese.
Even with all my strange misgivings about eating afval (offal), I soon couldn’t help but fall in love with all the elusive flavours and textures they had to offer (my sheer size and voracious appetite played its part too, no doubt). Eating and enjoying everything from brains to heart to lung, earned me the reputation in my family as the child who truly ate everything.
And so here I am cooking for my sweetheart– for whom offal probably means foie gras or beef cheeks– a modest dish of the Kaapse proletariat.
And while I have no hangups of being traditional and true-to-flavour as possible, I do use the livers of pasture-reared ox, coconut oil for frying and pea flower for the light coating. The beauty of livers (and other organ meat) is that they are more nutrient rich-than most vegetables and muscle cuts, so it is important to get the best quality varieties. Commercial brands are likely to contain heavy-metals and a much lower nutrient content.
Today I will follow the recipe in Cape Malay Kitchen, because it is pretty much the same as how my grandmothers would do it. It’s a good book to have if you are interested Cape Malay cooking, and beautifully explains the herbs and spices which make this distinctive cuisine.
pasture-reared Ox Liver 500g
freshly ground black pepper 5ml
cake flour 150ml
Coconut oil 150ml
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 green chilli, chopped
Maple Syrup 15ml
Brown Vinegar or Red Wine Vinegar 30ml
Step 1 – Soak livers
Wash livers thoroughly under running water and cut into slices. Season with salt and pepper and soak (ideally over night) in milk, kefir or buttermilk.
Step 2 – coat livers
Coat livers in pea or chickpea flour. The original recipe uses wheat flour, which may be what you like.
Step 3 – Fry livers and onions
Heat oil in a frying pan and fry livers for about 8 minutes from both sides, until lightly browned. Remove livers and add sliced onion rings into pan. Add Maple Syrup, chilli, vinegar and a pinch of salt. I prefer peri-peri chillis, but if you like it stronger use some finely chopped green chillies instead. Stir and fry until onions are golden.
Add livers and about 100ml of hot water and mix.
Add chopped tarragon and parsley to garnish.
Step 4 – creamy mash
Boil a couple of peeled potatoes until very tender, but not mushy. Whip with a wooden spoon until fluffy, then add a little bit of butter, baking powder and some milk. Add a dollop of cream cheese or wholegrain mustard to make it more decadent.