Sunday, September 2, 2018

Family Food Fights

মুরগির কলিজা 

Curried Chicken Liver

Chicken liver and potato swimming in deliciously spicy jhol :) 

Organs and innards aren't everyone's cup of tea. While heart, lungs and offal are part of everyday Bangladeshi cooking, I know many people who pass on these options. Which is their loss, as far as I'm concerned. I was introduced to animal innards early in life, and I am a big proponent of cooking and consuming them. After all, as people who eat meat, we should make efficient use of the animals we (indirectly) kill. I eat everything from cow's intestines to chicken's feet and goat's lung, and in fact, intestines are a particular favourite in my family! 

The most common organs at my table, however, come from the humble chicken. While I was growing up, everything from the head and brain, to the heart, gizzard and other parts I have no English translations for, would be cooked into our everyday chicken dishes. And that would set off the fighting between siblings and cousins, as we tried to decide who would get to eat what. The head seemed to be most people's prime target, though for me, the prize was always the liver. And with no one else interested, I grew up stuffing my face with the liver from every chicken cooked at home. For me, chicken liver with its soft, fluffy texture is like an amazingly meaty, savoury cake. And I love it just as much as I love cake.  

Calamity struck when we moved abroad though, where supermarket chickens were sold without livers. The next few years of my life were spent devoid of chicken liver, except during the visits back home, or after the odd trip to particular butchers. However, it seems more and more supermarkets in Britain (where I currently live) stock liver as a standalone product. This has meant a return to cooking liver curry for me. The spicing I favour is similar to most other Bangladeshi curries, though the amounts of each spice is toned down in comparison. Chicken liver cooks easily, and doesn't need the super-charged treatment that cow or goat liver might warrant. The recipe below is for 400.00 g - the standard weight sold near me. This technically serves two generously as a main dish, but as liver is rather rich I'd recommend it as a side dish shared amongst a few more. 

  • 400.00 g of chicken liver
  • 1.00 medium onion
  • 2.00 small potatoes
  • 4.00 cloves
  • 4.00 cardamoms
  • 2 or 3 small pieces of cinnamon stick, each about 2.00 cm
  • 0.50 teaspoons of powdered turmeric
  • 1.00 teaspoon of powdered cumin
  • 0.75 teaspoons of powdered coriander
  • 0.75 teaspoons of powdered chilli (or to taste)
  • 1.00 teaspoon of garlic paste
  • 0.75 teaspoons of ginger paste
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1.00 bay leaf
  • Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
  • Fresh chilli, to taste

  • Prep the liver - remove the gall bladders if still attached, taking care not the burst these as it will make the liver unpalatably bitter 
  • Gently wash the liver a few times to rid it of any blood, and leave to soak in cold water
  • Chop into smaller pieces if desired, though in my family we leave each liver whole

Ingredients prepped

  • Finely chop the onion
  • Heat some oil in a non-stick pot
  • Add the onion, cloves, cardamom and cinnamon
  • Turn the heat to medium and gently fry until the onions begin to brown at the edges, which should take 5 to 6 minutes
  • In a small bowl, combine the turmeric, cumin, coriander and chilli
  • Once the onions are browned, add the garlic and ginger pastes to the pot, along with a dash of boiling water
  • Mix the ingredients thoroughly, and allow to cook for a couple of minutes 
  • Follow up by adding the turmeric, cumin, coriander and chilli, along with a bigger splash of boiling water
  • Mix everything thoroughly, forming what looks like a sauce, and keep the heat on medium

Spices tempering

  • Allow the spices to temper like this for around 10 minutes, adding a little boiling water now and again if the pot looks too dry
  • While the spices temper, scrub and clean the potatoes (peel if desired), and cut them up into bite size pieces
  • Turn the heat up to high, and add the potatoes to the pot

Potatoes just added - awaiting water

  • Follow up with a splash of boiling water - make sure there is enough to partially submerge the potatoes as they will need to boil and cook
  • Turn the heat back down to medium, and leave the potatoes to cook
  • The timing will vary depending on the variety used, but around 8 minutes should be enough, given they'll cook further with the liver
  • As the potatoes cook, give liver a final wash and add to the pot at the 8 minute mark
  • Scatter the bay leaf and a healthy amount of freshly ground pepper into the pot, then gently mix into the dish (take care at this point not to break up any of the liver or the potatoes)
  • Add boiling water to the pot, enough to partially submerge the liver and up to however much sauce is desired for the dish
  • Leave to cook for 15 to 20 minutes

Curried liver - almost ready. This particular attempt
was bathed in sauce as I was planning to reheat and dry it later

  • Slit a couple of fresh chillies down the middle, and them to the pot just before taking off the heat
  • Serve warm with rice-based carbs

Additional Info
Liver tends to be bloodier than other parts of the chicken, hence the soaking. Some people prefer to do this in milk and apparently this improves the flavour, but I've never noticed the difference. Whatever you do, washing the blood away is important, as boiled blood doesn't work so well with these spices.

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