Thank heaven for small figs. For one day, they shall become big figs – or at least bigger figs. And with a bit of luck (and earnest prayers to the Ficus God) they might even grow up to be big RIPE purple sticky figs!
There is much to praise and celebrate in my little world this week. Firstly, as you can see, our fig tree is producing lots of teeny fruits – which, to be fair happened a couple of weeks ago, but they seem to be growing well and looking sufficiently fig-like for me to get excited whenever I pass them by. I so wanted to include a few of these saucy little jewels in this recipe, but alas, the shelves were bare at every turn. It was clearly not meant to be. Sufficient events conspired, however, to nudge me on with my figgy intentions, one of which was a gift from my lovely loony friend. Having returned to work after her family Easter holiday en France she presented me with a little jar of Figue Confiture: parfait or what!! This, together with the remaining fig chutney from Christmas, formed the sticky sweet base for this post’s recipe. More on that in a bit…
Aside from the mini fig praising, there are also some major celebrations afoot for a Special Someone’s special birthday this weekend…My step mum will reach a milestone age any moment now and if this isn’t cause for much eating, drinking (bubbles!), presents and merriment then I don’t know what is! As such we’re all being treated to what promises to be an amazing meal at Galvin at Windows on Saturday, followed by a lazy day of ‘afternoon tea’ style food – sandwiches, cakes, scones, cakes, tea, cakes, etc. – with lots of folk, as we’ll no doubt be starving after the previous day’s feasting.
I shall be doing my bit toward catering for this sugar-fuelled day, but for today let us just give thanks to the humble, yet satisfying and tasty, Mid-Week Dinner.
My husband loves chicken livers so I cook them fairly often, as they make a delicious, dare I say nutritious, meal – but don’t let that put you off…there’s still plenty of indulgent additions to balance it out. I usually add bacon for salty goodness; always add Marsala wine for sweetness (and sauciness); herbs for freshness and then whatever else I fancy (or have lying about that needs finishing up). Today, for some reason that I can’t quite fathom, I am in a Figgy State of Mind…and stomach. They therefore formed the key sweet jammy flavour that works so well against the mellow irony softness of the chicken livers.
Cook’s notes: If you don’t usually enjoy liver, or offal in general, I would still urge you to try this recipe. Chicken livers have a beautifully soft melting texture and that ‘livery’ taste is so mild, especially when balanced against a sweet tangy creamy sauce…You must cook them on a high heat very quickly so that the outside gets caramelised but the interior remains soft and pink. Overcooked livers are a sad story with an unhappy ending. Don’t go there.
I often use a wok when cooking chicken livers, as they’re ideal for cooking food quickly at a high heat. However, I would caution that they do tend to ‘pop’ this way (i.e. make an alarming ‘pop’ sound whilst jumping and spitting hot fat on your arms and/or face). I’ve not researched enough to find out the reason why this happens – suffice to say, it always happens when I cook them in a wok, but not when I use a copper pan. Here endeth my ‘advise’, such as it it.
Oh, and Beryl managed to use her cat flap (un-aided if you please) for the very first time this morning. Praise be to the kind and generous Universe. She is just a genius, there’s no other word for it. Amen.
- Fresh organic chicken livers – 400g
- Smoked dry cure lardons – 200g
- Marsala wine – approx. 50ml
- Fig jam and/or fig chutney – approx. 2 dessert spoons
- Good quality aged balsamic vinegar – a good drizzle
- Double cream – approx. 2-3 tablespoons
- Spring onions or chives – a good bunch
- Thyme – small bunch
- Parsley – small bunch
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- Butter – small knob
- One Ciabatta ‘loaf’
- 2 cloves of garlic
- Good quality olive oil
Mise en place, people – preparation is key:
First prepare the chicken livers by giving them a good rinse, drying them on some kitchen towel and cutting out any tendon-y interiors that you don’t wish to eat. Don’t cut them too small, otherwise you run the risk of over-cooking them, which is to be avoided at all costs (see above reference to sad story) (also see photos for reference). Grind plenty of black pepper over the livers, as well as a good sprinkle of salt, just before cooking.
Prepare all the herbs and/or spring onions by washing and drying on kitchen paper, then chopping and slicing as necessary.
Have all the remaining ingredients close to hand, ready for cooking the livers.
Cut the ciabatta in half lengthways and widthways so that it’s in four pieces.
Place on a baking tray, along with the garlic cloves, and drizzle everything with olive oil.
Sprinkle the garlic cloves with sea salt.
Place in a pre-heated oven at approx. 190 deg (170 FAN) and cook until golden and crispy – approximately ten minutes.
Meanwhile, cook the livers.
Add butter and a drizzle of olive oil to a pan and heat until melted.
Add the lardons (or, bacon, if you prefer) and stir well. Cook for a minute or two then add the thyme leaves. Continue cooking until the lardons are golden and have deposited their savoury residue on the bottom of the pan (this will be released when the wine is added later). Add the spring onions, if using, and stir through.
It might be wise to remove the lardons from the pan at this point and keep them to one side, to return to the pan later. I didn’t do this, but on reflection I should have. You want the pan to be nice and hot when you add the livers.
Either way, crank up the heat and add the livers to the pan. Stir and then leave them to settle briefly so that the outsides caramelize a bit.
Stir until all sides are browned.
Quickly add the marsala wine and stir well, scraping the salty bacon residue from the bottom of the pan so that it is as one with the dish.
When the wine has reduced down add the fig jam and balsamic vinegar and stir through until well combined.
Finally, add the cream and some of the parsley and stir briefly. Check the seasoning and adjust as necessary.
Serve on top of the hot toasted ciabatta bread that has been smeared with the soft roasted garlic cloves, and a drizzle of olive oil and a final sprinkle of parsley. Quite satisfactory! (Hiccup).
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