Belgium is a bit of a food lovers destination. Note I did not say foodie destination. They’ve got the sort of food everyone loves. Chips with mussels, hearty stews, those gorgeous waffles! Oh and exquisite chocolates, and every type and flavour of beer you could possibly imagine.
Unfortunately being gluten intolerant a lot of that stuff is off the list for me. Thankfully I got to Belgium years before I discovered the gluten thing.
Easy. I’m not a fan of liver myself. I’m actually writing this before cooking the stew because I’m worried I won’t like it. But I’m determined to post something.
Why am I adding in liver? Because it’s rich in vitamin D. The sunshine vitamin. Your body can synthesize vitamin D when your naked skin is exposed to sunshine. I don’t tend to do that. The exposing my skin to sunshine. Not because I’m against that sort of thing. I’m just not really into leaving the sofa and, you know, going outside.
So some people, not me, people who actually know stuff, are advising that vitamin D helps your body fight coronavirus. I’m sorry. I try not to mention it. But some stuff strikes me as important. And I think having adequate levels of vitamin D is probably very important. But remember, because it’s a fat soluble vitamin it’s possible to take too much of it – so check with your doctor first, maybe?
Now, let’s get cooking.
How did it turn out?
Very nice actually. I love it! And I’ve discovered a quick and easy way to cook liver that I can tolerate the taste off. Slice it very thinly, sprinkle with dried rosemary and stir a puréed (finely grated) garlic clove through all the slices. Then leave it for a few minutes – while you find the right pan to use for frying them. Then fry them quickly in a little oil and butter until they have just browned. And you know what? It tastes OK that way.
The ingredients in the recipe are slightly different to the ingredients in the photo. I changed my mind about somethings as I was going along. For example, I didn’t feel like slicing any more veg after the onion, celery and carrot, so I left out the leeks. And I decided after tasting it to add in maple syrup. So the photo below isn’t quite accurate – but it’s mostly correct. Also there were a number of things I just forgot to put on the table.
3 tbsp plain flour, if using gluten-free add in an extra teaspoon
2 celery sticks, sliced
some carrots, chopped
sprig of thyme
2 bay leaves
500ml beef stock
750ml dry cider, if you'd like a non-alcoholic option try apple juice with a squeeze of lemon
5 crushed juniper berries
1 tbsp tomato purée
1 tsp cider vinegar, optional
350g liver, sliced thinly
1 large garlic clove, crushed
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
maple syrup, optional, to taste
1 teaspoon wholegrain mustard, optional
In a large pot add a little oil. Put on a high heat. Add in the bacon and cook until it's pale or golden brown. It may start sticking to the pan. If it does just pour in a little cider and use a spoon to scrape it all off the bottom. When all the bacon has been browned - or just turned pale - transfer to a large plate.
Next brown the beef. Again, if it sticks to the pan pour in a little cider to help scrape it off. When all the beef is browned transfer to the large plate with the bacon on it.
Add a little cider to the pot and scrape up beef bits off the bottom off the pan, so they are part of the liquid in the pan. Reduce the heat to gentle-moderate and add in a good knob of the butter. When the butter has melted, add in the sliced onions and mix around well so they are all covered in the melted butter and beefy cider. Cover the pot and leave to cook for 15 minutes.
Take the lid off the pot and stir in the celery and carrots. Cover the pot again and leave the veg to sweat for another 10 minutes.
Uncover the pot and add in the rest of the butter. When it has melted, sprinkle over the flour and stir around well for a good 2 - 3 minutes. You want to make sure that you have cooked the flour through before adding in stock or the stew will taste floury no matter what you do. You can tell if it's cooked through by tasting it.
When ready, pour in the beef stock bit by bit. Keep stirring the whole time so that it mixes well with the flour. It will fairly quickly start to look like a thick gravy.
Add back in the meat and stir around well.
Next stir in 500ml of the cider. Any cider that's leftover can be used to add to the pot if the gravy seems too thick when you check it later.
Stir in the two bay leaves, thyme, juniper berries and tomato purée. Bring to the boil. Then cover the pot and transfer to the oven.
Cook for an hour at 180 C. Check it after 30 minutes to see if you need to add more cider. Taste it and if you think it isn't sharp enough add in the cider vinegar.
About 15 minutes before the hour is up, slice the liver thinly. Sprinkle with the rosemary. Finely grate a large garlic clove (it should have the consistency of a purée) and mix this in well with the liver. Heat a little oil and butter in a saucepan. Quickly fry the liver until it has just turned brown all over. Remove from the heat.
Take the stew out of the oven. Taste it. I added in about a tablespoon of maple syrup and I also added in a little more vinegar and the wholegrain mustard - but add according to your tastes.
Last stir in the liver and leave the pot covered but not on any heat for 10 - 15 minutes.