Thursday, January 30, 2014

Organ meats anyone?

I remember, as a kid, being given kidneys as part of a warm salad for dinner.  The whole notion of a warm salad was rather brave & in our part of Co. Waterford was definitely 'nouvelle cuisine', but kidneys?  Oh man, I hated them.  Even now, I'm not sure what animal they came from, but I guess it was chicken...they were really tiny.  The smell and texture made me retch and put me off all organ meats forever, or so I thought.

Thankfully, my mother had the wisdom to try other methods of getting organ meats into us.  Every now and then she would make a big batch of chicken liver pâté, freeze most of it and on special occasions present us with a ramekin of smooth creamy heaven.  Even though I knew it was called 'liver' pâté, I didn't quite make the connection with organ meats.  Even my brother loved it and still does, despite being the fussiest eater in the family.  I always thought it must be very expensive to make, as we only had it very rarely, but now I know better.  It's really inexpensive and so easy and quick to make.  If you don't mind handling organ meats and are confident that you can get them from a reputable source, then it's well worth trying.

Obviously if you're vegetarian then this recipe isn't for you.  However, if you're a meat eater as I am, using as much of the animal as possible makes me feel better about eating it in the first place, even if they look pretty unappetising in their raw state.  I'm lucky to have found a fantastic butcher in Malmö  'Vilt Specialisten' who specialises in wild game and organic pasture reared meat, which is naturally higher in all kinds of nutrients including the much talked about Omega-3.

If you're not sure about organ meats, let me try to convince you.  Organ meats like liver, kidneys and heart are rich in many nutrients, particularly fat soluble ones like Vitamin A & D, minerals selenium, zinc and iron, B vitamins and Vitamin K2.  B12 is particularly rich in liver, as that's where it's stored (unlike other B vitamins) and is hard to get if you don't eat much meat or animal products.  Deficiencies in B12 can lead to issues with cell division and blood volume, mood disorders, depression and anxiety.  Also found in organ meats is a nutrient called Co-enzyme Q10, which is essential for energy production and is often lacking when we are fatigued or suffering from conditions like chronic fatigue, adrenal fatigue or long term stress.  All of these nutrients are essential for very active people and are often lacking in our diets, even if we feel we are eating healthily.  This pâté recipe includes grass fed butter (organic if you can get it) which really helps us to absorb the fat soluble nutrients in the liver.

Convinced?  Well, I reckon that's quite enough theory, here's the recipe

Chicken Liver Pâté

125g organic grass fed butter (easy to get in Ireland, not so easy here in Sweden!)
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Small handful of thyme leaves (rosemary or tarragon work well too, I find sage a bit strong)
500g fresh, free-range organic chicken livers
Unrefined sea salt (like Maldon)
Freshly ground black pepper
40ml orange juice (ideally freshly squeezed)
60ml brandy (or just more orange juice)

Optional - 200g of butter and extra herb sprigs to seal the pâté.

What to do:

  1. In a large frying pan or wide saucepan, add 2tbsp of the butter over a low heat.  Add the onion and garlic and 1/2 tsp of salt.  Let this cook slowly and gently until soft and translucent, but not brown.
  2. Add the brandy, thyme and orange juice, simmer for 2 minutes to cook off the alcohol and reduce slightly.
  3. Add the chicken livers.  Cook them gently, turning regularly until they are opaque on the outside but still burgundy on the inside.  Take off the heat.  
  4. Transfer the liver & onion mix to a food processor (a blender may also work, but the blade is smaller so you will probably need to do it in several batches).  Add another 1/2 tsp of salt, a good pinch of pepper and blitz for 1 minute until almost smooth.  Cut up the remaining butter and add piece by piece with the processor running.  Taste and add more seasoning if you think it needs it.  Now, to get it really smooth, process for another 2 minutes.
  5. Transfer the mix to a large ceramic terrine dish, or as I did, several ramekins which makes it easier to freeze some and eat the rest.  If you wish, you can seal the pâté with the additional butter, by melting it first with a few rosemary or thyme leaves then gently spooning over the pâté.  Once this butter sets, it acts as a seal and helps to prevent oxidation of the precious fats inside.
  6. Put it in the fridge and leave to set for a few hours, ideally overnight.  Freeze most of it (covered with clingfilm or a lid to protect from freezer burn) and tuck into whatever you keep in the fridge.  It's lovely spread on veg sticks or on sourdough toast for breakfast or lunch. 
What do you think, will you try it?  I'd love to see photos if you do, share them on my facebook page!

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