Lamb’s Liver with Wild Mushrooms in Madeira

Great excitement in our little corner of Suffolk last week. We had planned to take my niece Hannah and her friend Rachel (right) on a mystery tour, which is to say they were not allowed to know where they would end up till the point of departure. Well, the one place on earth guaranteed to knock your socks off if it’s your first visit (or even if it’s not) is of course, Venice. First the journey from the airport across the lagoon by boat has to be the best airport transit in the world, then when you turn into the city itself under your first canal bridge its unimpaired beauty is a wonder to behold: a city as it was and still is, a city totally preserved where no modern architecture it seems has got anywhere near it. But that’s not all. This Year in my Kitchen has had an enormous boost from just dipping in to my favourite cuisine (after British). Though Veneto is not by any means the food capital of Italy, there are always one or two favourites we always head for. This week’s recipe is inspired by the famous Liver Veneziana (basically small strips of calves liver and onion cooked in white wine), but because that has already appeared in my books, here I have adapted it for lamb’s liver, using mushrooms and Madeira wine. There is some very good New Zealand lamb’s liver available now, but if you don’t like liver, the whole thing works well made with small strips of fillet steak.

Serves 2

Lamb’s Liver with Wild Mushrooms in Madeira
 8 oz (225 g) lamb’s liver
 1 oz (25 g) dried porcini mushrooms
 ¼ pint (150 ml) Madeira
 1 large onion
 2 dessertspoons olive oil
 1 clove of garlic, chopped
 6 oz (175g) dark-gilled open mushrooms (preferably Portobella), sliced
 ¼ pint (150 ml) dry white wine
 1 heaped teaspoon grain mustard
 salt and freshly milled black pepper

You will need two medium-sized frying pans.


Start off by rinsing the dried porcini under the cold tap, just in case there’s any bit of grit lurking around, then place them in a bowl and pour the Madeira over them. Leave them like that to soak for 20-30 minutes.

Meanwhile peel and cut the onion in half, then slice each half in crescent-shaped slices (not too thin). Heat 1 dessertspoon of the oil in your first frying pan, add the sliced onion and, keeping the heat fairly high, toss them around till they are a dark brown colour.

Then add the chopped garlic and sliced mushrooms and toss them around the pan for a minute or so. Next pour in the soaked porcini and all the Madeira, followed by the white wine. Stir 1 heaped teaspoon of grain mustard in, followed by a seasoning of salt and freshly milled pepper.

Bring it all up to simmering point, then turn the heat down to its lowest setting and let it just barely bubble, uncovered, for 45 minutes. Try to keep an eye on it – it must only just simmer. While that’s happening prepare the liver. Dry it with kitchen paper then slice into approximately 1½-inch (4 cm)lengths, keeping them thin (say the size of a thin French fry).

When the onions and mushrooms have had their 45 minutes, heat the other dessertspoon of oil well in your second frying pan, then add the strips of liver and cook them briefly, tossing them around till they have browned – this will only take 1-2 minutes, if they’re overcooked they will dry out. Then tip in the onions, mushrooms and sauce and combine them with the liver. Serve straightaway.

An Italian accompaniment could be risotto Milanese, but a good old English mash, nice and creamy, would also be good.

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