Summer seems to have arrived at last, at least it has here in London – just in time for the Olympics - and I find myself committed to writing up a recipe for stew. Bleedin’ typical. Still, as stews go, it’s pretty light and summery, and with it’s combination of paprika dusted chicken livers and butter beans it has a distinct hint of Spain about it too, which works for me any time of year, but summer and Spain do go together in my mind (even if the best times to actually go there are undoubtedly spring and autumn).
In my previous post on chicken livers I’d described dusting the trimmed livers in flour seasoned with salt, pepper and plenty of paprika (hot or sweet, the choice is yours, personally I switch randomly entirely dependent on mood or mere whim), and frying them till crisp and just starting to char at the edges on the outside, still delicately pink and tender on the inside, then using half the batch in a salad, and setting half aside in a bowl in the fridge to use in a stew for the next day. Overlooking the fact that that I posted that over a week ago, imagine that it is now that ‘next day’, and time for chicken liver stew. Which really couldn’t be quicker, easier, or much more delicious.
First take the bowl of chicken livers out of the fridge, along with a few rashers of streaky bacon (or pancetta) – a couple per person. You’ll also need onions, mushrooms and a tin of beans – butter beans are my preference, for size, flavour, consistency, and a properly Spanish feel, but cannellini are a perfectly good substitute. Or chickpeas work well too, and bring a different, perhaps more Moorish character to the dish. If you want to throw in red pepper, fennel, or celery, as well as the onion, then go ahead – but the combination of liver bacon and onions is so good, and so classic, I tend to keep it pretty simple. A little garlic and a bit of fresh chilli, a splash or two of wine and/or stock, seasoning and herbs, and that’s it.
Just start by frying your bacon, chopped to roughly postage stamp sized pieces, then add the onions with fine sliced garlic and fresh chilli (entirely optional and variable on whether you dusted in hot or sweet paprika) and hard herbs – thyme, and ideally a few sage leaves (sage goes wonderfully with all forms of liver), cook till softening, then add the mushrooms. Cook a couple of minutes more, till the mushrooms are just coloured, then tip in your beans. Add a glass of wine and a ladle or two of chicken stock (or all wine if you have no stock to hand, or vice versa – although that seems less likely, somehow…), cover the pan and simmer it all together gently till the onions are fully soft and the beans have just a little bite left in them. Then add your chicken livers and basically just warm them through. Scatter with fresh parsley. It’s all done in about 20 minutes.
Serve just with good bread and a salad on a summery day, or with mash, or maybe colcannon if the weather calls for more hearty, comforty sort of eating.