In the dark hours

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In light of the recent Budget, Oliver McKinley offers fortnightly recipes to sooth the soul and reinvigorate the pocket. Austerity cooking at its most delicious.

In the long nights of the soul, when the moon is high, when the electricity has been cut and witches are about, I indulge in wicked things. I do not lurk Prime Ministerially in doorways or down alleys ready and waiting to cut into the welfare budget, I do not drink myself into a stupor on a nauseous mix of knock-off Malibu, Jägermeister, salt-tears and Berroca, nor do I plot the demise of those many who might have slighted me, sadly, to their undeserved good fortune. Instead I feast upon the organs of poor beasts.

Once I might have said that this was solely an economical and sensible measure for hard times, but with lamb kidneys selling at 50p an organ, and anything from a calf bought with Krugerrands, it is the taste and texture, quite unlike other cuts of meat, to which I am addicted. The bite of a kidney is an exceptionally pleasing use of ones’ teeth. Its taste is undeniably bestial. There is to me nothing horrific in an honest devilled kidney, but something demoniac in a dishonest lasagne which might contain not only the meat of multiple animals but of multiple species and which is deemed fit fare for those unable, or incapable, to cook their own sustenance. It is far better to learn how to cook, and cheaply, than be dependent on the kindness of the deep freeze.

Liver, unlike other items of offal, happily remains very cheap from even those dreaded retail palaces of bad-taste and poor-lighting and from all our farmyard friends, excepting the gilded calf. It is perhaps also the most readily accepted to the uninitiated palate. A little liver, sliced very fine, floured and fried with frightening speed so as to be a crisp shell containing an interior of sanguine velvet and served with a sweltered mess of onions sharpened with vinegar makes a delicious midnight feast.

Firstly you should prepare your onions. One per person is not unreasonable; they will reduce in size, like the deficit, drastically. These should be sliced very, very finely almost as a breath of onion. These you should then sweat very gently and very slowly over a low flame with a very little butter, stirring often. You do not want to caramelise the onions, for the liver tastes dark enough, but merely to enhance their sweetness. They are ready when they form one mess of a pale blonde hue, like the Lib Dem’s bird bled of its votes, but from which you might extract a single ribbon of spun gold. You should then pour in a gill (I find a gill is a very sensible measurement- it’s about a half a small tea-cup), of red-wine vinegar. You could use malt, which would be preferable to Balsamic or Sherry vinegar. These latter you might want to dilute with a little water. The onions do not want to be a sauce, but they do want to be wet so if you find that they remain a little dry add a splash of water, or live recklessly; brandy. Keep warm as you cook the offal.

Take a suitable piece of any liver you so choose, Chicken is particularly rich, ox very strong, pork assertive, lamb can be delicate, and slice very thinly, but not so thin as to be translucent. A piece about the size of a palm is sufficient per person. If there are any unsightly bits, discoloured or sinewy, cut them out. Lightly dust the slices with flour which you might well flavour with a little mustard powder or cayenne pepper, perhaps a little thyme or marjoram but certainly there should be salt. You shouldn’t, though, allow the flesh to come into contact with salt until immediately before they go into the pan.

You should get that pan terrifyingly hot. The moment you put the butter in it should burst into a sea of froth. It will very quickly burn and so you must immediately put in the liver. This needs then delicate handling. Once one side has been coloured you must hastily, yet carefully, turn them. They should not need long at all, and they should be pink, and yes slightly bloody, in the middle. They will take literally seconds. You should remove these to a hot plate and keep warm if you have any more to cook, but they are best eaten very quickly before any residual heat can cook them further.

Once you have cooked your liver throw into the pan a splash of something well flavoured- brandy, whisky, gin, wine, cider, salted water, something, anything- and scrape up the delicious debris of cooking. You would do well to add some capers. I have a passion for capers which sometimes threatens to eclipse my other addictions, and a little mustard and a final dot of butter. This will make a rather pleasant sauce. You should eat this all immediately, a little crusty bread to mop up the juices would be wonderful. Company is pleasant but I find that the eating of such meat is not to all tastes and the whining of precious diners does more to ruin my appetite than the bleating of an adorable, yet happy and delicious spring lamb.

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