Kaleji Ka Salan | Liver Salan
I’ve already shared my thoughts on liver and why it seems to be such a divisive ingredients. Now, as then, I think the secret is to be cognizant of the nature of liver—its texture, its flavor, its tendencies, before you cook with it.
It’s true that liver has a strong, earthy flavor and can become powdery and chalky when overcooked. But there are ways to work around that. The chopped chicken liver recipe I have elsewhere on the site is a great gateway into the world of liver cooking. This recipe for a liver salan, while maybe a little more demanding, is the logical next step in your journey toward appreciating liver in all its forms.
While I love chopped liver and liver paté (and liver mousse, and so on), I wanted to try something new with the pound of lovely garnet-red local chicken livers I got from my butcher recently. I thought about a liver pulav (which I still might get to one of these days) but then decided I wanted something with a thin but aromatic sauce; something flecked with spices and perfect to eat with a steaming hot bowl of rice.
This recipe, originally from Awadh is from Pushpesh Pant’s India cookbook. I’m generally not a fan of encyclopedic cookbooks, but I have to confess that for a south Indian cook like myself the book has furnished me with a treasure trove of interesting and unusual recipes—particularly from the north of India.
The ginger, garlic, and spices really play well against the strong flavor of the liver here, and the ground coriander in particular adds a nutty, citrusy edge to the dish that I think really transforms it. The garnish of fresh mint leaves, if you’ll forgive the mixed food metaphor, is really the cherry on top; a lovely little burst of brightness against all that dark, mysterious spiciness.
KALEJI KA SALAN
1 lb liver
1 tsp finely minced fresh ginger
1 tsp finely minced garlic
2 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder or other moderately spicy chilli powder
½ tsp ground turmeric
½ cup full-fat yoghurt
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 medium onions, peeled and thinly sliced through the root
2 tsp ground coriander seed, finely ground
Sprigs of fresh mint
Pick over the liver and use a sharp, thin knife to cut away any extra bits of membrane or discoloured sections. Separate the liver into lobes and cut into roughly 1-inch pieces.
Combine the liver with the ginger, garlic, Kashmiri chilli powder, turmeric, yoghurt and a generous teaspoon of salt. Mix well to coat the liver with the spices and then set aside to marinate for at least fifteen minutes or as long as half an hour.
In a heavy-bottomed pan with high sides, heat the oil over medium-high heat till it begins to shimmer.
Add the sliced onions and cook, stirring often, till they turn a deep golden brown, 7–10 minutes.
Increase the heat to high and add the liver, stirring often to scrape up any juices that caramelize and stick to the bottom of the pan.
Continue cooking for ten minutes or so, or until all the liquid from the marinade has cooked off and the liver is beginning to brown in the remaining oil.
If the pan looks dry at any point during this process, add a couple more tablespoons of oil and turn down the heat to prevent the onions and liver from scorching.
Add the roasted coriander seed to the pan and stir well.
Add 2 cups of hot water to the pan and stir well to evenly mix everything together and scrape up any onions, spices, and meat juices from the bottom. Add half a teaspoon of salt and mix well.
Reduce the heat to medium-low and allow to cook, partially covered, for another ten minutes, or until the liver is cooked through and the sauce is glossy, rich, and slightly reduced.
Taste for salt and adjust seasoning as needed.
Garnish with sprigs of fresh mint and serve hot with rice.