Welcome to the 5th instalment of The Liver Experiment where I will try to acquire a taste for liver. Over a 10 week period I will cook, consume and post my experience once a week about trying to appreciate my food nemesis. I am really enjoying the exchange with my readers with this series all over the social medias and comments. I hope my experiment will inspire you to try the same with your own personal food nemesis. And even if you are determined to hate liver for life I hope you will follow along throughout the whole series.
This is the halfway mark of this experiment already. It feels like it has so gone fast. A friend of mine said jokingly that my exercise motto should be: All we are saying is give liver a chance! At the 5 post mark we have 3 successes, one tolerable recipe and 1 which I found awful. This week is a definite success and quite an unusual one with Stuffed vine leaves with liver and apple.
Stuffed vine leaves, or dolmades (plurial of dolma), is a very common dish in the Middle East and Mediterranean countries. The word dolma has Turkish roots from the verb dolmak, meaning ‘to be stuffed’. They can be vegetarian or meat based and usually also have rice. I adapted this recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi’s column and it is the only dolma recipe I found with liver in it…so this is a very unique recipe.
Yotam Ottolenghi is my absolute favorite ‘celebrity’ chef. He is an Israeli-born chef with several restaurants in London. His cooking is “a distinctive mix of Middle Eastern flavours – Syrian, Turkish, Lebanese, Iranian, Israeli and Armenian – with western twist”. He is a magician in the kitchen. I have done several of his recipes and they have always been outstanding.
Tips on working with vine leaves:
The easiest ones to work with are sold in jars and a preserved in a brine. Just rinse the leaves well and blanch them in boiling water 2 to 3 minutes, thus making them more pliable. Once your vine leaves are rolled, line the bottom of you sauté pan with vine leaves and place your rolls on top, tightly packed. Lastly, if the rolls float in the liquid just place an inverted heatproof plate on top of the rolls to keep them down.
Educational notes of the week:
The original recipe called for chicken liver but I finally got my hands on some lamb liver, the last one I wanted to try. Chicken, calf and beef liver is pretty easy to find but lamb was a challenge. The first one I spotted was at the Middle Eastern grocery store a few blocks from where I live. The only problem was that they only sold it whole. That is when I realized the calf and beef packages you see in stores are sold as thin slices from the actual organ. Only the chicken liver is sold unsliced. Well finally I found another store that sold half a full lamb liver. So I got curious about the average weight of a liver of each animal. Beef is 10 to 12 lb, a calf is about 6 lb, a lamb is close to 1.5 lb and the average chicken liver weights about 2.5 ounce. By the way a human liver is around 3.5 lb.
OK so now that I finally did taste the lamb liver I can say it is my favorite one, even better then calf in my taste. The meat is a touch firmer but the taste is quite delicate. I did eat a few small pieces before chopping the liver up for the recipe so I could really savour it as is. And the dolmades turned out to be quite wonderful. Again the liver taste is very subtle here and since it is well chopped up you don’t get that odd texture. I am sure most people would find this recipe a hit, I was really delighted with it.
Stuffed vine leaves with liver and apple
- 65 ml olive oil
- 2 medium onions peeled and chopped
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- black pepper
- 2 garlic cloves peeled and very finely chopped
- 200 g lamb livers cleaned
- 80 g white rice
- 1 small cox apple coarsely grated
- 1 1/2 tablespoon dill
- 1 tablespoon basil
- 125 g medium vine leaves blanched for 2 minutes, drained and dried.
- 3 tbsp lemon juice
- 120 g Greek yoghurt
- Put a tablespoon and a half of the oil, the onion, the salt and some black pepper in a sauté pan which has a lid. Cook for 5 minutes on a medium-high heat, add the garlic and cook for 3 minutes, stirring from time to time. Add the lamb liver and sauté for 5 minutes, until the liver is almost cooked through. Cool and finely chop the liver. Transfer to a large bowl and add the rice, apple, dill and basil. Stir well.
- Lay a vine leaf flat on a work surface, with its stem pointing towards you and the shiny side facing down. Cut the stem off. Spoon a tablespoon of the mixture into the centre-bottom part of the leaf. Fold the two sides of the leaf inwards and then roll towards the top of the leaf. Repeat until you have used all the mixture, about 30 rolls. Arrange the stuffed leaves tightly packed inside the sauté pan.
- Mix the remaining olive oil with the lemon juice and 1 1/4 cup of water, and pour over the vine leaves. Cover the pan with a lid, bring the liquid to a boil, and lower to a gentle simmer for about 40 minutes, until the rice is cooked and most of the liquid has been absorbed. Remove from the heat and leave the dolmas to cool for 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature, with the yoghurt on the side.
Read the entire The Liver Experiment series:
Week 1: Chicken Liver Pate and Absinthe
Week 2: Liver & bacon sauté with potatoes & parsley
Week 3: Austrian Liver Dumplings (Leberknödel)
Week 4: Indian Liver Curry
Seriously hats of to you for going with this project 🙂 Ottolonghi is a genius, you can’t go wrong with his recipes!
I find chicken liver very tasty and we prepare it quite often.
Both recipes are new to me and look fantastic.
Chicken liver and apples is always a great pairing and the combination of flavors sounds yummy.
The lamb liver is more for my husband , I’m sure he would enjoy it very much.
Great idea to start this project, it’ s fun and very interesting to see the reactions.
Such an interesting recipe Evelyne….live and apple…I would love to try…like the idea of wrapping it in grapes leaves…
Have a wonderful week 😀
I agree with easyfoodsmith. I really wish I could grab one and taste it. Looks awesome!
A very interesting recipe indeed Evelyne. I wish I could grab one and taste it 😀
wow, what a great idea!!!’i’m a lamp person but never even got any guts to cook lamb liver, sham on me…
i guess yous lamb liver dolmas must be taste great!
You made them looking so good. A very tasty treat! 🙂 ela
I love that you have such an eclectic palate, Evelyne!
So you’re supposed to eat the leaves too? Are they kind of fibrous and not very edible? I guess it’s not the same as bamboo leaves or whatever they make sticky rice with.
They are totally edible Dwei, not fibrous at all 🙂
G’day! The recipe intrigues me too!
The combination of flavors, including the lamb’s liver sound very YUM too!
Yeah, I can handle subtle liver flavor…so your dolmades sound perfect! Beautifully rolled, too 🙂
I am impressed Evelyne! You are coming up with amazing liver recipes every week. You should publish them in a cookbook.
On a different note, I am not receiving notifications on your posts. Can you check if I am active in your subscription list? Otherwise I will re-subscribe.
What a creative recipe! I’ve never had liver and apple in dolamdes, only rice by itself so this intrigues me especially since you enjoyed it 🙂 So interesting that you found a lamb’s liver. I don’t think I’ve ever come across it but there’s quite a difference in weight between that and chicken (I guess that’s obvious from the size of them but still) 🙂
Ha ha Angie and Nami you are hilarious…you both said IF I made them for you 😉
@Nami try Middle Easter and Mediterranean grocery store or just ask a good butcher if he has some in the back.
Very, very interesting! You got the whole liver!?! Where did you find it, in specialized store? I’ve never seen it in any types of stores so far but maybe it’s something you have to ask for (hidden in the back?). Through your challenge, I also get to learn new things! I’d definitely try this too if you make for me! 🙂
I would definitely eat the liver if you made those stuffed vine for me. They look really really tempting!