CURIOUS fact: many guests happily eat an unctuous duck liver pate, yet claim they do not enjoy liver. A distinct separation exists in their mindS between the richness of a parfait or pate and a slice of seared liver. Does the mention of the word "liver" send shivers down your spine? This perceived dislike can start early in life. At some point, probably, someone has clumsily overcooked liver to the point that it is miserable. Bad cooking really can posses the power to put you off something for life. Happily, good cooking has the potential to convert you forever. Succulent fresh lamb’s liver is an inexpensive and very tasty place to start.

Veal liver may be regarded by connoisseurs as the finest but it doesn’t come cheap. Its firm texture and meaty taste are worth the outlay, but to gain confidence at cooking liver well initially, lamb is outstanding. For a start, it tastes "lamby", an important plus for anyone entering unsure territory. Moreover, we all eat the prime lamb cuts like loin, chops, leg and so on, too easily. Appreciating the offal is an essential part of respecting the animal as a whole.

When raw, liver should be sliced at least one centimetre thick to allow for a crusty searing in a smoking hot pan, while retaining pinkness at the centre. The grassy strength of sage is a timeless partner and I recommend creamy onions as a comforting companion to the meat’s natural denseness

Seared lambs' liver with dry sherry and sage

Recipes serve 4

6 slices of lambs liver, about 110 to 120g each, cut 1cm in thickness

4 Spanish onions, peeled

120g unsalted butter, cut into 1cm dice

25 sage leaves

Vegetable oil

Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper

80ml dry sherry

1 dstsp each thyme leaves and chopped parsley

Juice of ½-1 lemon

1. Halve the onions through the root then trim out the root to remove completely. Slice onions finely into a bowl

2. Heat a wide saucepan over a moderate heat for one minute then add 2 dstsps vegetable oil and one third of the butter. Allow to melt then add onions and season all over with salt. Mix well then slowly sweat the onions, stirring regularly, ensuring they don't brown. Cover pan and inspect regularly, turning down the heat if the cooking becomes too fierce and before colour appears on the base of the pan. Continue cooking for 20 minutes then add half the remaining butter. Continue frying very gently until the onions are pale, soft and silky-textured. Add the sherry and boil until almost reduced; the onions should appear like a buttery compote. Stir in thyme and cream, bring to the boil and set aside.

3. Cut each piece of liver into 4 or 5 roughly triangle shaped pieces to give 5-6 pieces per person. (Can be cut in advance and refrigerated until needed; remove from fridge 15 minutes before cooking.)

4. To cook and serve, heat a large, wide, heavy-based frying pan (or two if you have them). It is important not to overcrowd the pan as the liver sears or the heat will be reduced too much and the liver won't take the crusty, browned exterior you want for maximum flavour. If necessary, cook two portions at a time then transfer cooked pieces to a clean plate and cover with tin foil while you cook the rest. Wipe the frying pan with kitchen paper between rounds of cooking and allow pan to recover its high temperature before searing the second round. To cook: heat pan for one minute over a moderate heat then add a film of vegetable oil; this should be hot enough that it shimmers but is not smoking. Add half the sage leaves and fry just until they turn pale gold and crisp, then lift out onto a tray lined with kitchen paper. (Don't let the leaves blacken or the oil may become bitter.)

5. Heat the same oil to a higher temperature. Season the liver pieces with sea salt, salting only the face to be seared, then place these into the hot oil, seasoned side downwards. Sear over a very high heat (open the windows first!) so the first face takes on a dark brown crusty exterior (about two minutes) then flip the pieces over to cook for one minute on the second face. Lift out at once onto a clean plate and cover with a loose tent of tin foil. Clean out pan and repeat, cooking the remaining sage leaves then the rest of the liver.

6. Meanwhile reheat the onions, stir in the rest of the butter so it emulsifies and finally add the parsley and lemon. Taste for seasoning and adjust as required.

7. Divide the onions and some of the buttery juices among four plates or deep bowls. Arrange the liver pieces around in a ring then scatter the fried sage leaves on the liver. Serve at once

Lambs' liver with braised gem, mushrooms and balsamic

2 banana shallots, finely diced

Small handful fresh, curly parsley, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, finely diced

1 tbsp olive oil

150g thick-cut smoked bacon, diced

2 Little Gem lettuce, halved lengthways

2 large Portobello or field mushrooms, sliced

300ml chicken stock

60g butter

4 slices of lambs' liver weighing around 110g to 120g each

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1. Stir the shallot, parsley and garlic together in a bowl and set aside.

2. Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the bacon over a low heat for around 5 minutes, until golden-brown. Add the lettuce to the pan, cut-side down and the mushrooms and half the chicken stock and cook for 15 minutes, topping up with a dash of water if needed, until the gem is soft.

3. Meanwhile, heat a frying pan over a medium to high heat, add some oil and heat for one minute. Season the liver on one side and place into the hot the oil. Pan-fry for 2 minutes then add half the butter, allowing it to foam up. Spoon the foaming butter over the liver then turn and cook for another minute on the other side. Remove liver from pan and set aside. Deglaze the pan with the balsamic vinegar, scraping up any browned bits.

4. Add remaining butter and chicken stock and continue to cook until the sauce is well combined and thickened slightly. Season to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

To serve, spoon the braised lettuce onto serving plates, top with the liver and spoon over the balsamic sauce. Sprinkle over the shallot mixture then serve at once.

Geoffrey Smeddle is the chef patron of The Peat Inn, by St Andrew’s, Fife, KY15 5LH 01334 840206