The most delicious dishes I've ever tasted were eaten more than 12 years ago, in a tiny but heaving restaurant just outside Barcelona. I ordered stuffed quail. Thanks to my sorry Spanish and the waiter's reassuringly limited English (the place was all locals, we were the only tourists) I didn't understand exactly what it was to be stuffed with. What arrived was a de-boned quail, filled with velvety chicken livers, crunchy pine nuts and sweet sherry-soaked golden raisins. Roasted whole in rosemary, it might have escaped from heaven.

For such a cheap and accessible ingredient, chicken liver lends a massive wallop of flavour to dishes. Despite its humble standing, it can be the star in its own right. A smooth, creamy, chicken liver parfait, laced with port and brandy, still graces menus from the basic bistro to the smartest venues today, just as it did 20 years ago when I started out.

Chicken liver pasta with sage, toasted pine nuts, raisins and capers

Dishes serve four

600g chicken livers (untrimmed) or 500g after trimming, to give 120g per person

20g butter

20 sage leaves

2 dstsp toasted pine nuts

80g golden raisins

2 dstsp "lilliput" (very small) capers

About 360-400g spaghetti or tagliatelle


1. Soak raisins in warm Marsala, Madeira or water for 10 minutes, then lift them out and place them with the capers for the moment, reserve the alcohol for later. If soaking in water, this can be discarded.

2. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente.

3. Meanwhile heat two wide frying pans over a moderate to high heat for one minute then add a light film to each. Set aside six sage leaves for later. Divide the rest between the two pans and fry briefly for around 15 seconds until crisp but not brown then remove at once onto a plate lined with absorbent paper towel. Set aside.

4. Reheat the oil for a minute over a high heat. Season the livers with sea salt flakes all over and add quickly to the two pans, dividing the livers evenly so the pans remain hot and able to sear at a high temperature. Cook for two minutes over a high heat so the side face down in the pan becomes very dark brown and crusty. Turn over at once and repeat for two minutes. Halfway through, add the butter to the two pans. As the butter melts and foams up, spoon this repeatedly over the livers for the last 30 seconds of cooking then lift the livers out onto a plate lined with absorbent paper towel. They should still be rosy pink inside.

5. Turn off heat under the pans. Add the pine nuts, capers and raisins to one of the pans. If you soaked the raisins in alcohol, add this to the same pan. Stir well to mix and warm through and leave in the pans for now.

6. Drain the pasta in a colander and return to the pan it was cooked in. Add the pine nut and raisin mixture to the pasta; shred the reserved sage leaves and add to the pasta too. Toss well to mix.

7. Divide the pasta between four warmed serving dishes, arrange the livers on top and scatter the fried sage leaves over. Add a twist of fresh ground black pepper then serve immediately.

Warm salad of chicken livers, grapes and coriander

400g trimmed chicken livers (from about 500-550g if buying untrimmed)

20g unsalted butter, broken into small pieces

1 small red onion

Small bunch fresh coriander

Around 6 white seedless grapes per person, halved

Soft salad leaves such oak leaf or escarole, about 90g per person

Pumpkin seed oil to finish, about 2 dstsp (or a lighter oil such as hazelnut)

1 lime


1. To trim livers: remove and discard the thread that connects the larger lobe to the smaller one. Refrigerate until needed.

2. Ensure the leaves are picked, washed and dried. Just before cooking the livers (step 5) place the salad leaves in a mixing bowl.

3. Peel the onion and halve through the root then slice the root out and discard. Slice the onion into very thin slivers; set aside.

4. Pick the leaves from the coriander stems; discard the stems. Halve the grapes.

5. Heat two wide frying pans over a moderate to high heat for one minute (or cook the livers in two batches).

6. Add enough oil to make a light film across the surface of the pan and heat for one minute. Season the livers all over with sea salt flakes. If you are cooking in two batches, only season the ones you are going to cook initially and season the second batch just before cooking.

7. Add the seasoned livers to the hot oil and sear at a high temperature for up to two minutes, or until the first side gains a dark brown crusty exterior. Using tongs, turn livers over and repeat on the second side.

8. After a minute, add the butter and allow to froth up then foam; spoon this over the livers then remove them at once onto a clean plate. If cooking in two batches, cover loosely with tin foil, wipe the pan out quickly and repeat with the rest of the livers. Zest some lime over the livers with a microplane or very fine grater.

9. Once all are seared, divide between four serving plates, arranging them around the outside of each plate in a ring. Drizzle a little pumpkin seed oil over the leaves and add a squeeze of lime juice to the leaves as well. Add the diced red onion and most of the coriander leaves then toss well and arrange in a mound in the middle of each serving plate. Scatter the grapes around the dish and scatter the rest of the coriander leaves as well. Drizzle a little more pumpkin seed oil around the outside of each plate and serve at once

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