The online magazine
dedicated to the
discussion & revival
of British foodways.

NO.55
WINTER2017

A modernist dish of liver & bacon from 1732 via Richard Bradley.

Bradley, the undersung Cambridge botanist who founded the discipline that would take the name ecology, also wrote cookbooks. They are wonderful artifacts, bursting with observations on the characteristics of plants and animals. Even a discerning reader might assume that this dish, a delicate marriage of offal and lightly braised bitter greens, originated in late twentieth century Italy, but Bradley has scooped us all in discovering the preparation in Shropshire. Four servings.


  • beef-cow.png6 chopped bacon slices
  • four thick slices of calf’s liver seasoned with salt and pepper
  • about 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • an onion sliced into the thinnest crescents
  • about 2 lb assorted greens; baby bok choy, beet greens, chard, spinach and the like
  • about ½ cup minced parsley
  • about 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to season the greens if needed

 

  1. Fry the bacon on low heat until it begins to render, then increase the heat to medium high and cook the bacon until crisp. Remove and drain the bacon on paper toweling.
  2. Sear the liver in the bacon fat until deep rose within, usually in a very few minutes. Remove the liver from the skillet and keep it warm.
  3. Flip the butter into the skillet. After it melts add the onion and cook until limp; the onion will brown.
  4. Increase the heat to high, add the greens and parsley, and fry them until they just barely show hints of browning.
  5. Toss the lemon juice into the green mixture, and check the seasoning.
  6. To serve, divide the greens among four plates and top each one with a slice of liver and ¼ of the bacon.

Notes:

-“Power Greens,” a mixture of prewashed organic baby bok choy, green and red chard, and spinach, is an excellent product available even in American supermarkets of middling quality. Two bags will suffice for the recipe.

-As Bradley instructs his reader, the greens may be chopped, “but not too small.”

-Bradley adds verjuice, something like a mild grape vinegar common in seventeenth and eighteenth century British cupboards, as an alternative to the lemon juice, and it is a good one. Verjuice has made something of a comeback in the kitchens of British restaurants and is available in specialty shops in both the UK and the US.

-His “good middling bacon” would have been cured but not smoked, like the bacon still more commonly found in Britain and Ireland. It also would have been leaner than smoked American bacon, a cut the British call streaky bacon. It is increasingly available in the US as Irish bacon. Either the more authentic unsmoked bacon or its smoked variant works well with Bradley’s recipe.

-True to his generous nature, Bradley gives credit to the woman who introduced him to the recipe, a Mrs. M. N., which he calls “The Shropshire and Worcestershire-Dish.