Saturday, April 12, 2014

Greek fried calf’s liver with onion and parsley

Calf’s liver two days before Holy Week? Yes, because if you have low iron levels and your doctor tells you that either you start eating more red meat or you start taking iron pills, well, I chose meat, calf’s liver to be exact as it’s been a favorite treat of mine since childhood. Now, unfortunately, I neglect to buy it. How come this never happens with chocolate?

So I finally got some liver the other day from the butcher and of course I ended up eating it alone as S is notoriously anti-liver of any kind. I didn’t complain. Don’t go thinking however that I ate all the liver you see in these photos, no, these were taken back in October when I was home in Greece and the pictured liver was cooked lovingly by my grandmother.

This is my favorite way of eating calf’s liver; in the style of Greek cooking I was brought up with, the “Politiki cuisine” (read about it here). You cut the liver into cubes, flour and shallow fry it in olive oil. You serve it with a good amount of finely sliced red onion mixed with chopped flat-leaf parsley and you’re set!

The liver needs to be pinkish inside otherwise you end up with a chewy mess and you don’t want that. It should be eaten freshly fried accompanied by a small glass of ouzo, some hand-cut fried potatoes and a horiatiki (Greek) salad.

I don’t know if any of you are fasting or not, and trust me I don’t want to be the one who tempts you to break your fast, so I will suggest you have this dish on Easter day. It makes the perfect, pre lamb-feasting meze.

Sikotaki Politiko (Greek Fried Calf’s Liver with Onion and Parsley)

This for me is the best way to cook calf’s liver, not to mention one of the simplest.
There are no specific measurements for this recipe as they are easily adaptable to the amount of liver you want to serve.

Calf’s liver slices
All-purpose flour
Olive oil, for frying
Freshly ground black pepper
Lemon, for squeezing juice on top

Red onion, thin half-moon slices
Fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped

Remove the outer membrane from the liver slices as well as any nerves. Cut the liver into bite-sized pieces.
In a large plate or round pan, add flour and add the liver pieces. Toss to coat them well with the flour.

In the meantime, in a large frying pan, add enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan and heat over medium-high heat. Once the oil heats well (it needs to be very hot but not smoking), add the liver pieces in batches, shaking off the extra flour and being careful not to overcrowd the pan. Fry 1 minute on each side but not more, otherwise it will be chewy.

Using a slotted spoon, remove the liver pieces from the pan and onto a platter, sprinkle with salt and pepper (salt is not added before cooking as it makes the liver tough), and squeeze some lemon juice on top.

In a small plate, mix the onions and parsley.
Serve liver immediately, with a good amount of onion-parsley on top or on the side.


  1. I hope you feel better soon!!

    And thank you for sharing this. I haven't had liver since I was a child and then I did NOT like it, although I always liked the smell of it cooking. Perhaps I need to give it a try as a middle aged adult!

  2. I love liver like this, however I always saute some onion once the liver is cooked int he same pan, so it soaks up all the flavour , then you smother the liver with the cooked onion - MAGIC happens ... the onion imparts this sweet flavour to the liver and if you can let it sit 24 hours - even better especially cold from the fridge .

  3. Whilst I prefer chicken liver to calf's, I still wouldn't say no to this.

  4. This is just the way I was taught to do it when I lived in Greece, except they squeezed lemon juice over it and drizzled olive oil over it too (yes, after frying it in olive oil too.) I love liver prepared this way! Christina

  5. Gorgeous photos! This is one of those dishes that I sort of cringe at the idea of having, but actually really enjoy. Happy that you are taking care of the iron levels too via food, it would be my preference too! Christina xx

  6. Liz — hehe you must give it a try indeed. It is delicious and the smell... you're right, it is addictive.

    gourmet goddess — thanks for the great suggestion with the onions. i will have to give it a try!

    john — I'm glad it tempted you.

    Christina — yes! I forgot to mention the lemon juice, just added it. Olive oil on top of fried liver?? Whoever taught you that is sooo wrong. It is already kind of oily so I can't imagine adding more.

    Christina — thanks! Calf's liver is wonderful!

  7. Both Mark and I love liver... And this version looks amazing! We, too, might sauté the onions a bit for better..., well, ..., um, ..., digestion! (Getting old is annoying...) And thank you for stating it must be pink in the center. Too many people overcook liver. No wonder it has a bad rap! Happy Palm Sunday! ~ David

  8. Can I admit that I am not a natural liver lover? But, I am in fairly dire need of the iron (I'm borderline anemic - body just says NO to iron despite how much of it I eat!). Doctor has recommended liver and I've been struggling with how to prepare it.

    Your way, with the onion and lemon, reminds me a bit of how we prepare kebabs. It removes that 'meaty' flavor from regular cuts. I'm hoping it softens the sometimes metallic taste of the liver, too?

  9. Cocoa and Lavender — I love raw onion and raw garlic and Greeks eat a lot of both. Sorry you can't really eat it but sauteed sounds good too.

    Yasmeen — hmm liver is the best thing for iron problems. I have never noticed the metallic taste you mention. To me it doesn't taste like that at all. Why don't you give it a try this way? Perhaps you will convert to eating liver!

  10. I used to eat liver a lot as a child, but nowadays I rarely do, which is too bad since I love it. It is not that often that I see it so I never think about it! Thank you for reminding me about it and I will definitely try this recipe since - growing up in Venice - we always ate it the Venetian way, with sauteed onions.

  11. Hi - long time since you posted this but just want to say I found your recipe while searching online- it is absolutely delicious- thank you.

  12. Hi, my yiayia cooked a swirly pastry dish with pieces of liver in it, spelling not sure (mendi) very old fashion dish, please help as I want to make it. Thanks, Sharna.