This recipe for what I’ve decided to call liver patties caused some consternation amongst my English family and friends. In Afrikaans these patties of minced liver, grated onion and a few other things are called ‘lewerkoekies’. They’re as quintessentially South African as a recipe can be.
I hadn’t given these morsels any thought for a couple of decades because, to be honest, I hated liver as a kid and I absolutely loathed ‘lewerkoekies’. But then the doyenne of the Afrikaans TV cooking scene, Errieda du Toit, invited me to the launch of her new cookbook, Tuistafel. It contains some gorgeous international recipes, but the focus is very strongly traditional South African with dishes like pumpkin fritters, sheep’s neck and… ‘lewerkoekies’.
When I told my English peeps that it was time to put childhood traumas aside and give the ‘lewerkoekies’ a try, I got blank stares – totally nothing there. Kinda like my face when I look at income statements. Apparently the humble liver pattie is not an English thing. I tried to explain to no avail. Suggestions were made that I should call them liver fritters, some others threw dumpling into the naming hat. Liver cakes also made it onto the list. But ultimately I decided to call them liver patties.
Traditionally these are served with a simple tomato and onion salad as well as Mrs Ball’s chutney. I bring them into the 21st century with crunchy radish, loads of peppery rocket and watercress and a squirt of zingy lemon. Mash is the normal starch of choice with liver, but I also love it on a slice of well-toasted rye with a healthy dollop of my old-fashioned sweet and sour mustard.
All you need is…
1 kg minced calf’s liver
4 large potatoes (floury works better than waxy)
2 large onions, grated
1 cup cake flour
15ml baking powder
salt and pepper to taste (remember salt especially is crucial in bringing out flavour so don’t be shy, I’d say at least 1,5 tsp salt.)
oil for shallow frying
Peel and parboil the potatoes for 15 minutes in salted water. Allow them to cool, then grate them on the rough side of a box grater. Mix the grated potato with the rest of the ingredients. Spoon dollops into a frying pan with a drizzle of oil and fry over medium heat until cooked through. Liver does not need to be cooked to death, so the doneness of the potato should be your guide as to when these liver patties are ready.