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  • Catia Pacheco Castro

Iscas de Cebolada ❦ Calves' Liver and Onions Portuguese Style

Updated: Jul 28

I can't believe it has taken me this long to publish this recipe! Calf's liver, aka veal liver, and onions with this amazing sauce would be my last meal, without hesitation. Are you picturing dry, crumbly and thick and gray pieces of liver, and how you swore you'd never eat it again? Then I promise you they made it wrong. I will almost always hesitate to order this dish in restaurants, because it can go so terribly wrong, lol.

My maternal grandmother, Alzira, used to make it the best. I can taste it in my mouth just visualizing it. In Lisbon, you will see it on menus, typically, as iscas "com elas", meaning "with boiled potatoes", with or without onions, and not necessarily calves' liver. Pork seems to be very common, but I do not like it. This is the only liver I will eat. It is melt in your mouth tender and very mild tasting. I also only ever serve this with french fries , buttered white rice, or mashed potatoes. The secret is the marinating and thin slicing. It really must be thin to prevent over cooking and give you an exceptional mouthfeel. You need to marinate the liver overnight, or at least 6 hours. The marinade becomes your pan sauce, so it is a one pot meal.

Wondering where the best calves' liver and onions is served? Other than my house:)

The best restaurant calves' liver I have ever had out, is tied!

On holiday in the Madeira Islands, in the city of Funchal, at a great little restaurant called

TM/ Taberna Madeira.

Equally perfect was our lunch at Le Jardin du Cloître of the Hotel Couvent des Minimes, in Lille, France.

Here they were served with mashed potatoes, it was cooked to perfection.

In terms of buying calves' liver here in the UK, it is a bit hard to come by. I buy mine from Morrison's. It is delicious and inexpensive. Waitrose also carries it, but the price is extortionate, to put it mildly. Many farms sell online, but I have personally never sourced it this way.

I do consider this to be a special meal, so I do often splurge.

I really hope you try my grandmother's recipe, I always feel her hugging me when I make this.

Enjoy xoxo






Iscas de Cebolada ❦ Calves' Liver and Onions Portuguese Style

Prep time: Marinade 6 hours and up to overnight.

Cook time: 25 minutes



500 g. Calves' liver, sliced very thinly* and cleaned of silver skin and veins

450 g. Onion, sliced thinly (about 2 large onions)

100 g. Unsalted butter, divided

30 ml. Extra virgin olive oil

120 ml. Red or white wine vinegar

150 ml. Dry white wine

5 Cloves of garlic, minced

2 Bay leaves, torn in half

2 tsps. Sweet paprika

2 tsps. Coarse sea salt


*To easily slice liver, place it in the freezer for 15 to 20 minutes.

This will make it firm up and therefore be easier to handle and slice.


In a non-reactive container, place liver, garlic, wine, vinegar, bay leaves, paprika and salt. Stir to combine. You want your container to be small enough so that the liver is completely submerged in the liquid. Say goodbye for now and pop it into the refrigerator for a minimum of 6 hours and up to overnight.


When ready to fry:

1. Place a large frying pan on a medium high heat. Add half the butter and olive oil to the pan. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are a light golden brown. This might take several minutes, depending on your pan. Once golden, tip everything into a bowl and reserve.

2. Into the same frying pan, on a high heat, add

remaining butter and liver, reserving the marinade.

Fry on high for 3 minutes. After 3 minutes, turn liver, lower heat to medium/low, add

reserved marinade and onions.

3. Cover and cook for 4 to five minutes.

Watch that sauce doesn't evaporate too quickly. If it does add a bit of water, but no more than 100 ml.

I like to throw a knob of butter in to the finished liver off the heat.

Keep covered until ready to serve.

Delicious!!


























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