Calves’ liver with sweet onions


Preparation info

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Appears in

Old Food

Old Food

By Jill Dupleix

Published 1998

  • About

Those who go ‘eergh’ and turn the page haven’t tasted the classic Venetian combination of thinly sliced calves’ liver and sweet melting onions. Tradition dictates the liver is cooked with the onions, but I prefer to sear it quickly in a separate pan. Calves’ liver is relatively cheap, so buy more than you need, and trim it well into large pieces that are easy to slice.


  • 1 kg (2 lb) calves’ liver
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 1 kg (2 lb) onions, finely sliced
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 125 ml (4 fl oz) chicken broth or water
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp light olive oil
  • 4 sprigs of sage
  • 4 sprigs of rosemary


Remove any membrane or icky bits from liver and cut into extremely thin slices.

Heat butter, wine and onions in a heavy-bottomed pan and cook, covered, over a low heat for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onion is almost melting. Add salt and pepper to taste, and a little chicken broth or water if needed, to keep it moist and creamy. If too moist, remove cover and cook over high heat for a minute or two.

Heat butter and oil in a heavy-bottomed pan and add half the sage and rosemary leaves, to flavour the oil. Cook liver over very high heat, tossing well, for no more than 30 seconds; so it is almost crusty outside, and pink inside.

Divide onion sauce between plates, and top with liver, piled high. Add fresh sage and rosemary, and serve.