Calf’s Liver with Watercress and Shallot Sauce

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

Shaun Hill's Cookery Book

Shaun Hill's Cookery Book

By Shaun Hill

Published 1990

  • About

You will almost certainly buy the liver ready sliced by your butcher, but if you have any choice, and are buying top quality liver, have it sliced thicker than usual, say 1/3 in (8 mm) thick. The liver flavour will be more pronounced.

Check that the outer membrane has been removed, otherwise it will pull the liver out of shape as it cooks. The meat should be fresh and clean looking, with little smell. Only inferior liver needs soaking in milk to remove excess blood.

The liver cooks quickly and will be the last job on this dish; the potatoes that accompany it will take the longest. I think mashed potatoes are ideal with calf’s liver, especially made with garlic-scented oil.


  • 4 × 5-6 oz (150-175 g) slices calfs liver
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • groundnut oil


  • lb (675 g) maincrop potatoes, scrubbed
  • 1 fl oz (25 ml) milk
  • 1 fl oz (25 ml) olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed


  • 4 oz (100 g) shallots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 oz (50 g) unsalted butter
  • 2 fl oz (50 ml) dry vermouth
  • 1 bunch watercress
  • 2 fl oz (50 ml) double cream
  • juice of ½ lemon


The Potatoes

  1. It is best to cook the potatoes in their jackets, which retains the flavour, and to peel them after. Follow the instructions.
  2. Skin the potatoes, and add ½ teaspoon salt and several turns of the pepper mill. Mash the potatoes, and add the milk.
  3. Heat the olive oil with the garlic and then strain this on to the potatoes. Beat with a wooden spoon until light. Keep warm.

The Sauce

  • In a small pan sweat the shallots with ½ oz (15 g) of the butter, then moisten with vermouth. Keep to one side.
  • Pick over the watercress. You can use some stalks as well as leaves, but take care to remove any yellow leaves, anything that does not smell fresh and peppery, and the rougher, hairier parts of the stalk. Wash thoroughly, then chop the watercress, not too finely.

To Complete

  • Heat the pan well before cooking the liver so that it will seal instantly. Season the liver at the last moment with black pepper and salt — disregard any advice you may have heard about salting the liver after cooking instead of before. Brush with oil. Fry quickly — 30—45 seconds per side — and remove the liver from the pan. Keep warm.
  • Combine the contents of the shallot pan and the watercress in the same pan with the liver juices and residue. Pour in the cream. Whisk in, piece by piece, the remaining softened butter until the sauce has thickened. This is best done off the heat so that the sauce does not split. Add the lemon juice and if it gets too thick let it down with a few more drops of vermouth.
  • Put the mashed potato on to the plates, pour on the sauce, and place the liver on top.