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Tom Kitchin on the power of pulses

Recipe: Calf’s Liver with Chickpeas

Published: March 4, 2015
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They are the edible seeds from podded plants and are known to be very nutritious, as well as really versatile as part of a variety of dishes.

We use pulses and lentils in our cooking at our restaurants, particularly The Scran & Scallie, but I also use them in my home cooking as they are affordable yet tasty ingredients for feeding the family – real essentials for the kitchen cupboard. And there’s so much variety available, from the popular chickpeas, red lentils, kidney beans and butter beans, to the more unusual yet tasty coco beans or flageolet beans – plenty of choice and so many different recipes to try.

When you’re buying beans and pulses, it can be tempting to choose tins from the supermarket. While these are perfectly acceptable for most dishes, we always try to buy our pulses dried from the last season’s harvest, as the older they are, the more soaking they will need and you’ll find they have less flavour than those that are fresh. It may seem a lengthy process to soak the pulses in cold water overnight, but you will really notice the flavour if you do. This method starts the rehydration process and helps to draw out any impurities. It’s actually pretty easy to simply pop them in water and soak and boil them. Just remember to soak them, rinse them and discard the water before you boil them up again. The great thing is you can also make up a big batch and keep them in your fridge or freezer for lunches or dinners for the rest of the week.

Chickpeas are a wonderful ingredient and add a brilliant texture to dishes. They can also be ground into a flour, sometimes called gram flour. I like to serve chickpeas with meat or fish dishes in place of rice or pasta. I also use chickpeas to make panisse – speciality bread popular in Nice in the south of France. In the same area they also love to enjoy socca – chickpea pancakes, which are really delicious. These types of dishes show just how versatile beans and pulses can be if you think a little differently.

Coco beans – not to be mistaken for cocoa beans – are also a more unusual option, but we cook them at home as part of an easy, healthy supper. These lovely, pale pink beans, often marbled with a darker crimson colour, are wonderfully soft and creamy – perfect for stews, curries or casseroles.

My biggest piece of advice is to experiment with as many different pulses and beans as you can – you’ll find so many wonderful flavour combinations that you might otherwise never have discovered.

Calf’s Liver with Chickpeas

Modern Scottish recipe: Roast salmon with wilted spinach and Old Pulteney whisky cream reduction


For the chickpeas: Sweat the shallot gently in olive oil until completely soft. Drain the chickpeas and add to the shallot along with the chicken stock. Add the bouquet garni and simmer gently until the chickpeas are just soft (top-up the stock if it reduces too much during cooking). Season with salt and pepper and leave to cool.

For the confit cherry tomatoes: Set the oven to 65C/Gas Mark 1. 
Lay the tomato halves on an oven tray. Season with salt, pepper and a little sugar and sprinkle over the thyme leaves. Drizzle with olive oil and slowly dry in the low oven until dehydrated but still soft and moist. This will take 4-5 hours.

For the calf’s liver: Season the liver and chargrill or pan-fry (medium-rare or just pink in the centre is recommended). Depending on thickness of the slices, a thin slice will normally take just one minute on each side on a hot pan or grill. Leave the liver to rest in a warm place for a few minutes.

Drink recipe: Cadbury Creme Egg Frappuccino

To serve: Gently heat the chickpeas and stir in the butter, sherry vinegar and chopped parsley and any more salt and pepper, if needed. Serve a portion of chickpeas with the liver on top and black olives around, then drizzle with olive oil, resting juices and add confit cherry tomatoes.



  • 4 slices calf’s liver (approx 
180g each)
  • 8 black olives (sliced into rings)
  • Chickpeas
  • 300g dry chickpeas (soaked in plenty of cold water for at least 8 hours)
  • 1l light chicken stock (may need extra to top-up as they cook)
  • 1 shallot (finely chopped)
  • 1 small bouquet garni
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 25g butter
  • 2 tbsp sherry vinegar
  • 1 handful chopped parsley
  • Salt and pepper
  • Confit cherry tomatoes
  • 10 cherry tomatoes (halved)
  • Salt, pepper and sugar
  • Olive oil
  • Fresh thyme leaves
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