Mutton liver or kaleji masala is a traditional dish of the Muslims of Indian subcontinent and a popular street food in Lahore when cooked on a cast iron tawa, combined with other offals. It’s the first dish usually prepared in every Muslim home on Eid ul Azha or the Festival of Sacrifice, because it’s a quick and easy stir fry that tastes delicious especially when prepared with fresh meat. The same dish is more popularly prepared with chicken liver too as it is cheaper when bought in bulk and more acceptable to urban palates and kids.
My parents’ preferred choice of meat was mostly mutton. I always enjoyed eating the spicy mutton kaleji masala that my mom prepared but never knew ‘kaleji’ meant liver. Like most kids and many adults I also cringed at the idea of offal eating when I finally realised what I had been eating. I quit eating liver and other offals till I started actively cooking in the kitchen myself. That’s when I started reading about the characteristics and health benefits of different ingredients too.
I came to learn that most animal foods contain some amount of vitamin B12 but liver is the best and most concentrated source of that vitamin. Why B12 is necessary for us? A number of nervous system disorders result from the deficiency of this vitamin in our bodies – difficulty in focusing and remembering, anxiety, numbness in limbs, loss of balance and depression. Compared to carrots and apples (which are rich sources of micronutrients), the nutrients in meat and organ meat occur in exceedingly higher levels. Maybe that’s why in some traditional cultures, only organ meats were consumed and lean meat was discarded as we throw away offal these days!
A popular myth is that liver is not fit for eating because it stores toxins in the body. The fact is that while the role of the liver is to neutralise toxins, it doesn’t store them. It is packed with protein which helps maintain and build body tissues, muscles, hair and nails. Moderate consumption of liver (once or twice a fortnight) is beneficial to health because of its nutrition profile. It’s the excessive consumption that can be harmful due to its cholesterol content. Patients of gout and liver stones should completely avoid eating offal.
Tip -never add too much water while cooking liver or over cook it, that makes the meat tough and chewy.
1/2 kg chicken or mutton liver, cut into cubes
1 teaspoon red chilli flakes
1/2 teaspoon black pepper powder
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
2 tablespoons ginger-garlic paste
salt to taste
2 tablespoons olive, mustard or sunflower oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tomatoes, cut into wedges
2 green chilli peppers, chopped
Fresh coriander, chopped
Dry fenugreek (optional)
This Is What You Do:
Wash liver pieces thoroughly and completely drain all the water.
Marinate liver pieces with turmeric, ginger-garlic paste and and half of lemon juice for 10 minutes.
Heat oil in a heavy cast iron skillet/griddle/tawa or non stick frying pan. Add cumin seeds and red chilli flakes, sauté for a few seconds.
Add liver pieces along with the marinade. Add salt and black pepper powder. Add a splash of water (less than 1/4 cup). Sauté and cook for 5-6 minutes for chicken and 10-15 minutes for mutton liver. The pieces should be tender to touch.
Add tomato wedges and cook another couple of minutes till they are slightly tender and charred but still maintain their form.
Pour the rest of the lemon juice. Garnish with green chilli peppers and coriander. Sprinkle dry fenugreek leaves if using any.
Serve hot with naan or your favourite flatbread.