Down a side street in Soho – and not far from my favourite comics shop – is a Lebanese place called Yalla Yalla. It’s tiny, street-food-inspired, and really rather good. Particularly excellent is the Sawda Djej – a little dish of chicken livers, fried with handfuls of garlic, and finished with sticky-sour pomegranate molasses.
I’ve tried to recreate it here, and I think I’ve got pretty close. The original doesn’t have the onions or pistachios, but those are doing two jobs: adding some extra sweetness and body, and making me feel a bit better about knocking off a restaurant dish.
It’s incredibly piquant and intense, and it’s also done in about twenty five minutes. Not bad.
You really should try it at Yalla Yalla, but it’s pretty simple if you want to have a go at home.
- Chicken livers, 400g
- Onion, 1 small (or a few banana shallots)
- Pomegranate, 1
- Pomegranate molasses, 3-4 tbsp
- Garlic, 6 cloves
- Pistachios – shelled, 40g
Serves 2-3 as a main, though that’ll be intense. It’s better in the mix with some mezze bits for 4-5.
Cut the onion into slivers: sixths or eighths. Trim the livers, removing any sinewy bits. Peel and thickly slice the garlic. Deseed the pomegranate, retaining as much of the juice as you can. I like to slice it across the middle and then go for a combination of squeezing and scooping.
In a decent sized pan on a low to medium heat, slowly fry the onion in some butter until soft, say 10 minutes. You can go further and caramelise a bit if you want some extra sweetness. At the end, raise the heat a little, and fry the garlic for a minute or so, until it just colours.
Remove the onions and garlic, and at a fairly high heat, fry the livers until they pick up a bit of browning. They don’t take long, and I like them tender, so 8 minutes probably does it. Again, go longer if you prefer. You’ll get a firmer texture, more like lamb’s liver.
When the livers are done, add the onions and garlic, and the pistachios. Fry everything together, and deglaze with the pomegranate juice. Get any tasty gunk off the bottom of the pan, then add the molasses. Let it all simmer together for a minute or two, and serve garnished with the seeds.
Along with the pistachios, they give a bit of crunch and a fruity refresh to the bite that takes the edge off some of the sour. Not too much, though. This is all about the interplay of the big savoury from the liver and garlic, with the powerful slightly-sweetened sourness of the pomegranate.
I actually quite like this scooped up in little flatbreads, with a handful of fresh, herby salad. But it’s great on the side of a bunch of little dishes. Something to soak up that insanely zingy vinous sauce, maybe.
You could put it with couscous and some roasted vegetables if you want to keep it simple, or in the mix with some moutabel, salads, and little pastry things. Honestly, I’m not even paying attention at this point. I’m just packing my face with garlicky fruity-sour livers, and giggling like an imbecile. These are sodding delicious.