When I know my brother is about to hit town it generally means one thing. Eating. He’s as unfussy as I am, loves his food and packs away a good meal like I do. The weekend he came to town involved much food sampling and on the last night we stayed in and revisited our roots with a bit of Croatian stodge. Cooking in the mid afternoon, free-flowing booze and valued time together. It doesn’t happen often.
I thought we could try our hands at an easy braised lamb dish, flecked with cavalo nero and some liver dumplings to go with. Yes, liver dumplings. If you’ve tried the Czech-style bread dumplings and liked them, then imagine them flavoured with liver. For those with a penchant for liver, these will be right up your alley. Not a fan? Then boil up some pasta, rice or potatoes. Don’t forget to have loads of crusty bread with this as well.
Lightly salt the diced lamb. Heat the oil in a large, deep frying pan and sear the lamb on both sides. Remove the meat and set aside. In the same saucepan sauté the leek and garlic until soft, adding a little more oil if necessary.
Add the Vegeta, pepper, paprika, flour, rice and tomato paste. Stir briefly and add the stock. Pour in enough water to just cover the lamb and allow to come to the boil, reducing to a simmer as soon as it does. Stir occasionally and keep an eye on hot the rice is cooking as you may need to top up the water to keep it all moist.
When the rice is about half cooked, add the spinach and mix through. There should always be enough liquid in there otherwise you’ll end up with no gravy at the end. When the rice is cooked through the dish is done.
Serve over the liver dumplings with a good dollop of sour cream, some parsley and crusty bread.
Tear the bread roll into a bowl, pour over the milk and let it absorb. You’ll need to press the bread down and squash it around a little. Drain off the excess milk, squash it through your fingers and set aside.
Heat a small pan over medium heat. Add the lard and sauté the leek and garlic until soft and lightly golden. Set aside to cool.
In a mixing bowl combine the liver, cooked leek, soaked bread, egg, bread crumbs, parsley and seasoning. The texture should be sticky but firm and dry enough to shape with tablespoons. Almost like very thick porridge. You may need to add a little flour to firm it up. Set aside for half an hour, unrefrigerated.
Bring a large pot of water to the boil then reduce to a simmer. Using two tablespoons, shape the dumpling mixture into rough quenelles and drop them into the simmering water. When they rise to the surface you need to let them continue cooking for another 6 minutes, or until cooked in the centre. Drain and place on a plate as you cook the rest of the dumpling mixture.