Personally I’ve never had a problem with census takers. Sure they show up every 10 years, asking about things that are none of their business. But that’s not enough for me to wish them any harm. Certainly, I wouldn’t go as far as butchering them on the spot and eating their liver. That would be unkind. Of course, if we were talking about chuggers or striking tube drivers then perhaps I would need a rethink. But for Hannibal Lecter, there was never any decision to make. As we all found out in Silence of the Lambs, he didn’t just eat the poor census man’s liver, but he even sat down and went through his cookbooks to come up with one of film’s most disturbing recipes.
“I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti”.
Hannibal the cannibal, that lovable rogue, is a regular fixture at the top of almost all “film baddy” lists. In 2003 the American Film Institute named him as the number 1 movie villain of all time - munching his way past deadly competition such as Darth Vader and Fatal Attraction’s Alex Forrest. Although in my experience, being killed and eaten is far more appealing than dealing with a jilted lover.
It seems that everyone is in agreement then, that Dr Lecter deserved to be put into an isolated room and slapped with a muzzle. But why the combination of ingredients in his classic recipe? Perhaps they’re actually not as random as they seem.
But why the combination of ingredients in his classic recipe? Perhaps they’re actually not as random as they seem.
As it turns out - liver, fava beans and wine all contain tyramine, a substance that can kill you if it’s mixed with an antidepressant drug known as MAO inhibitors. When these drugs first came out, they were used primarily on patients in mental institutions. So this recipe looks to be the film maker’s deliberate reference to Lecter’s job, and eventual incarceration, in an asylum.
But don’t let a little bit of death put you off.
Here’s one way to make that morbid dish from Silence of the Lambs:
Chicken Liver and Fava Bean Salad.
I should start by pointing out – as well as census takers, I also don’t have anything against chickens. But to avoid a long and publicised prison sentence, using poultry is probably a wise consideration.
First – choosing your “nice Chianti”.
If you travel between Florence and Siena, you’ll discover many farms producing Tuscany’s famous wine. Chianti has been produced in the area since the Etruscan time over 2000 years ago and today’s tasting possibilities are almost endless. But if you’d rather skip the excruciating Ryanair trip, there are a few things to look for if you’re purchasing it locally.
- Chianti Classico is the real deal. Like Champagne, the Chianti producers get a bit arsey with cheap rip-offs. The rule is it must be made with at least 80% Sangiovesa grapes. So to prevent fraud, they’ve added a black rooster on the seal that proves the maker is a member of the Gallo Nero Consortium. It should have aruby red colour, floral notes and a dry and pleasant flavour.
- Chianti Riserva is the next step up. Matured for at least 24 months – it uses the best Sangiovesa grapes and has a higher alcohol content. It’s a more complex and fuller-bodied wine with softer tannins than the Classico.
Making the salad
You’re probably wondering what the hell a fava bean is. Well, over here we call them broad beans. My fiancé thinks they’re boring. But then, she enjoys John Barrowman, so taste is clearly not her strength. Indeed - the buttery, nutty texture of the fava bean is great. Especially in this fresh salad.
- Cut 400g of chicken liver into chunks and trim any tissue
- Boil 500g of fresh broad beans for about 2 minutes then run under a cold tap.
- Season the liver and fry on each side for a couple of minutes until cooked.
- Then arrange the liver and beans on a plate with some rocket leaves and a finely diced tomato.
- Drizzling over a dressing made from half a teaspoon of Dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon of honey, a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, 3 tablespoons of olive oil and a crushed garlic clove.
- Finish with a sprinkle of grated parmesan cheese.
If you’re like me, then liver will not be high on your list of favourite foods. As the good Dr made us so painfully aware, you need to be of a certain disposition to really enjoy it. So don’t be afraid to replace it for chicken thighs or pork fillets. Besides, the next census won’t be until March 2021. So you have some time to kill.
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