food talk
Jigar ka tukra
There is a bias against the liver which is seen as a poor man’s meat. Pushpesh Pant on how it can easily become a chef’s pride with a special touch

There was a time—oh so long ago—when kaleji was king. Back home in the hills of UP, the butchers threw in a few chunks of fresh liver as a bonus with raan or chaamp pieces bought by preferred customers.

They seldom slaughtered more than one goat and kaleji understandably was in short supply.

When several goats were offered to the Goddess Kali at Dasehra, things changed. The abundance of kaleji made it possible to celebrate once a year with ‘rare’ (a la steak) kaleji consumed with pungent mustard oil and salt.

Years later when one had moved to Delhi for higher studies, a pleasant discovery was made. Kaleji could be bought separately and enjoyed to ones heart’s content.

Winston Rabinder from Hyderabad, then flying with the IAF, persuaded us that liver indeed was the centrepiece in the mixed grill platter served at the venerable Volga.

The good friend also helped us acquire a taste for chicken liver on toast and omelletes fortified with thinly sliced liver pieces. But that is another story.

Once or twice a month Nirmalaji and Jitendra Bhai brought to our hostel mess a tiffin box full of mouth-watering, succulent and delicately spicy kaleji concoction adorned with some fried cashew nuts.

Siddiq Miyan residing in the vicinity of the Grand Jama Masjid introduced us to the pleasures of keema-kaleji. Even after our paths parted—such was the addiction—one made a beeline for Gullu’s khomcha at Authority where this signature dish used to sell out by 1.30 pm.

There are some fussy epicures who insist that kaleji should be lightly poached in milk before it is rendered fit enough for the purist’s palate but this we think is carrying foibles too far.

We have never been able to fathom the recent prejudice against this organ that is mentioned evocatively in Urdu Poetry: kaleji a.k.a. jigar.

Is it the fear of cholesterol or just snobbishness that treats all offal as ‘poor mans’ meat’?

We were delighted during a trip to Hyderabad that the denizens of Deccan have no qualms about eating and sharing with discerning guests, shall we say, their kaleje ka tukra.

It is often paired with kidneys or sweetbread and, in our opinion, comes close to the keema-kaleji classic. One word of caution: do not overcook the liver; it will ‘harden’ most unromantically.

CHEF’S delight

Kaleji (well washed and cut into small bite size pieces) 750 kg

Gurde/kapure (kidney or sweetbread cleanly slit from centre and washed well) 250 gm

Onions 250 gm

Ginger paste `BD tbsp

Tomatoes 150 gm

Garlic (crushed or chopped) 4-6 cloves

Dhaniya powder 1 tsp

Red chilly powder 1tsp

Haldi powder `BD tsp

Black pepper powder `BD tsp

Oil 150 ml

Salt to taste

Lemon juice 1 tsp

Green chillies two-three

Large sprig coriander one


Heat oil in a frying pan and put the onions in it. Stir-fry till these are lightly browned, then add the garlic. Continue frying for about a minute than add powdered spices. Put in the tomatoes after 30 seconds. Add the liver and kidneys (or sweet bread) and continue stir-frying on low medium heat for about 10 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice and garnish with green chillies and coriander. Enjoy.