Jack vs Ready Meal: Liver and Mash.


Jack versus the ready meal, take two. (Mine’s the one in the silver container!!)

Today’s challenge was to make liver taste nice. Yeah, I know. My only experience of liver was as a childhood dinner, and I have to admit I wasn’t looking forward to this one bit. But onwards – perhaps my palate has changed…

The ‘ready meal’ version, in it’s most basic form, retails at 75p for a one-person, 300g meal. I decided to see if I could do the same, using similar ingredients…

The ready meal version contained: Potato, water, liver, onion, milk, cornflour, double cream, rapeseed oil, flour, sugar, salt, tomato purée, malted barley extract, black pepper, thyme, white pepper.

I’ve knocked out the milk, cornflour, cream, flour, sugar, salt, malted barley extract, and both types of pepper for a start – and I still reckon mine will taste better. (This is how I started cooking on the cheap, by scanning through ‘celebrity chefs’ ingredients on their recipes and simply eliminating the ones that had no real purpose. Works for me!) So…

Jacks Ready Meal Liver and Mash, 44p.

Ingredients (serves four, costs below):

Around 1kg tinned potatoes (not drained weight)

500g chicken livers, thoroughly rinsed
1 onion
1 tbsp oil
1 tsp mixed herbs
400g chopped tomatoes

First, place the potatoes in a pan of boiling water and simmer gently to soften. Depending on where you buy them, tinned potatoes will already be quite soft, but not quite ‘ready to mash’.

While the potatoes simmer, dice the onion and liver and add to a frying or sauté pan with the oil and herbs. Sauté gently on a medium heat for around 8 minutes, and stir to disturb on occasion to prevent them from burning.

Pour the tomatoes over and crank the heat up to high to boil and thicken. Stir well for a minute or two, then remove from the heat.

Drain and mash the potatoes, keeping a little of the water (around 2tbsp) in the pan for a creamy mash consistency.

Top the mash with the liver and sauce, and serve.

Make it better:

To make it better, and go even further, add an equal amount of chopped bacon to the liver while it is frying. You can also add a splash of milk to the mash if you like it creamy, and serve with green veg.

The supermarket ready meal was 300g for 75p- my recipe made 4 x 400g portions at 44p each – result!

And… I scoffed the lot. So hooray for liver – it’s a great source of iron, B vitamins and protein, too.

Ingredients costs based on Sainsburys and Sainsburys Basics:
1080g tinned potatoes, 38p (19p/540g can). 500g chicken livers, £1 (50p/250g). 1 onion, 11p. 1 tbsp oil, 3p (£4/3l). 1 tsp mixed herbs, 3p (30p/jar). 400g chopped tomatoes, 35p. All prices correct at time of writing.


Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe.


  1. Did you mean use by Jan 2013 or 2014?

    I’m a vegetarian now but remember being forced to eat liver as a child. Friends’ Dad was a GP & convinced that it was good for me. He gave up when I threw up all over the dining table…

  2. As a veggie I’m trying not to think about liver too much…but I have to say yours looks much better, more substantial and less watery!

    I think I suggested this on the last post, but how about trying Corned Beef Hash? I’m pretty good at knocking up cheap veggie meals, but CBF is my partner’s favourite so I’d love to be able to make it for him cheaply and easily from scratch!

    • actually. a post on hash in general – much like stir fry, you can do a lot with a nice hash! Very filling, too.

  3. You probably want to correct that to 2014 on the lid 😉

    Not had liver since I was a kid (bleaurgh). I’m almost tempted now…

  4. Are chicken livers cheaper than lambs liver? I’ve only had lambs liver and pigs liver, never tried chicken. What are they like, I’m guessing quite tender as I know some people use them to make pate. I remember pigs liver from school days, dry and chewy with tubes and nodules and things! Yeaurgh!

  5. Liver done well is absolutely lovely. Done badly it is downright awful. I simply wouldn’t buy that ready meal because I just know it is going to fall in the done badly category. Yours looks very much nicer. And home-made pate too!

  6. Another veggie here, but I must say if I had to eat one of the above it would most definitely be yours and not the supermarket gloopy one.

    And I know you’re being very good with your date for the pack to go in the freezer giving it just 3 months, but I have frozen and left things in the freezer for up to two years and they have still been fine when cooked and eaten.

    • Haha, me too. I’m terrible for finding random frost encrusted home-made bean burgers and the like in corners of the freezer. They always seem to cook up fine. Don’t ask, don’t tell is my motto!

  7. I don’t know how you do it Jack, but it looks amazing. Also canned potatoes are the shizzle. No waste no messing and they are just as good for you as fresh ones. Winner winner liver and mash dinner! haha

  8. We love chicken livers. We especially like them in pate. AND anything tastes better with bacon!!!
    I am from Canada and calves liver was especially good too.

  9. I’d love to see you tackle some kind of chow mein…it’s the only thing about takeaways that I miss!

    Fantastic work you’ve got going on here Jack – please keep it up! My minute student loan and I thank you deeply 🙂 xx

  10. Ive always used lambs liver which is very cheap..cut into fine strips, fry with chopped onion and a bit of bacon if you have it, add 1 tbsp instant gravy granules (basics 22p tub) and some red wine if you have it (or just water) and some ground black pepper…the gravy wants to be thick!…possibly even cheaper than yours Jack as no tomatoes!..an alternative option anyway and it is very tasty.

  11. Oooh, great one! Had a 50p pack of chicken livers in freezer for a while, now I can use them up! Can you do anything with pig’s heart? I have a large packet of them (82p at Morrisons!) and they are waiting for an ingenious recipe!
    Oh and can I just say that whenever I see a tin of chopped toms in the supermarket I always think of your recipes, cos you use them so much! 😀

    • Nicole, in Denmark, pig’s heart is stuffed with chopped apples, prunes and parsley. Hold it all together with a skewer or some string. Then brown it in a hot pan,add some water, and cook it very slowly for at least an hour, until tender. Remove it from the pan, and thicken the sauce (they add cream and redcurrant jelly to the sauce). The heart needs to be soaked in water with a little added vinegar for a while before cooking – and you probably will want to remove some of the tube thingys before you stuff it! I hope this helps. I’d send you my Danish mother-in-law to show you, if I could. 🙂

    • I can’t say I have had pigs heart but have lots of lambs heart and ox heart(really big and makes a fantastic Sunday roast), but any kind of heart we always roast on a bed of onions with some water so it doesn’t dry out and often stuff, for lambs heart I make a pea and mint and garlic/lemon cus cus stuffing, cover with tin foil so they don’t burn and then take off to brown for the last 10 min, lambs heart I normally cook at 170 for 30/40 min depending on how big they are and make gravy from the onions and water, hope this helps bit. And for pigs heart a stuffing made from cooked rice, apple, dried cranberries or cherries and fresh herbs would be lush.

  12. I dislike liver too and was going to say try chicken livers as I have discovered them to be more edible than the others – but then I read through the rest of the blog…

  13. I’m not a fan of liver but must admit I have never come across it with tomatoes! In our house it was served with bacon/onions/gravy. I’m told peppered liver is nice, just dust the liver in flour and crushed peppercorns and fry!

  14. I love liver and would eat your pack without hesitation. I had liver for my supper yesterday – pigs liver. I am afraid that I do not like lambs liver. To me it has a very strange taste and very grainy. I made more mash than I needed and plan to make fish cakes with what was left.

  15. I think as yours was so much cheaper you could use free range organic chicken liver which is the only one I will eat. Delicious cooked pink take out pan keep warm make sauce with tinned tom tsp. sugar mixed herbs garlic and anything else you fancy. Pop livers back in and mix through.

  16. Lambs liver and tinned tomatoes bit of tomato purree and some onion delish not like school dinners will convert liver haters, never tried chicken liver other than pate, If too strong flavour soak in some milk or vinegar and water to mild it down. Ox (beef liver is stronger tasting.) Keep Go Getting Them Jack you are doing a great job and we love you and SB. Cant wait for book and more.

  17. I like pigs liver, as it has the most flavour. I wash, dry and trim the tubes out, then coat in flour and fry *very* gently with some bacon and an apple. It goes into my halogen oven in stock for about 3/4 of an hour.

    Liver will be tough, unless you cook it very quickly or very slowly.

  18. Another tasty and cheap way to cook liver is to coat it in flour, and fry it on a medium heat with parsley and garlic. My MIL gets the liver when it is on special offer, it’s gorgeous like that.

  19. Hey Jack,

    I notice you often knock salt and pepper out of recipes where as I think seasoning is an essential (and cheap!) to make things tastier. Obviously, anyone can season your recipes to taste, so no biggie, but wondering why? Personal preference? or maybe your Small Boy hates pepper, as I did until I was, oh, about 20…

    • I don’t add salt because of SB – I prefer to use a stock cube for the additional flavour and they come with salt in, so I just got out of the habit. Pepper is something I haven’t had in the house for a long time and just haven’t got around to buying yet – I prefer a shake of turmeric or a pinch of chilli!

  20. Here in the states Beef liver is on sale quite often for .79 cents a pound to .99 cents a pound. I live one block away from a Mexican Grocery store with its own butcher shop. So I can pick the pieces of liver they give me.
    My mate would not touch the stuff, we have been friends for 10 years and he would not touch liver… Its the texture said he.
    So one day I started it on the stove and then finished it off briefly in the broiler and served it with barbq sauce. With out onions. When he came in he did not recognize the liver. I went to eat my liver and it was all gone.
    I do like to bake liver (with a grate underneath and a tray under that to catch the juice) . Broiling for a min is optional, It can go tough and dry instead of crispy outside and creamy inside. However when you find a way to cook it that you like, it is indispensable as a cheep protein source to add to your meat recipes.

    I also like beef tounge (I was not told what I was eating for a few times to a friends place. Once I liked it I then wanted to cook it.)

    I have tryed kidneys, but can’t get them cooked right.

    I saw a recipe from the seventies by an actress who was a health food fanatic Adelle? I think she lived till her 90’s so I am thinking of her ground beef recipe which included chuck, heart and kidneys has anyone ever tried that?

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