Thursday, February 18, 2010

Patés and Terrines

When I lived and entertained in the country it was commonplace for me to make patés. (Terrines are much the same but I tend to call the rougher editions terrines and the smoother ones patés.) These were first courses, served with hot toast, or put on to biscuits to be served with drinks. Patés are most convenient dishes, cheap and easy to make, cater for the ideas of an experimental and imaginative cook, and keep well in the refrigerator or deep freeze. Having left the country for the town, I continue to make them for meals, drinks and as gifts.
If new to cooking these delicious and most useful dishes, start with the basic recipe – more or less. A “handful” is about 250 grammes. Other amounts are up to you.
Just why I failed to add paté-making to either my “Dockland Cooking Past and Present” book or “The Oldie Cookbook” I have no idea. So here it is – with variations.


You will need (roughly):
A handful of minced, fatty pork (the fat is essential)
A handful of minced beef, veal or lamb (veal is best)
A handful of minced or finely chopped liver from pigs, lambs or chickens (lambs is best I think, and chicken liver, though excellent, tends to look red and raw in the finished paté)
A few anchovies
A beaten egg
A dessert spoon of sifted flour
Pepper and salt
Herb or herbs (I favour just thyme)
White wine
A spirit (to give the paté a little extra punch and individuality)
Lard (or butter) for greasing a container before adding the ingredients
Thinly cut rashers of smoked streaky bacon (especially for paté made in a bread tin)

Either make your paté in a handsome receptacle, like a lidded china pie dish shaped as an animal (my favourite is a sleeping duck), or in a bread tin.
Line the containers with lard (or butter). If using a bread tin, from which the paté can be turned out on to a flat surface when cold (by heating the exterior of the tin with hot water), apply thin overlapping strips of smoked streaky bacon stuck to the inner surfaces. Any bacon hanging over the sides can be folded over the paté before it is cooked.
In a large bowl put the minced meat and liver. Add a few pounded anchovies. On to it put a dessert spoon of sifted flour, a whisked egg, pepper and salt, herbs (thyme alone for preference), with white wine and spirit – like brandy, calvados, whisky, etc. to make a fairly sloshy mixture. It must be sloshy, when you have used your hands or wooden spoon to blend all the ingredients together.
Fill your greased containers with it, folding over the bacon if that has been your method. Cover them with foil, held securely by elastic bands or string.
Now place the container/s in a bain marie (a baking tin containing a small depth of hot water). Bake this in a medium oven for about 1 to1½ hours, depending on size. Make sure, once in a while, that there is enough water in the baking tin. If low, top it up with boiling water.
Take out your paté/s to cool. This may take a fairly long time. If using the bread tin method, put a weight on top of the foil to flatten the upper surface. This will make the paté more stable when it has been turned out to be sliced. Another bread tin weighted down with stones or filled with water will do this job satisfactorily.
That is the basic paté. And excellent it is.
You may want to make a “house” paté by giving it individuality. There are countless ways to do this. I have used just sausage meat successfully, and added green Chartreuse. I have made an excellent “Indian” paté with minced pork, chopped fresh chillies, chopped ginger root, dried methi leaves as the herb, and the usual egg, flour, pepper and salt. And sometimes I have added chopped cornichons (small gherkins), pressed garlic, capers, and now, nearly always, green peppercorns (that I have had soaking in vinegar for some time) and shelled pistachio nuts, both soaked in wine or spirit overnight. As another addition try stoned and chopped black olives (they look like truffles) or stoned prunes. A nice one, for instance, involves 1 lb. of minced pork, a beaten egg, some of those green peppercorns, black olives stoned and chopped, walnuts, shelled and broken up, and salt. Stir it together, cook in a bain marie for an hour, press and refrigerate. On it goes. A more complicated one would involve minced pork, lamb’s liver, chicken liver and lamb’s kidneys. Add to this some fried onion and garlic, a chopped chilli, some rosemary leaves, crushed juniper berries and peppercorns. Now add a dash of sherry or calvados. Finish with a beaten egg, salt and lots of chopped parsley. Then cook as usual. Finely chopped ginger root adds a kick to paté. And some lime juice sharpens it up. Liquids, like egg, lime juice and spirit might make the mix a little on the liquid side, so be careful not to overdo them. It should all firm up when cooked and pressed. I believe that thyme is always an excellent herb for patés. Combinations of meat and spices are really all up to you. Making patés is fun. Patés are economical, too – especially if you have many mouths to feed.
Once, when I was in Paris, a slice of foie gras was served with a small pile of what appeared to be dried green peppercorns and salt. So good was this addition that I have now often served it with my patés and terrines. To make the mixture, grind up or pound together about ¾ of dried green peppercorns to ¼ sea salt.

To keep my hand in after a spell of paté-making inactivity, I have experimented recently with various combinations of ingredients, each added to the above, basic, uncooked paté mix. They were: shelled pistachio nuts (available shelled and salted in Indian condiment stores); milled pepper and oregano; garlic, chilli and pickled peppercorns; olives and anchovies; capers, cornichons and pine nuts; horseradish and mint (extracted from mint sauce); foie gras (gift); and one made with leftovers from all these experimental mixes added to the basic paté. Each was of interest, with the mix of all probably the best.