WITH their rich French heritage, pâtés are such a tasty and easy dish to make. They are very inexpensive, and if they’re made well, using quality ingredients, they can create delicious, luxurious dishes.
Pâtés are traditionally made from meat and some of the best ones are prepared from the more unusual or often forgotten cuts like liver. You can also use fish, vegetables or lentils as the foundation for your pâtés – there are so many different recipes out there to try. A rich spread, a good pâté should almost melt on the tongue and make the perfect partner to crusty bread or crumbly pastry.
The joy of pâtés is their sheer versatility. Not only can they be a stand-alone dish, but they can also make a lovely filling for pies or a rich, smooth stuffing for meats. They can be the ideal addition to your lunch box or picnic served with delicious, crusty fresh bread, yet they can equally make an elegant and sophisticated starter with either thick, crunchy toast or thin, elegant melba slices. Sometimes at home, we like to whip up a few different pâtés which we serve all together, placed on boards in the middle of the table with lots of breads, garnishes and salads to enjoy and share as a family.
Chicken liver pâté is a classic and a lot easier to make than you might think. Don’t be put off by preparing the chicken livers either. All you have to do is discard any sinew on the livers before you cook them, otherwise you’ll find the pâtés will taste a little too bitter.
Chicken liver pâté can be either coarse or smooth but it should never be gritty, so I’d recommend that once you have your mixture, you push it through a sieve to get rid of any little bits left over after puréeing.
As well as the French classics, you can create lovely fish pâtés that make a light, fresh little appetiser, starter or snack. Some of the best fish pâtés are salmon or mackerel and they taste great made with soft cheese, crème fraîche, mayonnaise or – my personal favourite – whipped cream. The first step is to find yourself some good quality smoked salmon or smoked mackerel. Then it really is quite simple to combine the ingredients with lovely fresh herbs.
Chicken liver parfait
450g chicken livers
8 egg yolks
450g double cream
125g duck fat (melt with butter)
230g shallots – finely chopped
salt and pepper for seasoning
Pre-heat oven to 90C/Gas ¼.
In a heavy-bottomed pan, soften the shallots and add the port and Madeira.
Reduce until the liquid turns to a syrup consistency.
In a food processor, blitz the softened duck fat, chicken livers, egg yolks and double cream.
Season the mix with salt and pepper before adding the brandy.
Pass through a fine sieve to ensure the parfait mix has a smooth consistency.
Place the mix into a terrine tin and place this into a bain marie to cook slowly for 1 hour.
Chill in the fridge overnight before removing any brown skin that may have formed.
Spoon into individual jars for serving.