Tag Archives: butter

Christmas Chiken Liver Paté

Here’s a little festive something from the vaults that I’ll be making later…

Chicken Liver Pate topped with clarified butter, bay leaves and halved cherries.

We were entertaining the Anthropologist for a birthday lunch and with a guest who takes such care over her own entertaining a degree of effort is essential, such as making a new dish, or sacrificing several days and your sanity to prepare a little something from Heston Blumenthal [or, as on this occasion, both!]. And whilst there’s nothing new about chicken liver paté per se, I’d never done it before, so for me it counted.

I think I’d always imagined it would be a complicated business, but it turned out to be a surprisingly simple affair [unlike what was to follow!]. You can make it with just some sautéed livers, a splash of booze and some melted butter and seasoning – or you can phaff about a bit more, as here.

This will make enough for four, twice over, plus a little extra for a solo lunch or two. 

  • 400g of chicken livers [which when trimmed of sinew and any greenish parts yielded about 300g]
  • 200g of butter, plus more butter clarified to top the paté
  • 300ml of port, brandy, or madeira – or any mixture thereof, plus a splash more
  • 1 large banana shallot or 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 bay leaf, plus more for decoration
  • A few blades of mace

Place the chopped shallot or onion, bay leaf and mace in a small pan. Add the booze, bring up to a simmer and allow to reduce until the liquid has all but gone. Discard the bay leaf and mace.

Sautée the livers in a knob of the butter for three or four minutes each side. You want a nicely browned exterior and a pinky middle. You can finish them off with a glug of brandy in the pan and a quick flambé – by no means essential, but why waste an excuse for a bit of flambé drama?! You’ll feel more like Graham Kerr, and who could resist a paté made by the Galloping Gourmet? Melt the remaining butter. Tip the shallot and livers into a food processor, with any liquid and pan scrapings from the livers, and blend, adding the melted butter and a good splash more of your chosen booze as you do.

Season well, and scrape the paté into bowls or ramekins. Top with some clarified butter and decorate with bay leaves, pink peppercorns, cranberries and a grind of black pepper – or whatever takes your fancy. In the absence of anything else I ended up using halved glacé cherries. Chill for a few hours or overnight, but do remove from the fridge a while before serving.

Serve with cornichons, halved cherry tomatoes, and some good bread. You may find that your guests would prefer at least some of this to be toasted – I know I did! Then if you’re looking for something to follow it, and have a few days going spare, you could do worse than Heston’s liquorice poached salmon with vanilla mayonnaise, soy-marinated salmon roe, pink grapefruit cells and reduced balsamic glaze…

Chiken Liver Paté

Paté’s proving popular, so let’s have another…

Chicken Liver Pate topped with clarified butter, bay leaves and halved cherries.

We were entertaining the Anthropologist for a birthday lunch and with a guest who takes such care over her own entertaining a degree of effort is essential, such as making a new dish, or sacrificing several days and your sanity to prepare a little something from Heston Blumenthal [or, as on this occasion, both!]. And whilst there’s nothing new about chicken liver paté per se, I’d never done it before, so for me it counted.

I think I’d always imagined it would be a complicated business, but it turned out to be a surprisingly simple affair [unlike what was to follow!]. You can make it with just some sautéed livers, a splash of booze and some melted butter and seasoning – or you can phaff about a bit more, as here.

This will make enough for four, twice over, plus a little extra for a solo lunch or two. 

  • 400g of chicken livers [which when trimmed of sinew and any greenish parts yielded about 300g]
  • 200g of butter, plus more butter clarified to top the paté
  • 300ml of port, brandy, or madeira – or any mixture thereof, plus a splash more
  • 1 large banana shallot or 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 bay leaf, plus more for decoration
  • A few blades of mace

Place the chopped shallot or onion, bay leaf and mace in a small pan. Add the booze, bring up to a simmer and allow to reduce until the liquid has all but gone. Discard the bay leaf and mace.

Sautée the livers in a knob of the butter for three or four minutes each side. You want a nicely browned exterior and a pinky middle. You can finish them off with a glug of brandy in the pan and a quick flambé – by no means essential, but why waste an excuse for a bit of flambé drama?! You’ll feel more like Graham Kerr, and who could resist a paté made by the Galloping Gourmet? Melt the remaining butter. Tip the shallot and livers into a food processor, with any liquid and pan scrapings from the livers, and blend, adding the melted butter and a good splash more of your chosen booze as you do.

Season well, and scrape the paté into bowls or ramekins. Top with some clarified butter and decorate with bay leaves, pink peppercorns, cranberries and a grind of black pepper – or whatever takes your fancy. In the absence of anything else I ended up using halved glacé cherries. Chill for a few hours or overnight, but do remove from the fridge a while before serving.

Serve with cornichons, halved cherry tomatoes, and some good bread. You may find that your guests would prefer at least some of this to be toasted – I know I did! Then if you’re looking for something to follow it, and have a few days going spare, you could do worse than Heston’s liquorice poached salmon with vanilla mayonnaise, soy-marinated salmon roe, pink grapefruit cells and reduced balsamic glaze…

A Diamond Jubilee Diadem

This is my Jubilee tribute recipe which appears in the special edition of My St Margarets Magazine, out this week…

A crown of asparagus, surrounding a rich salmon mousse, topped with a 'cucumber caviar'.

My Diamond Jubilee Diadem of Salmon and Asparagus with Cucumber Caviar

Serendipitously a customer called in to ask if I could recommend a cheese for using in a salmon mousse just days after I had created this regal treat. And whilst the other principal players celebrate the best of British at this time of year – as well they ought for such a dish – the cheese which works best here is the French Delice de Bourgogne [or any of its triple cream cousins]. English asparagus is in season now so there is really no excuse for using anything else, and salmon are plentiful whether from the ocean or one’s own private loch. Though right royal purists might even opt for trout instead which was on the Queen’s coronation menu, right before the ‘Poulet Elizabeth’. Admittedly the Tonka bean is not native to the British Isles, but it does give a splendidly summery grassy note to the dish. I make no apologies for the fact that some effort is required for this recipe – it’s a celebration after all, and you’ll only have to make it once every 60 years!

This is a rich dish, again quite apt under the circumstances, so you need only small servings and very little by way of accompaniment – perhaps some melba toast points, or some Fine Cheese Co apricot and pistachio crackers. This quantity will make 6 to 8 servings depending on the size of your moulds, and any leftovers can be spread on toast as an indulgent supper, or used as a rather smart sandwich spread with some thinly sliced cucumber.

  • 240g poached salmon
  • 100g Delice de Bourgogne
  • 75g butter
  • 3 tbsps good French mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp chopped dill
  • Blade mace
  • Tonka bean
  • Zest of half a lemon
  • Paprika – a pinch
  • 1 tbsp single cream
  • Dill – a tbsp chopped
  • Cucumber
  • Chinese rice vinegar
  • Asparagus spears – enough to line your  5cm ring moulds when halved.

Trim your asparagus spears to the desired height – the tips should just stand proud of your ring moulds – and steam until tender, then refresh in iced water, drain, cut in half lengthways, and pat dry.

Melt the butter and add a few blades of mace and some finely shaved Tonka bean [no more than a quarter of a bean], and leave to infuse. Pop the salmon, mayonnaise, cream, cheese, and paprika into a food processor and blitz to a smooth paste. Pour in the melted butter through a strainer to remove the mace and blitz again. Turn out into a bowl and mix in the chopped dill and finely grated lemon zest by hand.

Cover a flat baking sheet with cling-film and place your rings on top. Put the salmon mousse into a piping bag and pipe a half centimetre layer into the bottom of each ring mould. Take your halved asparagus spears and carefully place them cut side outwards all around the edge of each mould, pushing the bottom of each into the layer of mousse. Finally use the piping bag to fill the centre of each ring; a smaller nozzle will help to push the mousse right up to and between the asparagus. Chill well, for a couple a hours or more.

Very finely dice [c.1mm] some cucumber and pat dry. Mix with some more chopped dill and sprinkle with a little rice vinegar. When you have carefully removed the diadems from their moulds top with a teaspoon or two of this ‘cucumber caviar’.

Easter Eggsess – Again!

Sorry, not had much time to post lately. Bloody working for a living and all that. So until normal service resumes here’s a repeat from last Easter which went down very well at the time – both online and on the plate!

A rich chocolate and bourbon tart, topped with mini Easter eggs

Apologies for the James Martin style egg puns but this is an ideal recipe if you find yourself with too much Easter chocolate on your hands, especially if that includes 350g of dark chocolate and a packet of Cadbury’s mini eggs. I can take no credit for the recipe which belongs to Dan Lepard of the Guardian – only the  decorative tweaks and techniques are my own.

Dan’s recipe produces a very easy to work crust [although I used an extra egg yolk and a splash more water] which can be rolled to less than the thickness of a £1 coin. The key thing is the freeze chilling. I also doubled the quantity of bourbon in the filling [hic!].

To make a well in the centre which can be filled with mini eggs or whatever you fancy [raspberries would be good when in season] pour half the filling into the baked pastry base and chill to set. Meanwhile keep the rest of the filling liquid over a barely simmering bain marie [see the temperature guides in the original recipe]. When the first half has set [after about 10 to 15 minutes] place a glass or jar in the middle and pour the rest of the filling around. The first time I did this I used a metal moulding ring which was a mistake – a glass or jar gives you more purchase when you come to gently twist and remove it which you should do once everything is completely set and after the tart has been out of the fridge for a few minutes.

If using fruit pile it high and allow it to spill over the edges of the centre well. This is less easy however with chocolate eggs. And if you haven’t spent enough time recently in your local cardiac unit you could serve this with cream, but it is easily rich enough without.

Smoked Mackerel Pate x 2

Smoked mackerel pate, topped with melted butter, parsley, capers and cayenne pepper

By slavishly following post heart attack dietary advice for over twenty years my late father ate so much smoked mackerel that he came to loath it with a passion. But then my parents always treated even the most casual advice from someone with a white coat and stethoscope as something not to be simply heeded, but rather carved in tablets of stone and set upon an altar. Ironic then that when the family recently gathered at the home the of my eldest brother, for the sole purpose of relocating our dear departed parents’ mortal remains to a dedicated area of woodland in the Lancashire hills, that I should be treated to a lunch of smoked mackerel pate.

The fraternal recipe, borrowed from a farmer neighbour, consisted of just smoked mackerel and cream cheese [with I suspect a fish to cheese ratio of c.2:1] simply blended together. And quite delicious it was too. If you want a more straightforward approach than what follows then I can highly recommend it.

For this version though I wanted to exploit the indulgent richness of the triple cream Delice de Bourgogne, and I couldn’t resist a bit more phaffing about too [as my dad would have called it!]. So the choice is yours, farmhouse or fancy. Either way it’s a piscine treat, just don’t eat it every day for decades if you don’t want to get bored…

Six to eight people will have more than enough

  • 280g smoked mackerel fillets, boned, skinned and roughly flaked
  • 140g Delice de Bourgogne [or similar such as Jean Grogne or Vignotte]
  • 2 tbsps creamed horseradish [as heaped as you like]
  • 3 tbsps soured cream
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • A good grind of black pepper

To finish [optional]

  • Melted butter
  • Flat leaf parsley, some chopped and a few whole leaves
  • A few capers or a few preserved green or pink peppercorns
  • A pinch more cayenne

Remove the delicate bloomy rind from the cheese carefully with a sharp knife so as to minimise any cheese loss. I’d never bother to do this if just eating the cheese but the flavour of the outer layer isn’t what you want here. Then just tip all the pate ingredients into a food processor and give it three or four good blitz pulses. The texture is up to you – for a coarser pate blitz less, for smoother blitz more. Check the seasoning and spoon into one big dish or a number of small ramekins. Chill.

You don’t need to top this but it does look pretty and takes no time at all. Mix the chopped parsley into the melted butter and gently pour or spoon a thin layer over the pate. Add the capers or peppercorns, and press a few whole leaves of parsley artfully into the butter. Once the butter has begun to set [after just a minute or two in the fridge] sprinkle over a little more cayenne pepper. If you do this when the butter is too liquid the little red jewels will all disperse instead of sitting prettily on the top.

Serve with bread or toast, and few more capers or some cornichons or gherkins on the side.

#smokedmackerelpate   #WFTTD

Easter Eggsess

A rich chocolate and bourbon tart, topped with mini Easter eggs

Apologies for the James Martin style egg puns but this is an ideal recipe if you find yourself with too much Easter chocolate on your hands, especially if that includes 350g of dark chocolate and a packet of Cadbury’s mini eggs. I can take no credit for the recipe which belongs to Dan Lepard of the Guardian – only the  decorative tweaks and techniques are my own.

Dan’s recipe produces a very easy to work crust [although I used an extra egg yolk and a splash more water] which can be rolled to less than the thickness of a £1 coin. The key thing is the freeze chilling. I also doubled the quantity of bourbon in the filling [hic!].

To make a well in the centre which can be filled with mini eggs or whatever you fancy [raspberries would be good when in season] pour half the filling into the baked pastry base and chill to set. Meanwhile keep the rest of the filling liquid over a barely simmering bain marie [see the temperature guides in the original recipe]. When the first half has set [after about 10 to 15 minutes] place a glass or jar in the middle and pour the rest of the filling around. The first time I did this I used a metal moulding ring which was a mistake – a glass or jar gives you more purchase when you come to gently twist and remove it which you should do once everything is completely set and after the tart has been out of the fridge for a few minutes.

If using fruit pile it high and allow it to spill over the edges of the centre well. This is less easy however with chocolate eggs. And if you haven’t spent enough time recently in your local cardiac unit you could serve this with cream, but it is easily rich enough without.

Boiled Royalty

Not a republican call to arms, but time to celebrate the start of this year’s Jersey Royal season!

A bowl of Jersey Royal potatoes with butter and a little parsley.

A few years ago we were lucky enough to be visiting friends in Jersey in early March, and driving round the island on a gloriously sunny Sunday we found the first Jersey Royals of the season for sale in a farmer’s ‘honesty shop’, a shed full of produce with a box for you to leave your payment. I was as excited as a Yukon gold miner and dashing home with them felt like being on the old Beaujolais Nouveau run [does anyone else remember when that actually used to make the 6 o’clock BBC news?]. It being the Shopkeeper’s birthday we were due to meet friends at the local bistro for dinner, and my breathless call on landing at Gatwick was the first, and so far only, time I have phoned ahead to a restaurant to ask if the kitchen would mind if we were to bring our own potatoes! I can only hope that if it happens again our hosts will be as accommodating as Brula were that evening.

Last year was an altogether different story. The drawn out winter chilled the island’s coastal fields for months and had us forlornly scouring the empty shelves well into early May. I remember speaking to a man whose job title was roughly along the lines of ‘The States of Jersey’s Potato Ambassador to the Court of St James’ at last year’s Real Food Festival when he’d managed to bring just one sack of potatoes to Earl’s Court, and had made some mortal enemies by removing even those from their native soil with supplies so short.

2011 though has been far kinder and the Jersey Royals have now landed, with this year’s first consignments arriving on the mainland in the third week of March. The most exciting part of cooking with the seasons is the change of season when the yearly re-appearance of old favourites is like the greeting of old friends you haven’t seen for far too long. And nothing says “Spring’s here!” like a bowl of Jersey Royals. I bought a bag last week and the sun shone for three days in a row, what more empirical evidence could you need?

There are things you can do with Jersey Royals besides boiling them and serving with lashings of butter, but why would you when the simplest treatment produces such majestic results? If you really must then the Atlantic Hotel’s canapé with lemon mayonnaise and caviar sounds suitably regal. But if like me your budget doesn’t run to such things just follow these simple dos and don’ts and enjoy these precious jewels wearing little more than the emperor’s new clothes.

DO…

  • boil or steam until just tender, checking often. The exact time is likely to be between five and ten minutes but this will depend on crop, size, and whether boiling or steaming.
  • anoint their majesties with plenty of melted butter or [and only if you’re allergic to butter] very good olive oil.
  • season thoughtfully.
  • swirl in a little chopped parsley and maybe just a leaf or two of chopped mint [no more] with the butter.
  • only use in salads if you have excellent quality or homemade mayonnaise available.

DO NOT…

  • over-cook!!
  • under any circumstances, add mint to the cooking water!
  • mash, although a little light crushing is OK and can help the potatoes to absorb more butter.