Tag Archives: cornichon

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…

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

Friday Fishcakes

 Salmon and potato fishcake, shown with a slice of lime and a frond of dill.

OK so I last made these on a Tuesday, but who’s counting? In any case there were no complaints from the Shopkeeper, either that night or when they appeared again the next day for lunch. These are comfort food of the first order – crispy on the outside, moist and flavourful within – but with enough by way of added refinement that they shouldn’t be embarrassed to show their faces at an informal supper party with friends. Having gone several days without peas and suffering severe withdrawal symptoms I served these with pea and pea-shoot salad [see page 5 of the summer edition of My St Margarets Magazine for recipe and details of my all-consuming pea addiction] and some honeyed pickled baby beetroot, but for something fancier why not try griddled asparagus and a lemony hollandaise? Or for a light lunch just mix some chopped watercress with crème fraiche and serve on the side. These quantities make 4 very large [my favourite, 1 each is plenty!], 6 large or 8 small to medium fishcakes.

  • 270g salmon, poached [see separate post]
  • 800g mashable potatoes
  • 1 heaped tbsp salted capers, rinsed well
  • 60g cornichons / gherkins, finely chopped
  • A few sprigs of dill, finely chopped
  • 50-100g white crab meat [I was using leftovers and would have added more if to hand]
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 60g butter
  • Nutmeg
  • Flour for dusting
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • Breadcrumbs [I used walnut bread*, but plain white or perhaps panko will work fine]
  • Groundnut or vegetable oil for shallow frying

Boil the potatoes until cooked and then mash or pass through a ricer into a large bowl. Using a fork whisk in the butter and Dijon mustard, and a grating of nutmeg, until you have a smooth potato paste. Leave to cool.

Flake the poached salmon and add this to the potatoes along with the capers, cornichons, dill, and crab. Using a rubber spatula [or similar] fold all together, gently but firmly. You want to achieve a homogenous mass without breaking the salmon flakes beyond recognition. This is the time to check the seasoning, adding salt and pepper as necessary. Divide this into your desired number of cakes and with your hands make balls of the mix, then flatten into patties. Pop these into the fridge to chill and firm up for an hour or so, or prepare to this stage even up to a day in advance.

Now for the messy part… Dip each cake first in flour, dusting off the excess, then into the egg, and finally the breadcrumbs. For best results repeat the egg and breadcrumb dips once more. Now you can return them to the fridge for another half an hour or so, or proceed straight to the pan.

Heat the oil in a frying pan until the surface begins to ripple, and gently lay in the cakes. Allow the cakes a quick sizzle in the hot oil and then turn down the heat and fry slowly. Give them a few minutes and then, using a palette knife or fish slice, take a peek at the underside. Deep golden brown is what we’re after – if that’s what you have gently flip over and do the same to the other side, if not continue to cook, checking every minute or so. The sides of the discs may not brown as much as the faces depending on the size and thickness of your cakes, and the depth of your oil. No matter, all will be well once the flat surfaces are done.

* Yes, it does help to run a shop selling bread if you want to have a good variety of frozen breadcrumbs to play with, but we can all take the remains of a loaf that’s a couple of days old, blitz it in the food processor and tip the resulting crumbs into a freezer bag, especially if you’ve shelled out for an interesting bread – it will make just as interesting breadcrumbs! In most cases, including this one, you can use breadcrumbs straight from the freezer.