While I suppose a lot of people have their eyes firmly on Christmas Day at the moment – family and friends, food and drink, gifts and treats – I’m also looking through and out the other side, to Boxing Day. Probably if I’m honest I put more time and effort – certainly ahead of time – into the food on Boxing Day than I do to the food on Christmas Day itself. After all, Christmas dinner, in the end, more or less boils down to a roast dinner with pretensions!
Boxing Day dinner so often is Christmas leftovers – but in my house it’s a feast of cold cuts. The ham, which I smoked earlier this month, is slowly defrosting ready for cooking tomorrow. I have a handful of lovely cheeses, all ready. The spiced plum chutney I made in the summer is now nicely matured. The sourdough, of course, I made yesterday. There may be some leftover goose, depending on our appetites. There’s a game pie, which we collected today from our local farm shop butcher. And to complete the feast, of course, we’ll be wanting some pate. I’ve always bought this in the past, and always been slightly disappointed compared to the rest of the wonderful spread.
This recipe is mostly inspired by Delia Smiths’ recipe for Coarse Country Pate, and by the Farmhouse Pate recipe in Raymond Blanc’s classic ‘Cooking For Friends’ which I picked up in the Oxfam shop last time I was in Launceston.
- 800g of really good quality minced pork. Mine was a mix of minced shoulder and minced belly pork from the butcher. The unidentified packs of minced pork in the supermarket will work, of course, but I suspect at the expense of flavour and quality.
- 275g of smoked streaky bacon. I used my home-cure smoked Christmas bacon – so I suppose you could substitute the most expensive artisanal pancetta money can buy… not that I’m biased! More seriously, make sure it’s dry cured, you don’t want nasty phosphate water from smoke-flavour brine-injected bacon leaking out into your pate!
- 225g of liver. Strictly the recipes call for pigs’ liver, but I couldn’t get any this morning I used lambs. Actually I prefer lambs’ liver, it’s softer and creamier in flavour, but it will be interesting to see how this affects the flavours.
- To season, 20 each of juniper berries and mixed peppercorns, a teaspoon of salt (I used smoked salt, but this isn’t compulsory), a pinch of mace, two crushed cloves of garlic, and a heaped teaspoon of chopped fresh thyme leaves (dry would do, but make it a level teaspoon).
- To lubricate, a small glass of dry white wine, and a single measure of brandy.
- Finally, to decorate, some bay leaves, a few more juniper berries, and a couple of slices of streaky bacon.
- A 2lb loaf tin, or terrine, and a roasting tin big enough to contain it.
Mince up the bacon in a food processor, leaving a bit of texture to it (how much texture is up to you!). Then, seperately, mince up the liver, again to leave a bit of texture though this will go smoother faster, so watch carefully! Combine all of these together in a mixing bowl, do it thoroughly and for goodness’ sake use your hands! Now crush the juniper berries and peppercorns in a pestle and mortar along with the salt. Add the herbs and spices to the meats, and again mix as thoroughly as you can. Finally, add the liquids, and mix again.
Something magical happens when the wine and brandy mix with the meats – what started out a bit like a big bowl of sausage meat suddenly becomes silky and the aromas, oh my! Allow the bowl to rest for an hour or so in a coolish place.
Arrange the bay leaves and juniper berries in the bottom of your loaf tin. Now take your two rashers of streaky bacon, and place then between two sheets of baking parchment. Roll them out really thin with a rolling pin. They will easily double in width, and a bit more. To get them into the loaf tin, I cut away all but the parchment under them, and push this rasher-side-down into the bottom of the loaf tin before carefully peeling away the paper.
Now pack all the pate mix into the tin, levelling it carefully. Put the loaf tin into the roasting tin and fill this half way up with boiling water, and put the whole lot in an oven at 150 degrees for an hour and three quarters.
The block of pate will shrink back from the sides of the tin during cooking, and will be surrounded by fat and jelly juices. Let it stand until nearly cool, and then it’s time to press the pate. It’s pressed for two reasons – firstly, to compact it and reduce the risk of it crumbling when you slice it, but secondly – and just as importantly for me! – to compact the bottom so you can turn it out neatly! It smells *wonderful*, just as I would have hoped. To press it, I covered the top with a double layer of tinfoil, put an old tupperware container on top, and then piled it up with all the weight I could muster. So, four tins of beans, and four litres of fruit juice ought to do the trick!
Once it’s had a really good squeeze, and cooled right down to room temperature, put the pate and whatever weight you can conveniently keep on top of it, move it into the fridge, where it will keep quite happily in its juices and rest and improve for three days before serving.
It’s a new recipe to me, so I’ll be back to tell you how it worked out! But the smell, oh my, I can’t see it being anything other than lovely! With crusty (maybe toasted, even?) home-made sourdough. And pickles!
I’m trying to write a post a day during Advent, so, please come along with me while I try to Blog Advent – the Country Skills Way – and forgive me if I don’t quite manage it!
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