I have a few embarrassing weekend rituals. Inspecting properties out of my price range, lingering a little too long sampling at the deli counter and watching animal documentaries so I can share interesting little discoveries like the fact hippopotamuses may be carnivores. I kid you not. It appears there's a new habit to add to the list - making charcuterie. Perhaps the deli ladies will be spared my indecision now.
For my birthday I received the insightful book Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn. You couldn’t get further from Donna Hay. This book means business and it truly is the encyclopaedia of salting, smoking and curing. It is divided into chapters on salt-cured, dry-cured, smoked food, sausages, confit and terrines. This is not heart foundation approved stuff. I admit some of the ingredients are hard to source and the authors have a minor obsession with kosher salt but this is my sort of recipe book.
Some people are wine snobs. I am a small goods snob, probably to the detriment of my waistline. I lust after jamon, soppressa and chorizo. I am fascinated by the smallest variations in taste and texture and disturbingly excited about the ability to create my own. Weary of getting in over my head, however, I decided to begin with something simple. Having missed the joys of 70’s entertaining I decided to begin with a pâté.
This is a basic, inexpensive, hearty, country style paté. No fancy in-lays or ingredients. Perfect to smear generously on crusty bread. I’ve bastardised this recipe sufficiently to feel comfortable reproducing it without major copyright infringements.
500g chicken liver cut into chunks
1 tbsp (kosher) salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup shallots diced
2-3 tbsp brandy
2 slices white bread, crusts removed and chopped
1/4 cup milk
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 large egg
1 tsp grated nutmeg
In a large bowl toss the chunks of liver with salt, pepper and the bay leaves. Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
Pre-heat your oven to 150C/300 F and freeze your processing blades and bowls. The chilling is crucial if you want the mixture to bind correctly.
In a large sauce pan over high heat sear the liver in batches until you get a good crust. The more crust the more flavour so make sure your liver is in chunks for the maximum crust to liver ratio. Once all are seared transfer to a plate and refrigerate.
In the same pan add your shallots and cook until translucent. Deglaze the pan with brandy and transfer to a bowl. Chill.
Combine the bread, milk, cream, eggs and nutmeg. Set aside.
Process the liver, shallots and bread binding mixture until smooth. Pour into a chilled bowl and stir until the mixture takes on a sticky consistency.
Line a terrine or baking tin with plastic wrap or baking paper with excess to cover. Pack the mixture in tightly and tap to remove air bubbles. Fold over the excess paper or wrap and cover with a terrine lid or foil.
Place the tin in a roasting pan filled with hot water to come halfway up the sides of the terrine. Bake for 1 hour.
Remove the tin from the water bath and set aside to cool. Place a 1 kilogram weight on top to ensure it reminds tight as it sets. Allow to cool to room temperature before refrigerating overnight. Will keep for up to 1 week.
Next on the list is homemade prosciutto.