With the summer upon us we have moved to eating most of our meals outside once again. It is also the time of year when you never know who’s going to drop by. The long bright evenings encourage weekday visits from family and friends. While most people will phone ahead if they are dropping by at mealtimes, those calling in the afternoon or at suppertime need to be catered for too. For that reason at this time of year I always have terrines or pâtés on hand. A glass of wine, some crackers, toast, cheese, salad, pate or terrine slice can be a veritable feast and provide a warm and nourishing Tipperary welcome for any visitor.
Terrines are usually prepared in a loaf shaped tin and while similar to a pâté, they use more coarsely chopped ingredients. Ingredients are often carefully laid into a terrine before cooking so that when sliced they look like magnificent jeweled kaleidoscopic designs. Pâtés have been the staple of French chefs for years. They are delicate and fine and usually consist of finely ground livers of chicken, pigs, ducks, geese, and calves, flavoured with herbs, spices, wild mushrooms, wine, brandy, and in some instances, with very expensive and rare black truffles. While in France they are considered fine and exquisite specialities that require great culinary skill and passion (and it has to be said that the French offerings often meet that criteria) I believe that a very tasty, simple country pâté can be mastered by most. A nice pâté is also a very acceptable home cooked gift.
The other benefit with pâtés and terrines is their ‘make ahead’ value and versatility. They are an ideal starter, can be bulked out with salad for a simple lunch, work as part of a buffet or on a cracker as just a simple snack or accompaniment to a glass of wine as outlined above. If you are serving a pate dish for a lunch one thing that always bugs me in restaurants is that there is never enough toast. I’m probably being a little unfair in such a general sweeping statement, but honestly the toast to pate ratio has only been right in about two restaurants ever! Big slices of toast are also unappetising but a pal of mine always cuts her toast for pâté with cookie cutters. While it might be a little girlie for me, (I just cut mine into fingers or soldiers) it is cute to be served duck liver pate with duck shaped toasted bread – always a conversation piece. Her cookie cutter collection is quite something and so these days you never quite know what you’ll get.
Lettuce and general salad vegetables can decorate a plate of pâté, but personally I see garnish as a waste unless it can be eaten and is complementary to the dish. I quite like rocket or chopped scallions with pâté but also enjoy servings of cranberry or other flavoured jellies and jams to go with it. Finally if you do want to make your own my main tips are only use the freshest and best of ingredients. Pate uses quite a considerable amount of butter and so good quality butter is imperative to the success of the dish. Get the freshest liver possible and always make sure that any sinew or odd bits are chopped off the livers.
If you are a little nervous of pâté or terrines drop by JWB in the Oakville Shopping Centre any time as we always carry a great range of home cooked versions and, trust me, our chicken liver pâté is quite addictive. Talking of good pâtés a few weeks ago I was in Cork and managed to catch the Mahon Point Farmers Market where I picked up a pate from Barrie Tyner. It was the creamiest pâté I’ve had in a while and the velvety softness really felt luxurious and decadent on the tongue.
Like most of the food and recipes that I enjoy creating, pâtés and terrines are about getting a basic recipe and then adapting it to your own tastes and preferences. They are art rather than science and as long as you follow a few basic rules, anything goes. I do suggest though that you somehow log what you do if you are deviating from a specific recipe. When I cook for my own pleasure at home I will often experiment but then forget to note what I did. If you do happen across or create a great pâté combination let me know and I’ll try it. If it’s as good as you make out we might even try it for the shop and give it your name. If Brussels Pâté can go all over the world why can’t Pâté McGrath, Pâté Louise or Pâté Frank become a worldwide hit also I welcome your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org
We hope you enjoyed reading this post by Pat Whelan of James Whelan Butchers. Pat is a 5th generation butcher, cook book author and the director of James Whelan Butchers with shops in Clonmel, the Avoca Handweavers Rathcoole and Kilmacanogue, Dunnes Stores Cornelscourt, Rathmines and Swords in Dublin. Sign up to our newsletter for more updates from James Whelan Butchers