It’s the 29th of February, the date where we correct the calendar so the seasons don’t drift out of place. It’s always struck me as curious how easily we accept that some years have more days than others, so we just tack an extra day onto the end of February. Come to think of it, why did February get shortchanged on the days in the first place? Here’s some excellent pub-quiz trivia about leap years – before we had a leap day, the Roman calendar had whole extra ‘Leap Months’ to get the seasons back on track. Before the Julian calendar was brought into place they needed to make a huge correction – meaning the year 46 BC had 445 days, the longest recorded year in human history. What did you do with your extra day this year? I spent mine (surprise, surprise) in the kitchen, making a batch of some seriously delicious ‘Perfect Chicken Liver Pâté’.
Why perfect you ask? This recipe, based on a method by the wonderful Jacques Pepin, is absolutely fool-proof. No more worries about whether the livers are cooked enough. No livers spitting hot fat all over the kitchen. No grainy texture, just buttery smooth deliciousness, ideal for spreading thickly, greedily, onto toasted baguette and wolfing down with some cornichons and a glass of crisp white wine. Yum! I love to make pâté, but always hated frying livers – so when I came across this method, where the livers and flavouring are gently poached before being pureed, I was an instant convert.
Pâté is so easy to make at home and chicken livers can be picked up for pennies. This means it’s not only very affordable, but you can customise the flavouring to suit exactly what you like. Don’t like brandy? Try a little port in there. Want a bit more oomph? Throw in a bit of bacon. I love to top mine with a gently set white wine jelly, filled with fiery green peppercorns, but it is wonderful too just with melted butter on the top. If you’ve never tried making pâté before, try this simple recipe – you’ll be hooked.
Perfect Chicken Liver Pâté
- 300-400 g chicken livers
- 1 small red onion, peeled and sliced
- 1-2 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 125 g unsalted butter, softened
- 2 Tbsp brandy
- black pepper
for the jelly:
- 2 sheets gelatine
- 175 ml white wine
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 2-3 tsp green peppercorns
- Rinse the chicken livers in cold water, then place them into a medium saucepan. Add the onion, garlic, bay leaf, thyme and salt to the pan, then pour in enough cold water to cover the ingredients. Place over a medium heat and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Turn the heat down to the lowest setting, cover the pan with a tight fitting lid and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring once or twice. Remove from the heat and set aside for 5 minutes.
- Remove the bay leaf and discard, then use a slotted spoon to transfer all the ingredients in the pan to the bowl of a food processor with the blade attachment fitted. Process on high until roughly puréed. With the motor running add the butter a quarter at a time, then add the brandy and a few grinds of black pepper and process until smooth. Taste and season with a little extra salt and pepper if necessary.
- Pour the pâté into ramekins or small glass bowls, smooth the surface then press a piece of clingfilm directly onto the surface. This will give the pâté a nice, smooth finish. Refrigerate until set, at least an hour.
- To make the jelly, soak the gelatine sheets in a bowl of cold water for 5 minutes. Warm the wine and sugar in a small saucepan over a low heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Remove the gelatine from the water, give it a good squeeze, then stir it into the wine until dissolved. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool to room temperature - this will be faster if you pour it into a small jug.
- When the jelly has cooled, take the pâté from the fridge, remove the clingfilm and scatter over the green peppercorns. Carefully pour over the cooled jelly, dividing it between the ramekins, then refrigerate until set.
- Serve with toasted baguette, cornichons and a little fruit - grapes, physalis or sliced green apple are all good. Pate can be eaten as soon as it has set, though the flavours will develop over a day or two. I usually let mine sit overnight in the fridge.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
How long does pâté keep?
Pâté will keep in the fridge, covered, for at least a week. It will keep much longer in the freezer, though jelly doesn’t freeze well so if you are planning on freezing the pâté only add the jelly layer after it has defrosted. Defrost the pâté overnight in the fridge.
I don’t want to put jelly on top of my pâté! Any alternatives?
Definitely! The jelly acts as a seal to keep air out of the pâté, keeping it fresh and stopping it from oxidising. A traditional alternative is to seal the pate with a layer of melted butter which is absolutely delicious too! After the butter has set, wrap it well in clingfilm to stop the butter drying out and cracking away from the edges of the ramekin as this will break the seal.
I don’t drink alcohol, can this pâté be made without?
Yes, absolutely. Simply replace the brandy in the recipe with a teaspoon of apple vinegar, and make the jelly from fruit juice. Apple or cranberry would be nice – omit the additional sugar as the juice will be sweet enough.