Friday, September 07, 2007

A tale of two pâtés...

From three salads to two pâtés... Chicken liver and smoked trout. Not together, of course. That would be revolting.

There are certain foods that are under-rated in life. Humble foods that you might easily pass by in favour of other, more elaborate concoctions are sometimes those which actually give most pleasure. I adore this chicken liver pâté. For so many reasons. First and foremost, it reminds me of home. It is a recipe of my mother's that we all adore though we only ever used to have it at Christmas. A once-a-year treat. The sort of thing that you'd think nothing of until you popped a bit in your mouth. And then the table would fall silent. And then suddenly everyone would be reaching for the pot to scoop out some more before they had finished the first lot, just in case there was none left by the time you were ready for seconds (I come from a large family; its every man for himself). It is still the food thing I look forward to most at Christmas. I suppose it is a symbolic food for me - I associate it with family, warmth, laughter, seasonal cheer.

I is only recently that I have started to make this myself. I felt sure it wouldn't be as good as my mother's. But, you know what? It was pretty good. I love to make a big batch and serve it to friends in place of a starter, with drinks. I just place the dish on a table, carve up some baguette and let them help themselves.

If you think this recipe has a lot of butter in it, ........ it does! Get over it. Ok. So its not the healthiest thing in the world, but you don't need to eat the whole pot at once (however moreish it may be). It keeps pretty well due to the brandy. And it is not something to have everyday. It may be simple. But it is definitely a treat. Try it, I'm pretty sure you'll like it...

My Mother's Chicken Liver Pâté


6 oz chicken livers
4 oz butter
1 medium onion
1 bouquet garni
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon brandy

1. Trim the chicken livers of all white bits. These make the livers taste bitter.

2. Chop the onion and garlic finely and soften in 1oz of the butter until just turning colour.

3. Add the chicken livers, bouquet garni and season well. Fry for around 3-5 minutes, until the livers are just cooked through but a little pink.

4. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

5. Pour mixture into a food processor (or push through a sieve!) and pulse to smooth consistency whilst adding the remaining butter and brandy.

6. Pour into a china pot. Smooth over the top and top with clarified butter (or in the case of my photo, not so clarified!). Chill until set.

Notes - most recipes similar to this suggest flambée-ing the livers in the brandy. This burns off the alcohol of course and to some might be preferable. But I like it this way, with the slight 'kick' that comes from the raw brandy. In fact, I have been known to let the hand slip slightly when adding in the brandy....!


A total contrast, but super easy to make, is a quick smoked trout pâté. I actually prefer smoked trout to salmon, but this would work with salmon too. I'd probably use slightly less horseradish with the salmon.

Smoked Trout Pâté


200g smoked trout

200g cream cheese (I used low-fat to make up for all the butter in the chicken liver pâté)

Juice of half a lemon (less or more to taste)

1 tablespoon horseradish sauce

1 tablespoonful chopped chives


1. Simply place trout and cream cheese in the processor and whizz to a paste. Add horseradish and lemon juice to taste, plus plenty of black pepper (go easy on salt as the fish is salty). Add snipped chives and whizz to blend.

2. Scrape out into a serving dish and smooth over the top. You may like to garnish with some chives as per the photo. Or you may not like to!


Anonymous said...

They both look really delicous Antonia. I think I'll have to wait for a special occasion though otherwise I won't be able to keep my head out of the fridge!

Deborah Dowd said...

I love chicken liver pate, and your mom's recipe sounds divine (especially with the brandy slippage!)

Antonia said...

Thank you both.
Mmm - the brandy slippage is an important ritual!

Peter M said...

I rate smoked trout up there high with smoked salmon. I could eat that whole plate!