The ingredients assemble! ... give or take. The official line-up is:
- 500g chicken / turkey / capon livers
- 250g butter
- 2 chopped onions
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/4 teaspoon mixed herbs
- 1/4 teaspoon thyme
- 1/4 teaspoon mace
- 1 clove of garlic
- 60 ml cream
- 30 ml sherry
- 30 ml brandy
A few other adjustments... I used what herbs we had. For a bit I thought we didn't have mace, and was going to use nutmeg, because mace is the outside of nutmeg, but then it turned out we do have mace after all. We didn't have cream, sherry, or brandy. Getting any was complicated, because as of Christmas Eve, we do / don't have a car. We have Schrödinger's Car. At the moment it's in a mysterious quantum state of car / not-car, and until it's looked at by the right kind of scientist, we won't know which. (Thanks to assorted family and friend-of-family heroics, it's no longer on a quiet grassy verge off the A34 that shall forever Car be, but in a driveway.) We managed to get cream by walking up to the garage, and subbed splendid birthday whisky for the sherry and brandy. (A move I rather resented until I realised it would be a total of 30ml of whisky, what with the recipe halved, and the whisky wouldn't be cooked, thus retaining its splendour.)
The original recipe from my mum's handmade, handsewn recipe book. My copy got lost forevermore in The Dreadful Storage Mix-Up Which Cost All Involved Many Dear Things, but I now have the copy that she gave her mother, which is doubly precious. Especially as my grandmother, though she never overshared, loved cooking and pottering-cooking just as much as I do, if not more.
500g block of butter, so 125g is a neat quarter. I love that they still mark butter packets with 50g markers. It gives me old-fashioned joy.
Recipes always give onions in onion-quantity, but onions vary wildly. These onions are enormous (bought specially from Tahmid Stores for extensive Christmas cooking; huge onions mean much less peeling). I thought maybe a quarter represented a normal onion; we debated it; decided that was a little onion; remembered this recipe was mostly made in South Africa where onions are a bit bigger than the English variety; settled on half an enormous onion. Moral: onions can take some hit-and-miss. We're not making soufflé here.
Onions (roughly chopped), bay leaf, thyme, and garlic. The recipe said thyme and mixed herbs; I only had thyme, so just used more of that. It also said to crush the garlic, but I didn't feel like unleashing the garlic crusher, and it's going to be simmered in butter and then blended anyway, so I just roughly chopped it. Moral: play fast and loose with herbs as well.
Heat the butter gently. I chopped up that block so it could melt more evenly. You don't want to fry it, just gently melt it. Stray thyme leaf makes it picturesque.
The recipe says to just add everything but the cream and alcohol. I gave the onions, garlic, and herbs a moment extra in the melted butter, again mostly because of raw-meat smells so I like it if the onion-smells release first.
Throw in the liver! This is the liver that I lovingly separated from the giblets. I tried to pull out all the stringy fat bits, with increasing queasiness, until Will said that it really wasn't that necessary, because I was going to blend it all anyway. Thank goodness.
A quarter teaspoon of anything is hard enough to guage, but an eighth?! I settled for the wrong end of a teaspoon to measure out the mace.
Add the bayleaf and leave the whole lot (minus the cream and alcohol, remember) to simmer for 30 minutes on a very low heat.
Once it's done, remove the bay leaf (splintery bits of dried leaf don't do so well in a paté) and...
Blend the whole lot to smooth.
Add the alcohol. I was adding 30ml total (half-recipe) of gorgeous 10-year Abelour. Half each of sherry and brandy is the usual. But I don't see why any spirits wouldn't work.
30ml is an awkward measure if you don't have measuring cups, which I don't. A traditional tablespoon is 15ml though, and I have a traditional tablespoon which I preserve for just such eventualities, so I added two of those. Failing that, a traditional teaspoon is 5ml, so you'd need 6 of those.
And the cream - for half-quantities, I was adding 30 ml, which was another two tablespoons. Of course I licked the spoon clean after the whisky, BECAUSE WHISKY, and then washed it, because I'm a good cook, and then added the cream, and then licked it again, BECAUSE CREAM.
Stir it all in.
I considered the exact colour of the liver paté for some time. I was torn between taupe and ecru, but on balance, I think ecru.
Pour it into small containers - you could use tupperware, I use ramekins because that's a very handy size; I'll freeze most of it, and then defrost it and it's already in its serving dish. The recipe says to pour melted butter over to seal it. I generally don't. I wonder if that's a pre-freezer approach to preserving? You don't want it to get freezer-burn, but a solid wrapping in clingfilm seems to do the trick. It's still quite liquid at the moment, though, as the butter hasn't hardened again, so for now it's in the fridge hardening, and tomorrow I'll wrap up all but one and freeze them.
Beautiful little liver patés, as if they came from magic, which they sort of did, because that bag of giblets would have been so easy to ignore.
Serious note: both Mum and I felt uneasy about the huge amounts of food and food-wastefulness around Christmas. And my take on it is, "As long as we don't throw anything away." Put stuff in tupperwares, freeze stuff, cook stuff as needed, pay attention to leftovers, make an "eating" list the way you'd usually make a "shopping" list - putting on a feast and having leftovers really doesn't have to be wasteful. And if you're exhausted, just get everything you can into the freezer, in small containers, and you'll have lots of easy meals to come. Here's the freezing-food blog post, with a punt for Sainsbury's Basics tupperware, especially the 250ml sizes.