The first time I ate chicken liver pâté I wrinkled my nose. I had never tried anything like it and nor was I particularly interested in trying it again. Confused by the richness, the meatiness, the savoury smoothness, my taste buds could hardly keep up with my brain, completely overwhelmed. But, to be fair to myself, I was about six at the time.
Now I fall upon chicken liver pâté; given the opportunity I could eat it by the bucket load. It’s great for summertime picnics (just decant it into a Kilner or Wecks jar), or as a festive starter, or anytime of year really. The pâté will last for around a week with a buttered top or 3-4 days without, and it can even be frozen so you can make it ahead of time, or store if you make too much – if that’s possible.
One of my favourite things about it is that even since that first taste the ritual surrounding chicken liver pâté has more or less remained the same. Let me describe the scene: we’re at the kitchen table in the morning room of my parents house. It’s Saturday lunchtime. Dad is sat at the head of the table by the window drinking a guinness, having finished a morning’s work in the wine shop. My brother and I have pulled all manner of cheeses, leftovers and pickles from fridges and cupboards, which now adorn the table, and Mum, taking a sip of rosé, says, ‘Oh, I made some chicken liver pâté!’
A brown, stoneware dish is brought to the table. We wait while bread is put on the aga to toast. Lifting the lid of the dish reveals the rich, buttery pâté and without skipping a beat the locusts descend. Glasses are topped up and the question on everyone’s lips is, ‘More toast?’
I once thought that these were how Saturday lunches were for everyone, but I get the impression, some years later, that maybe this is just a Hare thing. So every once in a while, especially if I’m a little homesick, I whip up a batch, just like Mum does. I sit and enjoy with toast, pickles, and sometimes, a glass of rosé.
Chicken liver pâté recipe
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes (and a few hours/overnight to set)
- 1 onion, thinly diced
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 100g butter (plus 25g more if you want to top it as I have done)
- 1 bay leaf
- 225g chicken livers
- 3 tbsp masala (optional)
- First off prep the livers. If buying fresh from a butcher you can get them to do this for you, but if you’re buying them frozen or from a supermarket you’ll need to get stuck in. The aim here is to remove any sinewy bits of membrane so that you have a smooth as possible pâté.
- Heat 1/3 of the butter in a pan with a little olive oil, say a teaspoon, over a medium heat. The oil helps to stop the butter from burning.
- Once melted, add the onions and sauté until soft, then stir in the garlic and bay leaf.
- Distribute the livers evenly throughout the pan, cooking for around 2 minutes on each side. Halfway through pour in the masala, if you’re using it. Adding the masala will add a sweet richness to the pâté, bringing out the nuttiness of the livers, which is delicious, but if you don’t have it to hand or don’t want to buy masala or brandy or similar for one recipe then I understand. Don’t bother – it’s your pâté.
- When the livers are cooked they ought to feel tender, with only some resistance if you prod them, and are still slightly pink on the inside. The main peril of overcooking your livers at this stage is creating a grainy pâté that will begin to resemble brick mortar if you’re not careful.
- Allow everything to cool down for a bit. Read a book, do the washing up, flick through the dismal tragedies in the headlines.
- Then remove the bay leaf and discard, before blitzing everything in a food processor or blender. Try and get all of the residual butter and scrapey bits from the bottom of the pan and then add the remaining butter.
- Once smooth season to taste and give it a final blitz before pouring into a dish, or dishes if you want individual ramekins for a dinner party. If you want it super-smooth this would also be the point to sieve it, although personally, I can’t be arsed.
- Once cool, although you needn’t wait til completely set, melt the final lump of butter with a little seasoning and top your vessel(s) of choice, adding a bay leaf as a hint of the deliciousness within.