Pâté – various versions

Pâté – various versions

Prep:           30 mins.

Cooking:      30 mins.

Course:        Starter or snack

Serves:        8 to 10

Rating:         3:  Moderate (well, it’s actually more fiddly than difficult – but well worth it).

One really good thing about living in France for part of the year is that I get to use all manner of different ingredients.  If I see something interesting that might be good in a dish, I get it and experiment with it.  Normally it works well and makes a great version of whatever it was I was making.  Sometimes it doesn’t work, and then it’s just put down to experience.  Today I have just made a superb version of a basic pâté, using chicken livers (tasty but a bit boring) and duck hearts.

 “WHOA!” I hear you say.  “HEARTS?” 

Yes, duck hearts.  I was dead chuffed to find these little gems on special offer.  Don’t be squeamish; they’re lovely.  Heart is a good meat. (I draw the line at tripes or brains, but heart is a good meat from just about any animal). You don’t NEED to use heart in this recipe; don’t fret yourself!

The method I’ll describe is a basic method for pâtés of all sorts, but I’ll give you variations as we go along.

Find; to make enough for 8-10 people to have a starter:

  • 2 large red onions (or could be white, yellow…..blue?) chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 250g butter
  • 500g – 800g meat content – pig’s liver, lamb’s liver, chicken livers, duck hearts or whatever you wish to use…… you don’t have to use duck hearts… or a mixture of any of them
  • Sea salt & ground black pepper (preferably both coarsely ground)
  • 2 tablespoons brandy (an’ ‘arf a bottle for the chef….)
  • You can also add mushrooms, crushed/chopped pine nuts, walnuts, hazelnuts etc, to alter the flavour and texture, should you wish.
  • Other flavourings (perhaps closely pared orange zest to give a zing of citrus, or ‘ambiance’ if yer wanna be posh).
  • Frying pan, mixing bowl (just any bowl large enough to take it all), food processor (if y’ain’t got one, borrow one. If y’don’t, you’ll be there for a fortnight choppin’!), ceramic dish large enough to take the mixture – or just use the mixing bowl!


  • Peel and roughly chop the onions. Don’t be too fussy when chopping as everything will be put through the food processor anyway – just don’t chop y’fingers (unless you can stand a funny-coloured finished product).
  • Melt about 50g of the butter in a frying pan and add the onions, heating them very gently to soften them rather than frying them off. After about 5 mins, add lots of ground black pepper and a little salt.  Remember that you can re-balance the seasoning later, but you can’t reduce salt content.
  • Peel and chop the garlic (see Tricks’n’Tips for the easy way to peel garlic) and add it to the onions in the pan. You MUST NOT overheat the garlic.  If it colours up, it’ll become bitter an’ knackered (like me).  You could even turn the heat off when the garlic goes in; that’d do it.
  • Put the now heated/softened onion mixture aside in a bowl.
  • Meat content: You could use all chicken liver or pig’s liver, beef or lamb’s liver or combinations of liver & heart of just about anything, I suppose.  I used chicken livers and some rather delicious duck heart for mine, about 50/50.
  • Trim the livers/hearts/kidneys of the fatty/sinewy bits. Cut ‘em away using scissors rather than a knife, it’s much easier.

(Fry up the trimmings for your dog/cat – he/she will love ‘em cold, sprinkled on top of the normal dog/cat food.  Try to use everything that you’ve bought – you’ve paid for it all, so use it all, even if it is just for the benefit of resident mutt or mog.  Reserve the juices from the cooking of them.  (Not the juices from the mutt or mog.)

  • Chop the firmer meat more than the soft chicken livers (chucky livers only need to be rinsed, patted dry on kitchen roll and halved, really) and gently fry them all in more butter. You’ll need to retain about 50g of melted butter to cover the paté for later, so keep that by for now.
  • The meat content will need about 10 mins of slow, low-heat cooking. When the chicken livers are just slightly pink in the middle, they’re ready – the duck hearts need a little further time.
  • Pour the contents of the pan into the bowl with the onions and mix ‘em all up nicely.
  • Use a food processor for long enough to give a velvety smooth texture. With mine, I processed the duck heart separately and for much less time to achieve a coarser texture, and then mixed that into the smooth chicken liver & onion mix to produce a smooth pâté with coarse duck heart pieces suspended within it, as a highlight.  Posh, eh?
  • Put it all back into the bowl and mix for the last time. Now check for seasoning/flavours and adjust as necessary – do it now.
  • Then add a couple of tablespoons of brandy – to the bowl, not to you. Aw, go on then – but only one small swig……

You must get the seasoning right before adding the brandy because the spirit, in its raw-straight-from-the-bottle form, will kill any flavours in the paté for a while.  The paté will need to mature before it’s consumed, you see.  Sorry, but there it is.  You should have made it earlier then!

  • Pour it all into the final container, preferably ceramic (but there’s nothing wrong with using a small loaf tin or plastic container from your Chinese/Indian take-away, if that’s all you have).
  • If you’ve used orange/lemon/lime juice/zest as flavouring, cut a couple of pretty slices of fruit and lay those either in the bottom of the container if you intend to turn it out to look good, or on the top if you can’t be bothered to turn it out.
  • Or if it’s quite herby, like mine, lay a sprig of herb on the top (or under) – mine has rosemary. Just make it look a bit pretty.
  • Gently melt the rest of the butter and pour it all over the top of everything, sealing it all in, including the herb/fruit/whatever. Now leave it until cool enough to go into the fridge.
  • Keep it there for at least 48 hours; preferably longer as the tastes & flavours will improve as time rolls on – I left mine for a week.
  • Turn it out onto a plate…..or not.
  • Cut slices of the pâté and serve it with slices of seeded bread or toast. It will be delicious either with or without butter.  And you’ll look ruddy heroic when you say “It’s just a little paté I knocked up the other day……..”
  • Don’t tell ‘em about the duck hearts until they’ve told you that it was a friggin’ triumph!

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