Monday, 15 June 2009

Thrifty chicken liver pâté

I have to be honest, the only reason I decided to make this is because I caught sight of tubs of frozen chicken livers being sold at Sainsbury's for a mere 44p.

44p! That's less than a bag of crisps! Add butter and a few other bits and you have a smooth, creamy, savoury pâté that could be elegant enough to be a dinner party starter, or a cosy supper with plenty of toast, maybe some cornichons, and a lemony, mustardy dressed green salad.

I like the taste of chicken livers, so I prefer to use less butter and more seasonings to create a balance of sweet, salty, herby and bitter flavours. Alternatively you could increase the butter by up to double for a milder, richer version. If you do this you may need a touch more salt. The trick is to keep tasting while you blend and season, until it is as you would like it.

250g chicken livers
whole milk
125g salted butter (or up to 250g if you prefer)
half an onion
a clove of garlic
2 tablespoons of port, or brandy
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
cayenne pepper
salt and pepper

Rinse the livers, pull off any white membranes and cut off any green looking bits. Put them in a small, heavy based saucepan with knob of butter. Pour over enough milk to just barely cover the livers, then heat very gently over a low flame, stirring every now and then and breaking up the livers as they cook until there are no traces of pink left. This should take 10 minutes or so, be careful not to let them form a crust or the finished pâté will be grainy.

While the livers cook, finely chop the onion and soften gently with butter and a pinch of salt in another pan. Finely chop the garlic (or grate it with a microplane - these are amazing for garlic, ginger, zest, to name a few things) and add to the pan. The onion should become translucent, stop before it browns. When the onion is soft, add the port or brandy and half of the thyme leaves. Strain the milky liquid from the livers with a fine metal sieve and add the to onions. Turn up the heat to medium and reduce the milk and onion mixture until it has the consistency of a thick sauce. Season with black pepper, a light sprinkling of cayenne pepper and the same again of grated nutmeg.

Combine the cooked liver and the seasonings in a food processor and whizz until smooth. Or you could push the whole lot through a fine metal sieve. Allow the mixture to cool abit so the butter won't melt when you add it.

When the mixture is cool, blend in the remaining thyme leaves and the butter in cubes and taste after you have mixed in about 100g. Now is the time to taste and add more salt, pepper, cayenne or nutmeg. The nutmeg should lend sweetness to the pâté, while the cayenne gives an undertone of warmth - don't overdo the cayenne as the pâté should not be spicy hot. If the pâté tastes too strong, add more butter.

Pour the pâté into a dish to set. This pâté will keep for a few days if covered and in a fridge. If you plan to keep it for longer, cover the top with clarified butter.

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