I am a bit of a loss to understand why chicken liver pate doesn’t seem to get the recognition it deserves. The recipe could not be easier, the ingredients are cheap and the results are just delicious. Having gone down the alternative route, paid for expensive duck livers and jumped through the laborious hoops of making a parfait I can honestly say the results are in no way significant enough to justify the extra time or expense. These starters come in at under 50p a head and they are substantial starters, too. If you are serving a number of courses you could easily split the mixture into eight.
The butter may seem like a large amount but I would say that a) it’s a dinner party treat and b) the butter used to seal the tops cracks away easily and can be left on the side of the plate by the calorie-conscious. Another advantage is that they can be made in advance and yet another is that you can flavour them with almost any type of herb and alcohol combination. The lemon zest in this recipe counteracts the richness of the livers but you could employ a number of ingredients to do the same job.
I guess one possible one reason chicken livers are unpopular is their unlikelihood of winning any beauty contests, especially during the soaking-in-milk process, but if you can get beyond that you will have a really special hand-crafted starter that has not cost you the earth or taken you all day to make.
400g/1 lb chicken livers (1 pack from most supermarkets)
Zest of one lemon
6 oz butter
1/2 bulb garlic (yes, it is a lot – so what?)
4 fl oz dry vermouth*
1/4 tsp good salt
A good couple of shakes of white pepper
Lemon thyme (optional)
First, trim the livers of any connective tissue and then soak in milk for a few hours. Slice the garlic, zest the lemon and saute them both very gently in half the butter. Add the vermouth, turn the heat up to medium and bubble it away until all the alcohol has disappeared – you want the flavour not the volume. Strain the livers and add to the pan which can be left on a medium heat. Cook until all sides of the livers are sealed but no longer. This should only take 3 – 5 mins. The livers will be pink in the middle.
Next place the whole lot in a blender and whizz until smooth. You will have to keep stopping to scrape the sides down. When the mixture is velvety in texture, add the remaining butter plus salt and white pepper. Make sure you taste it to ensure it’s properly seasoned.
Finally, divide between your serving pots and then seal by melting the remaining butter and pouring over. To even the mixture out in the pots just bang them gently on the table. If you are using the lemon thyme place a few pieces in each pot before you pour the butter over. Serve with toast and ………
Black onion marmalade is my own invention and it’s really just a play on red onion marmalade but it does appear to be popular. Roxanne seems to inhale most of our remaining supply whenever she is home for a visit and friends have asked for the recipe after having been served it at our house or been given a pot as a present. It’s really simple to make – as is red onion marmalade – and it does act as a conversation point. People always think they’ve misheard! I would advise using cheap balsamic vinegar here as the good stuff would be totally wasted and I’d advise buying your nigella/black onion/kalonjii seeds (all the same thing under a differnet name) from your local Indian deli as they will be far cheaper than the supermarket.
1.8 k/4 lb onions, diced
1 3/4 pints balsamic vinegar (equal to bottles cheap supermarket brand)
3/4 pint malt vinegar
200g/1/2 lb molasses sugar
2 tbsp molasses
2 tbsp good salt
2 tbsp black onion seeds
4 fl oz light oil
Cook the onions in the oil and salt over a low to medium heat until they are translucent. Don’t let them brown. Stir in the sugar, molasses and black onion seeds and stir until the sugar has melted. Add the vinegars, bring to the boil and cook until almost all the liquid has evaporated, stirring regularly. Pot and cover in the usual way. The marmalade is fine to eat straight away but will improve if you can leave it a few weeks. A jar of this makes a lovely gift to arrive at a dinner party with. It can be eaten with pate, cheese or to pep up a boring sandwich!
*Don’t use expensive vermouth, the supermarket brand will work better.