I absolutely adore pâtés, whether coarse or smooth, layered or the same all the way through, and a rich chicken liver pâté, with all its flirtations with retro food, is up there as one of my favourite starters.
This is my easy version that is packed full of flavour and always goes down a storm when I make it.
Some recipes for pâté, even the humble chicken liver pâté, can seem quite fiddly or laborious, but this recipe, which I have been making for over 30 years is simple to make and is quite speedy. Basically you fry the onions and liver until cooked, add cream and butter, blitz in a blender and pour into ramekins to set.
I love eating the pâté just with some toasted bread or as part of a platter along with cured meats, pickles and cheese, but it also makes the most wonderful canapés or nibbles – see below.
A rich, smooth pâté
This is a very smooth, silky pâté and has a gentle set, so that you can spread it easily. The bay leaves and parsley are optional, but I love the classic flavours they impart.
I like to add a parsley flavoured butter on top, which also helps to keep the pâté fresh and stop it from discolouring, but if eating it within the same day you don’t need the butter topping.
The livers do need to be slightly pink, so don’t cook them to death otherwise the livers go tough and a lot of the flavour is lost. Don’t get put off by any blood that comes out of the livers as they cook: the heat of the sauce will cook everything perfectly.
The pâté will keep for a couple of days in the fridge once made.
Sorry food police, it contains both butter and cream!
Don’t get horrified at the amount of butter and cream in the recipe: a good liver-based pâté really does need to have this richness – besides, it is not as if you would be eating it often.
If you are going to eat it, though, it is absolutely essential that you do so without feeling even a flicker of guilt!
A great canapé idea
For a truly delicious and simple canapés, spoon a little caramelised onion chutney into mini pastry cases – these cases can be made or bought ready to use. Then spoon some of the pâté on top and sprinkle over some chopped chives or even chive flowers. Seriously good!
If you don’t want to use pastry cases, slice some good quality bread thinly and cut into small squares or circles. Place on a baking tray and heat at about 160C (fan) for roughly 30-40 minutes, or until the bread has crisped up. These make a great base for the pâté.
Other flavour ideas
I sometimes add a splash of brandy to the mixture before I add the cream, but this is by no means essential.
Occasionally I add a few gratings of fresh nutmeg just before blitzing the mixture. At other times I sometimes add a generous grating of fresh orange zest – not too much, just enough to give a subtle citrus hint.
Recipe: chicken liver pâté – serves 6
- 500g chicken livers
- 1 medium onion, peeled and thinly sliced or chopped
- 2 fat cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
- 150g unsalted butter
- 1 bay leaf
- a few parsley stalks, roughly chopped
- 150ml double cream
- about 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- a few grindings of freshly ground black pepper
To finish (optional):
- about 80g unsalted butter, melted
- pinch of sea salt
- a little parsley, finely chopped
* you don’t need to take too long over trimming as the mixture will be puréed and strained later
You will also need 6 small ramekins – or use small teacups!
(1) Heat about 50g of the butter in a large shallow pan and add the onion, garlic and, if using, the bay leaf and the parsley stalks. Cook gently for about 5 minutes or until the onion is starting to soften.
(2) Trim the livers of the obvious bits of sinew and chop into small pieces, about an inch or so across. Don’t spend too long trimming, as the mixture will get pureéd. Increase the heat to medium and add the livers to the pan. Cook for about 8 minutes, stirring from time to time: you want the liver to take on some colour from the heat of the pan.
(3) Add the cream and bring to the boil. Simmer gently for about 5 minutes just until there is no more blood seeping from the livers. The livers will still be pink inside but not bloody!
(4) Remove the bay leaf, if using, and spoon the liver mixture into a food blender or food processor along with the rest of the butter. Blitz it a few times until very smooth. Strain into a large bowl through a fine sieve. At this stage I would taste it for seasoning, adding more salt and/or pepper if you feel it needs it. Spoon into ramekins, coming to about 1cm of the top.
(5) Cover the ramekins with clingfilm and chill for about 30 minutes until the pâté has started to set. You can serve it once set like this if you prefer, but if you want the parsley butter on top, mix the melted butter with salt and the parsley and spoon over the pâté. Chill until ready to serve.