6 March 2011

Rose Prince's Piquant chicken liver pots

See those pickled onions? Home made by Hubby!

I've been browsing through Rose Prince's "Kitchenella" cookery book, which I borrowed from the Library recently.  It's an intriguing book in that virtually all the recipes are not only "do-able" (which is the mark of a good cook book, in my eyes) but they are also right up there on the "good for you" front, too.

Because we have a certain amount of health issues in our little family, believe it or not I do try to balance our meals and provide dishes that are not only tasty and look good, but aren't too terribly bad for us either.  Rose Prince's book has been a bit of an eye opener plus an education in providing meals that are largely good for you.  I think I'll have to include this one on my birthday list!

I've wanted to make a pate for quite some time, but have always backed away from the recipes because of the degree of butter, cream cheese or cream - or all of them - that the majority of recipes demand.  Rose Prince's version, Piquant chicken-liver pots, does indeed use butter - 2 tbsp of it in the cooking and then more to cover, but aside from that it's just flavours and aromatics.

I pondered on the recipe for a week or so and decided to ask at Spring Fields Butchers whether they could provide chicken livers.  It turns out that they can, but they're frozen.  Well, the only other chicken livers I'm aware of are from Asda and they were frozen too,  so I bought some from the butcher and hoped for the best.

Cooling - little did we know
I began by slicing up the shallots - and managed to cut the quick of my finger on the plastic mesh of the bag they were in.  So, once my finger had stopped leaking, I tackled the chicken livers.  To be honest, apart from the "ewww!" factor, I don't know why I worried about not bleeding everywhere, because by the time I had finished, the place looked like an abbatoir.  The livers, once defrosted, had degenerated into a big bloody bowl full of wet slops with the whole livers doing their very best to evade capture.  Trimming them of their gristle wasn't particularly difficult - and I put them into some milk to soak, just in case there was any bitterness threatening.  I'd rather forget the state of some of the livers - and I don't want to think about what happened to the poor chickens to make them look like that.  So it was a very gory time spent sorting, chopping and trying not to breathe too hard.

However, once they were in the milk they became a lot more agreeable to deal with and once the worktop, utensils and my hands had been washed clean, it was fairly easy to forget how gross the last 15 minutes had been.

So that you can see the texture, under the butter

The cooking really couldn't get any easier - although I did have to bubble the wine for a bit longer than it said in the book, as I was very wary of having too much liquid at the end of the cooking process.  Because of that, I threw the wine in before the livers were quite cooked through and they effectively fried and poached, which prevented them from getting tough and over-cooked.

Every individual ingredient that was added completely changed the character of the pate, until by the time it was headed towards the blender, I was seriously doubting whether it would be edible.  The wine had resulted in the blend taking on an odd grey hue which didn't help with its appeal.

The recipe says to decant the lot onto a chopping board and chop until the liquid had been absorbed, but knowing how easily tired my arms get, I opted to blitz the lot.  Of course, as it blitzed, it changed colour again and began to look rather more like pate.

As I decanted the mixture into its individual pots, I steeled myself to have a taste, knowing that with it being still warm, it wouldn't reflect exactly the end result - but it would be a good indication of the way it was going.  I had a lick of the spoon - and all doubts vanished.  It was flipping gorgeous.

You really wouldn't believe it of him, would you
I pushed the three pots to the back of the worktop (more to stop them from being knocked onto the floor, than anything else) and left them to cool.

Upon returning to them - much later - the one at the front of the group had had a huge scoop shape removed from it.  *shock horror*  I went and checked with hubby (who had commented earlier that "that pate smells like dog food!") and no, he wasn't responsible.  Son certainly wasn't responsible as he was in bed.  That left one person.  Mr Jonty long legs, long neck and long nose, who had obviously had his huge snout in the nearest pot.  Honestly, it is aeons since that dog has counter-surfed - and it made me wonder about the "dog food" comment!  So, son and heir had a cheese ploughman's, instead of pate.  It's just as well he was happy with that.

PIQUANT CHICKEN LIVER POTS (serves 3-4, depending on the size of your pots)

Ingredients :

2 tbsp butter
6 shallots, finely chopped
12 chicken livers, trimmed of gristly and left whole
6-7 anchovy fillets
2 tbsp capers, rinsed
1 wineglass red wine
sea salt & black pepper

For the herb butter :
4 tbsp salted butter, softened
2 tbsp finely chopped flat leaf parsley
1 tbsp finely chopped chives.

Method :

1.  Melt the butter over a medium heat, add the shallots and cook for around 5 minutes until pale gold and sweet.

2.  Add the chicken livers and cook, stirring, until just browned.

3.  Add the anchovies and capers and cook for a further minute, then add the wine.  Allow the wine to boil for around a minute or so, stirring all the time, then season to taste.

4.  Allow the contents to cool for a moment or two, then tip into a blender and blend until you are happy with the consistency.

5.  Fill pots with the mixture, packing it down inside and leaving at least 5mm space at the top.  Allow to cool completely.

6.  To make the herb butter, mix the butter, parsley and chives in a bowl and spread a little on top of each pot to seal in the mixture below.

7.  Cool the butter slightly to serve, or cover with cling film and refrigerate.  Remember to remove from the fridge a half an hour before serving, to allow the butter to soften.

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