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A Postcard from a St Stephen’s Day Walk by the Atlantic in Waterford, Ireland

A Stephen's Day Walk

A Stephen’s Day Walk

After the insanity of Christmas Day and cooking for so many people, the day after, St Stephen’s Day in Ireland, is an oasis of calm, with a morning dedicated to sleep.

I grew up on the Atlantic on the south coast of Ireland with lovely beaches of all types, mountains, waterfalls within, woods nearby and a magic road. Other stuff too but you get my meaning, there is quite a bit going on here.

Yesterday, we took a walk out on the old train track to the beach and beyond. Fresh cold air stinging the cheeks as the sun was setting, the moon rising slowly and then switching its light on. We walked back in the pitch darkness guided by moonlight.

Which was lovely. I felt human again.

Photos from my phone but worth sharing, I think. 

Pausing for a breath

Pausing for a breath

Greetings from the beach

Greetings from the beach

A washed up lobster pot

A washed up lobster pot

Walking the dog on the beach

Walking the dog on the beach

I found some three cornered leek (often mistakenly called wild garlic and just as delicious)

I found some three cornered leek (often mistakenly called wild garlic and just as delicious)

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Twas the night before Christmas…

IMG_4480

Every year I come home to Ireland. This year was to be the exception, but my prodigal brother decided to come back from Australia. So, I am here too.

Conscripted as the cook, I got the ferry back from Wales so that I could bring back everything that was requested. My siblings are obsessed with Brindisa chorizo, so I bought 4kg of that to keep them going, a 5kg turkey (long story below), wine and other random bits and bobs to keep us going.

The other food was ordered locally from a few trusted sources, a local-ish butcher that I have come to know well, Pat Whelan of James Whelan Butchers supplied the Spiced Beef and the Shoulder of Pork (to be roasted overnight as per my Comfort & Spice recipe) and other bits and pieces too.

A quick trip to Midleton Farmer’s Market for a side of Frank Hederman’s smoked salmon, one of my favourite things in the world (also smoked mussels and smoked haddock for the days after), and our starter is sorted. Homemade cucumber pickled will be served simply on the side.

For the non fish eaters there will be carrot soup, with a chilli, coriander and garlic oil. One pescetarian will have local hake with prawns and a caper and garlic sauce. A myriad of requirements but we can do it.

Almost done, home made vanilla marshmallows will be served to finish along with a cake that my mother has had made. Plenty of wine, of course. I brought back a lovely Harrod’s food & wine hamper from their luxury hamper range (full disclosure – I received this to review and couldn’t resist, the Harrod’s wine shop is terrific). I say food & wine hamper but given the choice I opted just for wine and we have already started working through it. 3 bottles remain to match our Christmas feast. I may have a tipple while I cook later too.

And that is it. I must go now and make marshmallows and start on my chicken stock, vegetable stock and soup. I wish you all a very merry Christmas. Have fun, be merry, and see you all after it. For those who want the turkey story, it follows below.

TURKEYMAGEDDON 2012

Those of you on twitter will know tales of my turkey. I wanted to cook one 2 weeks ago to post a recipe for you all. But a fox got there before me and I returned from a very early trip to the supermarket at 7am to a half eaten turkey, just delivered and swiftly stolen, on my doorstep. I was furious, both with the thieving fox and the delivery man that left the turkey there for the fox to brutalise.

The thieving sneaky fox took what he could, a bare slice from the frozen breast and ran, leaving me to pick it up and with a heavy heart throw it in the bin. If only it were that elegant. I was paranoid a rodent may have worked its way inside (I live in London, rodent city, and have a deep rooted fear of them), so I kicked it several times first. A nice little show for the neighbours. My life is all about the glamour, in case you haven’t picked up on that bit yet.

I ordered another which came just before I left and that I brought back with me on the ferry to Ireland. It was frozen so it thawed as I came. It is a lovely beast from Copas, which we had last year too. Full of flavour and moist, flying in the face of all dry turkey myths, even without brining. My last remaining worry is that it may not fit in any oven available to me. I will deal with that later. Turkeymageddon 2012.

 

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The Ice Hotel: Eating Lapland & Exploring It

Lapland

Lapland

Arriving in snowy Kiruna I was so excited. There was a buzz on the flight., Most people were traveling for important birthdays and other such events, and I was so surprised to be on a flight where everyone wanted to chat. My first stop was a dash to see if the astronaut pig was still there but woe, he was gone. Maybe he is in space now?

Kiruna Space Pig – photo taken 2 years ago on my last trip

The crunch of snow underfoot followed by whispery snow was thrilling. I bounced out to the waiting bus and immediately joined a tour of the ICEHOTEL. I was dying to see it. And then I thought, it is cold isn’t it? Of course it is cold, but until you are standing there, standing on the ice, surrounded by ice, sitting on ice, does it actually hit home.

I was hungry so I made my next stop dinner. Right after I collected my all in one snow suit, huge snow boots, leather mittens that made me look like a seal or the joker, and a balaclava. I was set.

I trekked to The Homestead. Just down the road. So I followed directions, crunching through snow as I went. But where was it? After 10 minutes I spied a couple also in snowsuits and asked them. Just down there, they said. Look out for the candles. And have the burger, it is great! So, renewed I trotted on.

Around a corner I spotted an outdoor Christmas tree and some candles. Was this it? It was. Toasty and warm and very inviting, I ventured in from the snow and -10 deg outside,

The Homestead, ICEHOTEL

The Homestead, ICEHOTEL

I removed my snow suit and sat for dinner. I started with lovely fresh and bright lingonberry cocktail (with pear and vanilla).The chef freezes 300kg of lingonberries, cloudberries, blueberries and raspberries when in season to get them through the winter. For starter I had blueberry cured salmon, whichwas delicious and now, as I travel home to Ireland in the ferry, I have blueberries in my bag as I want to give that a go

Goepi Burger, The Homestead

Goepi Burger, The Homestead

Main course was the burger, the goepi burger. What is goepi? Smoked minced reindeer I was told, The burger was served rare, was that ok with me? Yes please. It was one of the most delicious things that I had on the trip, perfect burger, rare and moist with great texture. The bun was fluffy with a crisp exterior. It was huge but I managed it. I felt very full.

Cloudberries with Vanilla Ice Cream in an ice bowl

Cloudberries with Vanilla Ice Cream in an ice bowl

Next stop dessert, and I had to try the ice option. As well as carving the hotel, essentially out of the river, the ICEHOTEL also makes (1 million) glasses and plates too. Vanilla ice cream and cloudberries was served on top. How to describe cloudberries? Native to the arctic region they are an orange berry, slightly sour and almost savoury in flavour, delicately intense. I love them.

When in Lapland jump on a snowmobile. I didn’t think I would enjoy it but I loved it. I was a bit of a speed demon wanting to go faster, faster, and faster again. On my first trip, we snowmobiled for two hours or so from 11.30am to a cabin in the woods where we had a wilderness lunch. The lunch was typical of Lapland, Sami Souvas, smoked salted reindeer fried in butter and served in bread. Utterly delicious and part of the Slow Food Arc of Taste. They opened the last Terre Madre in Turin with it.

Snowmobiling in Lapland

Snowmobiling in Lapland

Cooking by the fire

Cooking by the fire

The next night I went on the Northern Lights snowmobile expedition. This is the best year for 50 years to see them, assuming there is little cloud. Unfortunately there was a lot of cloud, but we did have an amazing snowmobile ride through the forest in the dark to the same cabins, where we chowed down on moose goulash. No booze as we were all driving. Which was nice for a change.

Bleak roe, creme fraiche and white fish roe with blinis at ICEHOTEL restaurant

Bleak roe, creme fraiche and white fish roe with blinis at ICEHOTEL restaurant

My last meal was at the ICEHOTEL restaurant itself and I kept it light, although I do regret not having the ICE tasting menu where all dishes are served on ice or with ice. My starter was wonderful bleak roe (I visited a producer when I last visited Lapland 2 years ago and even popped some fish to make some myself), white fish roe and crème fraiche with blinis.

For main course I had a more hearty moose dish, a fillet which had been cooked for 50 minutes at 80 degrees C so that it was melt in the mouth tender. Served with spiced lingonberries and spatzle, this was a filling dish. So much so that there was no room for dessert, which is a shame as I do love those arctic berries.

I travelled to the ICEHOTEL with Discover the World who operate direct charter flights from Heathrow to Kiruna, with packages for 3 nights starting from £1,093pp or via Stockholm from £870pp.

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Bacon Masterclasses for Spring & Gift Vouchers for Xmas

Food at 52 Cookery School

Food at 52 Cookery School

I have had a number of requests for bacon masterclasses and gift vouchers for them for Christmas so I have scheduled two for Spring. I am partnering with Food at 52, a beautiful cooking school in Clerkenwell, in London for two evening classes on Thursday 21st February and Thursday 21st March from 7 – 10pm.

Bacon Masterclass Gift Voucher

Bacon Masterclass Gift Voucher

The classes will cost £75 for 3 hours, all inclusive, as always. They will feature some new recipes and some old favourites with lots to take home after.

We will be making:

Chipotle Bacon Jam
Candied Bacon
Bacon Jam Fudge
Bourbon Bacon Brownies
Bourbon Bacon Chocolate Truffles

To secure your place, pay via paypal. Let me know if it is a gift voucher and I will send on a customised voucher (as above). If you want a generic gift voucher so that they can book any date throughout the year, please choose this. I release dates 2 – 3 months in advance and also run Bread, Butter & Cheese Class and a Confectionery Class with more to come throughout the year.

I also do bespoke classes, corporate classes and classes at peoples homes on request. Please email me on niamh at eatlikeagirl dot com for details.

Irish readers: I will be releasing dates for Irish classes in the New Year. If there are any Irish cooking schools interested in working together, please drop me a line.

paypal-buynow       Bacon Masterclass Thursday 21st February

paypal-buynowBacon Masterclass Thursday 21st March

paypal-buynowGift Voucher for any 3 hour Cooking Class including Bacon Masterclasses for 2013. Dates released 2 – 3 months in advance typically.

Bacon Fudge

Bacon Fudge

ice-hotel
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The ICEHOTEL in Sweden: Sparkling, Gorgeous and So Very Surreal

The ICEHOTEL

The ICEHOTEL

The ICEHOTEL. Childhood obsession with the Snow Queen and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and all things snowy and polar lie dormant in my head. I have always wanted to (properly) see the northern lights (we saw them in Ireland when I was a child once) and the southern lights too. I love all things sparse and white. I like the idea of the space, the silence and the starkness of it all.

ICEHOTEL, Swedish Lapland - just outside by the restaurant

ICEHOTEL, Swedish Lapland – just outside by the restaurant

So much so, that in my brief time as a physiologist in university, I contemplated signing up for the British Antarctic Survey. I went to one of their recruitment meetings, so very keen, but realised quickly that I was not the kind of person that could survive three years there.

ICEHOTEL cabin for wilderness lunches in the woods

ICEHOTEL cabin for wilderness lunches in the woods

So I thought that I would visit there. I bought the Lonely Planet guide, studied penguins, made little penguins, bought memoirs and any book with any related stories.

But it was too expensive. So I looked at working on a ship. I really wanted to go. But I never did. I still want to go and I hope that I will soon.

ICEHOTEL, Swedish Lapland

ICEHOTEL, Swedish Lapland

The level of obsession targeted at the Antarctic applies to any similar place. Arctic Canada, places near polar regions like Tierra del Fuego, Greenland, and of course Scandinavia. I want to breathe cold air, see icicles, feel the crunch of soft fresh snow under my feet and feel the sharpness of the cold on my cheeks.

ICEHOTEL reindeer doors

ICEHOTEL reindeer doors

The ICEHOTEL opened 23 years ago and has been in my sights since. I first visited Swedish Lapland 2 years ago in the Autumn and adored the landscape spotted with pretty lakes protected by towering trees. I loved the food – the reindeer, moose, arctic grouse, lingonberry, cloudberry, I even tried bear.

ICEHOTEL, Swedish Lapland - ice room entrance

ICEHOTEL, Swedish Lapland – ice room entrance

We saw where the ICEHOTEL would be but it wasn’t built yet. It is only built after the river Torne has frozen over, and the ICEHOTEL is built from bricks carved out of it (and snice – snow and ice – from the river sprayed over metal frames and left to solidify in the cold). The whole concept is magical.

Ice Bar at the ICEHOTEL

Ice Bar at the ICEHOTEL

What was it like? Startling, bright, cold, a little dazzling. Reindeer hide doors, bristling with a little sparkling frozen ice greet you. To the left a bar, with vodka cocktails in ice glasses and some hot drinks too.

ICEHOTEL, Swedish Lapland - ice room

ICEHOTEL, Swedish Lapland – ice room

ICEHOTEL, Swedish Lapland - ice room

ICEHOTEL, Swedish Lapland – ice room

A little further down the arched corridor on the left are the ice rooms. With an ice double bed with reindeer skins and mattresses, an ice sculpture even two ice armchairs and a table. The room itself is soft with no harsh angles, the bed angular within.

Another corridor down are the new northern lights rooms. Stunning with a beautiful recreation of the northern lights on the ceiling of the room. Only a few are ready – The ICEHOTEL has only just opened for the season and they are still building – so I go across to the other side to the Art Suites, where I will make my home for the night.

Each room is designed by different artists, and they vary dramatically. The beautifully elegant Flower room, designed by two Japanese artists, inspired by the recent trauma that Japan has had to go through, it is a symbol that there is always hope.The Eternity room, a stunning but slightly scary room with two large creatures guarding the top of the bed, with the bed facing an angel carved into the wall. There was also the gloriously bonkers Cold and Crazy and a room scattered with UFOs.

ICEHOTEL, Swedish Lapland - Eternity Art SUite - this reminds me of Phillip Pullman's Northern Lights and I find it amazing but slightly scary

ICEHOTEL, Swedish Lapland – Eternity Art SUite – this reminds me of Phillip Pullman’s Northern Lights and I find it amazing but slightly scary

ICEHOTEL, Swedish Lapland - Fabulous Art Suite full of UFOs

ICEHOTEL, Swedish Lapland – Fabulous Art Suite full of UFOs

ICEHOTEL, Swedish Lapland - stunning Flower Art Suite

ICEHOTEL, Swedish Lapland – stunning Flower Art Suite

ICEHOTEL, Swedish Lapland - Iceberg Art Suite with fabulous quilted ice walls

ICEHOTEL, Swedish Lapland – Iceberg Art Suite with fabulous quilted ice walls

My bed for the night was in Whitewater. I steeled my nerves with some cold cocktails from the bar and a hot lingonberry one then went to collect my arctic sleeping bag. When you check in at the ICEHOTEL they supply you with a snowsuit, snow boots, huge mittens and a balaclava. I was taking the balaclava in with me for the night. To stay warm, surprisingly, you must wear only thermals as anything loose on your body or more than one layer will trap cold air near your skin, and make you cold.

ICEHOTEL, Swedish Lapland - my Whitewater Art Suite

ICEHOTEL, Swedish Lapland – my Whitewater Art Suite

ICEHOTEL, Swedish Lapland - dressing room door through which you dash in your thermals (and a jumper in my case) from warm to cold. The jumper had to come off before I slept though as it would trap cold air.

ICEHOTEL, Swedish Lapland – dressing room door through which you dash in your thermals (and a jumper in my case) from warm to cold. The jumper had to come off before I slept though as it would trap cold air.

ICEHOTEL, Swedish Lapland - in balaclava and thermals about to go to bed

ICEHOTEL, Swedish Lapland – in balaclava and thermals about to go to bed

I wrapped up, giddy with excitement and with only a small peephole to look out. I wondered if I would sleep. Then I woke up several hours later. My face and legs were a little chilly but I was ok.

I fell asleep again and woke needing the loo – WOE – how would I get out of this sleeping bag, escape the warmth and come back in? I didn’t need to worry, 2 minutes later there was a voice: “Good morning, it is 7.30am, would you like some hot lingonberry juice?”.

Grinning, for I have lasted the night and actually really enjoyed it “Yes, please”.

I drank my hot lingonberry juice and still cold, grabbed a hot chocolate and returned to my warm room where I spent my other two nights and slept again. The sleep in the cold room is very light I think.

There is no actual sunset at this time of year and it is beautifully surreal. A faint sliver of light appears over the hills behind the ice hotel at about 11.30 and then the light disappears and it is dark again. In the snow, and in the silence. Unless of course, you are in the Ice Bar and someone is dancing Gangnam style. Which I was on occasion, although only watching.

Would I recommend it? Yes, wholeheartedly. Would I go again? In a heartbeat. This is the best year for 50 years to see the northern lights, and I have yet to see the Ice Church too (they are building it). Maybe I might even try to go back in Spring.

I travelled to the ICEHOTEL with Discover the World who operate direct charter flights from Heathrow to Kiruna, with packages for 3 nights starting from £1,093pp or via Stockholm from £870pp.

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A Postcard from the Ice Hotel in Lapland

The Ice Hotel, Lapland

The Ice Hotel, Lapland

Greetings from the Ice Hotel in Swedish Lapland. I am here with Discover the World on a three night trip, and on night two. I have stolen a few minutes to post a few photos before I go stay in my ice room. I will report back!

Close up of the reindeer doors of the Ice Hotel

Close up of the reindeer doors of the Ice Hotel

Looking sketchy and cold outside the Ice Hotel. Just before I got my snowsuit and snowboots - no cold can get me now!

Looking sketchy and cold outside the Ice Hotel. Just before I got my snowsuit and snowboots – no cold can get me now!

I went out for a wilderness lunch on a snowmobile - electrifying! I am now hooked

I went out for a wilderness lunch on a snowmobile – electrifying! I am now hooked

We met these huskies on the way

We met these huskies on the way

... some cocktails before hitting my ice bed at the Ice Bar

… some cocktails before hitting my ice bed at the Ice Bar

This is my room for the night. One of the Ice Hotel Art Suites - I will report back tomorrow!

This is my room for the night. One of the Ice Hotel Art Suites – I will report back tomorrow!

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Pre Christmas Treat: Win Signed Copies of Comfort & Spice, Grenada Spice Pack and a Kindle WiFi

Comfort & Spice

Comfort & Spice

As a thank you for all your kind comments and support throughout this year, I thought it only right that I offer a little pre Christmas treat from me.

From my personal stash, I am offering up two signed copies of my little tome Comfort & Spice for readers for Christmas. I myself am using it Christmas Day, well the recipes from the book at least, which are printed on my brain. We are having my Overnight Roast Pork Shoulder with Spiced Apple Relish. It is the perfect Christmas dish for me, takes little effort, pretty much cooks itself and is really delicious. We will follow it with Chocolate Mousse and Honeycomb, with lots of my hot spiced drinks on the side.

I also have a 6″ Kindle WiFiDirectline Holidays offered me one and as much as I would LOVE to keep it, I thought that it would be a nice treat for you. I am a voracious reader and love an actual book, but the practicality of these, especially for keen travellers and commuters, means they are fast becoming a must (for me, at least).

Christmas Spices & Cocoa from Grenada

Christmas Spices & Cocoa from Grenada

Finally, from my coveted spice stash from Grenada, I would love to send one of you a selection of nutmeg in the shell, mace, bay, cinnamon and cocoa. Those of you that followed my trip will know that the taste of these is incredible.

To win, all you need to do is comment and say which prize you are interested in. I will select the winner at random as always.

Thanks again, and here is to a wonderful Christmas for us all.

Christmas Spices and Baubles

Christmas Spices and Baubles



Spices and books are open to UK & Ireland, the Kindle to the UK only (as I am not sending it)

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Recipe: Chipotle and Brown Sugar Candied Bacon Honeycomb Butter

Chipotle Brown Sugar Candied Bacon Honeycomb Butter Brioche Toast

Chipotle Brown Sugar Candied Bacon Honeycomb Butter

It is an indulgent time of year, and this recipe is at the pinnacle of indulgence. Despite the bacon, it is a sweet, and is wonderful on pancakes or simply on brioche toast as I have done here. I also fancy some with some eggy bread.

A nod to Bill Granger first. The first time I had honeycomb butter was with his ricotta hotcakes at one of his cafés in Sydney about 6 years ago. I was captured by it. Searches for honeycomb recipes at the time failed, and I was not happy with the alternative of chopping a crunchie and putting it in my butter.

I researched further and figured out it was a simple combination of sugar, brought to temperature and bicarb to make it aerate. I played around with sugar and golden syrup combinations until I got the perfect chewy crisp honeycomb. Too little golden syrup and it is dull and too fragile, too much and you will lose your fillings. I also add a little cider vinegar to boost the bicarb and I add water, as this makes it less likely to fail in the early minutes when it is very easy to scorch the sugar.

Candied Bacon Honeycomb

Candied Bacon Honeycomb

Lovely!

Next is my candied bacon, one of my many recipes for it. This is a recent favourite, a simple light brown sugar and chipotle blend. The bacon is smothered in it, and it is baked until the sugar is approaching toffee. You are left with a wonderful sweet, smoky, hot and savoury candied bacon that is wonderful on its own or – honestly – most things.

Chipotle & Brown Sugar Candied Bacon

Chipotle & Brown Sugar Candied Bacon

Combine the two and mash them into butter? Divine. Just be careful, as in my enthusiasm to devour it, I injured the top of my mouth (slightly) with the sharp honeycomb. Totally worth it though.

Enjoy! It is a cracker. Ban the brandy butter and bring on the bacon and honeycomb butter.

Notes on the recipe: if you can’t get chipotle, substitute chilli. If you don’t want the heat, just omit it.

RECIPE: CHIPOTLE & BROWN SUGAR CANDIED BACON AND HONEYCOMB BUTTER

Chipotle and Brown Sugar Candied Bacon

250g bacon chopped into strips or bacon lardons, I prefer smoked
100g light brown sugar
1 heaped tablespoon of chipotle powder or blitzed dried chipotles

Combine the bacon, sugar and chipotle, insuring every bit of the bacon is covered. Spread on one layer on a buttered greaseproof paper on a baking tray and bake at 180 deg C for 15 – 20 minutes until the sugar is dark and glossy like toffee. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

Candied Bacon Honeycomb

Put 300g white sugar, 150g golden syrup, 1 tbsp cider or white wine vinegar and 100ml water in a pan with high sides – a stockpot for example.

Bring to the hard crack stage over a medium heat – 140 to 150 deg C (and do use a thermometer) – take off the heat and add the 2 tbsp of fresh bicarbonate of soda (it loses potency), ensuring there are no lumps in the bicarb. Stir through, the honeycomb will puff up.

Add two thirds of the candied bacon and stir through. Pour into a dish lined with buttered greaseproof paper. Leave to cool.

Making the butter

Take a palm sized amount of the honeycomb and smash it up in a sandwich bag with a rolling pin or something similar, until it is in small chunks (not powder). Combine well with 250g butter and the rest of the bacon. And you’re done.

Store the rest of the honeycomb for future use in a an airtight container, dip it in tempered chocolate to make homemade bacon crunchies.

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Preview: Food Fight Club from Jamie Oliver and Jimmy Doherty Tomorrow (I am on it :)

There are so may things that I do that are a lot of fun. I know I am lucky. Earlier this year, I did some filming for Jamie Oliver and Jimmy Doherty’s new series, Food Fight Club.

Exciting, eh?

There were 8 of us bloggers gathered around a table. We knew we were eating offal,and most of us were comfortable with that. The offal we consumed though, at one point, took almost all of us by surprise.

Jamie & Jimmy’s Food Fight Club begins on Channel 4 at 9pm on Thursday 6th December, and we are in the first episode. Tune in to see it. You can watch the preview now too below. How to eat well on camera? I have yet to crack it.

ADVANCE NOTICE: it was a very hot day and was filmed in a hot kitchen. My Irish constitution and pale face resulted in a big red face for most of it. At least I matched my lipstick to it, eh?!

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Recipe: Chicken Liver Pate for the Soul

Chicken Liver Paté

Chicken Liver Paté

As the nights close in and the days get colder, I increasingly reach for comfort. I want something rich and delicious and I want it fast. Some treats in the fridge, whether delicious cheeses or spreads that welcome toast, are perfect winter fodder.

Over the last few years I have become a little obsessed with duck and chicken liver parfaits and pates. Duck liver parfait is one of my favourite things in the world. Regular doses of it spread liberally on some bread or just from a spoon at times that required it, powered me through the intensity that was writing my book. I am going to share a recipe for that too, but for now I want to start with Chicken Liver Paté.

Easy, cheap, rich and delicious. That spells recession Christmas to me. People are afraid of chicken livers. Why? Liver in general gets a bad press because it is often served over cooked and rubbery. It is associated with times of deprivation, when those little chicken livers are so luxurious when cooked just right. Liver needs to be underdone to get the tenderness that it deserves, and that you deserve as you eat it.

Chicken Liver Paté

Chicken Liver Paté

My chicken liver pate is basically a butter rich chicken liver spread with some onions and spices, cooked gently, blitzed until smooth and then – if you want super smooth paté this is essential – pushed through a sieve. I also like to add cream for some extra luxury. In my current role as Spice Santa, with my giant jars of spices carted back from Grenada, I gently infused some cream with some whole bright red mace, like a mini jaded octopus, and some lovely bay. I also used rum, but really, it is barely detectable as this is about the spices and the liver, so feel free to substitute some brandy if that is what you have.

I think that this is perfect for Christmas, and you can make it in advance. I serve mine in little bright espresso cups, which I love.

Ps. this really is cheap. 400g of organic chicken livers set me back £2.50.

RECIPE: Chicken Liver Paté

Ingredients

400g chicken livers
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped
200g butter
100ml cream
100ml good rum or brandy
1 bay leaf
1 whole piece of mace of a pinch of mace powder
sea salt

ramekins or little cups for serving

Method

Bring the cream to just before the boil (take care not to boil it) with the bay leaf and mace and leave to cool and infuse for 1 – 2 hours. The longer the better.

Melt 125g of the butter and sauté the onions until soft but not brown. Add the chicken livers and sauté over a medium heat, turning frequently to ensure that they are evenly cooked for 4 – 5 minutes until brown but still soft, and therefore pink inside. Add the garlic for the final minute.

Blitz the liver mixture in a blender until it is as smooth as you can get it. Add the rum / brandy to the pan and reduce by half. Take the bay leaf and the mace out of the cream and add to the alcohol before adding to the livers and blitzing again. Taste and season with sea salt to your liking.

For super smooth paté, pass it through a sieve. If you can’t be bothered it will still taste great, but you will get a better texture if you do.

Divide the mixture between your ramekins / cups and leave in the fridge to set to cool. This will take about a half an hour. Then melt the remaining butter and pour on top of the little pots of paté to seal them.

Cool until the butter is set and you are ready to go. Or you can save for later.

Enjoy!