Light Chicken Terrine with Green Peppercorns


As a child I always liked Christmas celebrations but only because of the presents. When it came to food, Easter was my happiest festive time. Contrary to Polish fish-centred and vegetarian Christmas, Easter menus offered a bigger choice of dishes, including crazy amounts of eggs to indulge in (even when they were still considered unhealthy…) and homemade cold meats, pâtés or terrines. The approaching Easter is the perfect excuse to make my beloved chicken terrine I have recently modified by the addition of green peppercorns.

If you know French-style pâtés or terrines, I must explain how this Polish product differs from them, especially since French terms are used in English. First of all, both French pâtés and meat terrines are usually made with raw meat, while Polish terrine is baked with precooked meats. Another difference is the texture: while French products have a harsh texture (terrines have even very big chunks), Polish terrines are very smooth because everything is mixed or finely ground before being baked. Seasonings vary between cooks, but nutmeg is almost always present and its smell during the baking process always puts me in a festive mood.

I always hesitate about the name I should give this Polish product, but I think the chicken version should be called “terrine”, since I’ve never see chicken pâtés apart from those baked in pastry crust (“pâté en croûte”). To be frank, the difference between French “pâté” and “terrine” is quite blurry and even though there are some “strict” cases, one butcher can name “terrine” what another one labels as “pâté”. I must add here that, contrary to what is thought abroad, only a minority of French pâtés are made exclusively with liver, acting usually as secondary ingredient; most people are actually not fond of 100% liver pâtés and these are always called “pâté de foie” to differentiate them from “normal” pâtés (obviously, foie gras terrine is the exception, but it’s never called “pâté” anyway). “Terrine” is a very similar product, but with a broader meaning: apart from meat or/and liver, it can also be made with fish, seafood, vegetables or even fruit or chocolate (when served as a dessert). Terrine is usually prepared in a rectangular dish (called… “terrine”) and can be very light if made with seafood or chicken (for example “bound together” with jelly instead of fat or simply pressed).

Going back to the Polish terrine, I have been modifying my mum’s recipe for years and nowadays I usually prepare my terrine with chicken.  Shopping is easier and the result is lighter, so I can indulge in it without remorses. I have already posted here the basic poultry terrine recipe and this one is almost identical apart from the addition of pickled green peppercorns, which add a spicy kick. I have been eating French duck terrines and pork pâtés with green peppercorns for years, hence my idea to spice up the Polish terrine the same way.

The preparation is long, but very simple. Once it has cooled down, the pâté/terrine can be kept in the fridge for about one week or frozen until the day we want to use it, so if you make it for a bigger family, it’s worth preparing a double or triple batch. It can be served as a starter, as a snack, on small canapés or crackers and it goes particularly well with all kinds of pickles (pepper, chilli, gherkins, onions, beetroots and even kimchi!) and cranberry or bilberry jam/sauce. Personally I love it with a fiery horseradish sauce and/or my Pickled Sweet Peppers.

If you don’t like green peppercorns, you might like this basic milder version:


TIPS: As the recipe title suggests, nutmeg is the main seasoning, so unless you hate it, do not skip it (at least for the first time). Every time I tried omitting it and putting other seasonings instead, I was very disappointed. Do use freshly grated nutmeg because it loses its aroma very quickly.

The choice of lean poultry (chicken or turkey) unfortunately means a slightly less juicier terrine than the one made with pork and/or beef, since fat is absent. It doesn’t bother me at all, but if you do want to make sure it’s slightly fatty, add about 10 tablespoons of chicken or duck fat into the mixture before baking.

This terrine/pâté can be frozen in big or small portions and even though the crust will not be crunchy, the taste will stay more or less the same.

You can use either deboned, skinless turkey or chicken cuts or a whole small chicken. The latter version will of course take a bit more time, but it can prove cheaper. If you want, you can skin the chicken before the first, cooking stage. This way the stock you add to the pâté will be less fatty.

Preparation: 2,5 – 3 hours + cooling time

Ingredients (fills a 20 cm x 10 cm baking tin):

500 g/about 20 oz chicken breast, or a mixture of leg and breast meat or a whole small chicken (you can also use turkey cuts)

green part of 1 leek

1 parsley root or a couple of parsley branches

1/4 celeriac or 2 branches celery

1 big carrot

1 medium onion

100 g/about 4 oz chicken livers

2 slices white, sandwich bread

1/4 nutmeg (freshly grated)

3 heaped tablespoons semolina

2 teaspoons green pickled pepper corns

pepper, salt

2 eggs

2-3 tablespoons oil or duck fat

(dry breadcrumbs)

If you use a whole chicken, place it in a big pan filled with water. If you want, you can skin it beforehand. Add the carrot, the halved onion, the leek, the celeriac and the parsley. Season with salt and pepper and cook on a medium heat until the meat well cooked. The whole chicken will take much more time than cut up meat.

If you use separate meat cuts, cut the meat into equal chunks. Put them in a pan filled with water. Add the carrot, the halved onion, the leek, the celeriac and the parsley. Season with salt and pepper and cook on a medium heat until the carrot is very soft and the meat well cooked.

When the meat or the chicken are cooked, remove them from the stock and wait until they cool down.

Pour 500 ml/about 17 fl oz of the stock into a small pan and cook the livers for 15 minutes.

Put the livers aside.

Place delicately the bread slices in the stock remaining after the livers have been cooked and let them soak for one minute.

Put the livers, the meat (if you use the whole chicken, remove the meat from the carcass, making sure there are no bones or skin), the soaked bread, the carrot and the parsley root (discard the branches) in a food processor and mix into a smooth paste. (Do not throw away the stock in which the meat was cooked!).

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Put the mixed meat into a bowl.

Add the nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper and taste if there is enough salt (this is the best moment to taste; afterwards tasting might be a bit unpleasant with raw eggs and semolina). Be generous with ground black pepper: this poultry version tends to be a bit bland compared to the pork pâté for example, so freshly ground black pepper gives it more character.

Stir in the eggs, the semolina and about 125 ml (1/2 cup) of the stock in which the meat was cooked at the beginning.

Mix well with a spoon.

Line a baking tin with baking paper or grease it and sprinkle with breadcrumbs.

Spoon the terrine mixture into the baking tin, smooth the surface with a spoon and sprinkle it with oil or melted duck fat.

Bake about one hour until the top is golden brown and don’t pay attention to the unpleasant smell from the oven (it will be irresistible once the terrine has cooled down).

After it cools down either freeze it or keep it refrigerated (tightly wrapped in cling film) for one week.

18 Replies to “Light Chicken Terrine with Green Peppercorns”

  1. Looks yummy! How do you pickle the peppercorns? And if you initially freeze the loaf do you later simply defrost it and eat it cold or at room temperature or do you put it back in the oven for a short time?

    1. Thank you, Michelle. Pickled green peppercorns (in salted brine) are available in many European countries in “normal” supermarkets (usually close to spices or olives, capers, etc.), so I hope you will find them. They keep for ages in the fridge after opening.
      I wait for the terrine to defrost at room temperature (I think it would get really dry if rebaked). On the other hand, it’s possible to defrost it in a microwave oven if you are in a hurry.

    1. Haha! My mum will laugh when I repeat the word “exotic” 😉 Apart from home cooks baking it for special occasions, it’s something you will find even in different versions and brands in every Polish supermarket (though I never bought it: I doubt producers put good quality ingredients and the texture +spices can hide even the worst, fattiest meat cuts, not to mention chemical additives, taste enhancers, etc.).

      1. exotic – originating in or characteristic of a distant foreign country.

        The technique and ingredient combination IS new to me. 🙂

        1. Of course I know what exotic means and I might call some Canadian or US dishes or techniques also exotic, but I’m sure that my mum and probably most Poles would find it very surprising that any kind pâté might be called exotic.

          1. I know you know but I had to justify my use of the word. 🙂

            I made my dad rice crispy squares once cause he wanted something sweet and I was too lazy to really cook so I microwaved the butter and marshmallows together, stirred in the rice crispies and patted them out into a square buttered baking dish and let them set. He was so impressed. To HIM it was exotic and he requested it as often as he asked me to make cheesecake. Of course, you know which one I made for him. 🙂 So exotic to me is anything that’s not common or familiar. And this terrine IS exotic to me even if I was born in the former Yugoslavia and might have been expected to be familiar with something similar. Baklava is NOT exotic … to me.

            1. The marshmallow thing does sound very unusual to me too! I don’t think ex-Yugoslavian cuisine is similar to Polish… I think the distance is too big and the climates different. I was once in a Serbian restaurant and everything was new to me (though some dishes reminded me of Bulgarian cuisine). As for the common products I have only heard about the use of curd cheese in Serbia and salt-pickled cabbage in Croatia, but I think it’s rather pickled whole, not shredded. Baklava is something I know well, but will always consider very distant from what I was brought up with.

  2. I have made patés quite a bit but never a terrine! And as luck would have it, I do have a French terrine rectangular enamel cast iron pot! I also like the idea that it’s baked and that it’s smooth. Does it spread easily or is it just sliced for the toasts? I love this idea for Easter, we are hosting JTs family lunch where we will have 9 for a sit-down luncheon (we do lunch so JTs 92 year old Dad can attend). I made your Dried Apricot chilli sauce and it’s delicious! I will be posting it next week. I’m going to serve it with Easter dinner of smoked salmon and baked ham (we have a vegetarian in the family and easter wouldn’t be easter without ham!)

    1. Hi, Eva. You can of course squash it, but I have never tried… it’s not as soft as for example duck mousse. I slice it and have it like any type of cold meat. It’s really great with pickles, horseradish too.
      Thank you for letting me know you liked Dried Apricot Sauce! It always makes me so happy if a friend trusts my recipe, tries it and most of all doesn’t regret it 😉 I have never baked ham… maybe time to try it? Good luck with your Easter preparations!

  3. I have never had chicken terrine, and the idea of mixing chicken meat and live sounds very tasty…like that it can be stored in the freezer.
    Have a great week ahead Sissi 🙂

  4. I definitely prefer the Polish version with cooked meat than the French! Your terrine looks very inviting and I am sure it tastes as great!

    1. Thanks a lot, Katerina. It is probably easier to bake than French terrines and more difficult to fail.

  5. You are the queen of terrines my dear! Great information on the differences between French and Polish terrines and pates. Once again, I learned some valuable info! We are moving into the season where a nice cool terrine like would make an awesome supper. Serve with a salad and we’re home free. I do find it interesting that your recipe calls for the “green part” of a leek. I usually just use the white part and compost the green part. Why the green part and not the white part? Still need to find those green peppercorns. You’ve used them before and I’m really curious. Thanks for another great recipe Sissi!

    1. Thanks a lot, dear MJ. The world of terrines and pâtés is quite complicated… because for many non-French people pâté=liver product, while it’s really a small minority and liver is added as a taste enhancer most of the time. Moreover, I know that in many countries pâtés are only sold very soft and canned… anyway, the Polish version is really easy and so different.
      Well, the green leek leaves are what I use for all my stocks (here you prepare a kind of stock with meat you will grind and bake afterwards) simply because it’b be a waste of money and of good product if I used the white part.
      If I don’t use the green part in a stock, I dry it or freeze it to use it later on.
      Here I use the pickled green peppercorns which (at least in Europe) are something available in every supermarket (usually close to capers, olives, etc.). I hope you can buy them in New Mexico too! (By the way, they are very popular in French pâtés, terrines and French mustard 😉 )

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