Light Chicken Terrine (Pâté) with Nutmeg


Few dishes are comparable to the taste of a good, home-made baked pâté or terrine, especially when it brings back pleasant memories. The smell coming from the oven instantly transports me to my childhood days and makes me feel there is something festive and joyful in the air.

Pâtés can be made with any kind of meat and with different methods. In France most of them are either made with pork or with duck and consist in baking a mixture of roughly cut raw meat and/or liver with spices. “Terrine” is a very similar product, but apart from meat or liver, it can also be made with fish, seafood, vegetables or even fruit and is always baked in a rectangular dish, while pâté can be soft and “spreadable”.

The terrines I have been making for years (they could also be called pâtés in France I suppose, but I think “terrine” is the best name here) are based on my mum’s recipe and differ a lot from the French ones. Not only are they made with previously cooked meat and liver, but they are also very finely ground and, most of all, there is the amazing nutmeg which is the key ingredient here. Preparing them always puts me in a festive mood and I have always considered home-made terrine/pâté as the ideal dish for this occasion.

As a notorious recipe changer I have fiddled a bit with my mum’s recipe and worked out several versions. Today I wanted to present you the lightest one, but certainly not the least palatable, made with poultry. 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. 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 (pickled pepper, 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.

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.

As I have mentioned above, 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 turkey or chicken breast, or a mixture of leg and breast meat or a whole small chicken

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 

1/2 nutmeg (freshly grated)

3 heaped tablespoons semolina

pepper, salt

2 eggs

2-3 tablespoons oil or duck fat

(dry breadcrumbs)

If you use the whole chicken, place it in a big pan filled with water. If you want, you can skin it. 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).

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 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.

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