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
2-3 tablespoons oil or duck fat
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.