Favourite Recipes

Learning the true cost of making a good pate

I will never forget the first time I made my own pate. Back in 1984, I was attending day 1 of a 3-day course in the art of just such ability. Yes, an entire 3 days of pate – making! But remember that pate is an all-consuming word to include not just a meat based delicacy, but parfaits and terrines of game, salmon, mackerel, mushrooms. However, this day 1, was to be traditional liver-pate ideas and I returned to my trusty bicycle with Tupperwares full of glorious kinds to place in my beloved wicker basket. And they were gone. Both of them. Bike and basket. Should have put me off pate- making forever, but it didn’t. I still enjoy making them, but never forget that lost basket and trusty steed.

My main tip for making your own pate is that with so many of my ideas and recipes, it is not a fine art. There are so many variations that simply enhance the basic idea. Nothing is right or wrong, just have a go and practice and see what pate you like the best, based on…

In a large frying pan fry a couple of finely chopped onions until soft but not brown. Now the chicken liver (a product definitely not for the faint -hearted or veggies out there). About 400g needs to be washed, dried and any ‘sinewy’ pieces pulled off. Then add it to the soft onions and gently cooked for about 8 minutes, until cooked through. No red left please! A good glug of brandy or sherry or even red wine now goes in and salt and pepper to taste and a grated garlic clove or 2, plus some fresh thyme or frankly any other herb you like. Now a glug of about 100 ml double cream. Simmer.

(To be honest this is a super dish on its own served piled onto some celeriac mash with some mangetout and baby corn on the side). But that is not what we are doing today!

The cooked livers and their divine sauce now need to cool down and then placed into a food blender and blitzed for a couple of minutes until completely smooth. Sorry, but this recipe really needs a proper blender or a hand held one will do. I cannot imagine how much mashing with a potato masher or fork would be needed to smooth it out! Then pour the creamy meat into a dish and pop into the fridge to cool. Then simply spread onto my oaties for a delectable little canapé. Remembering the sill of last month’s ,f you can!!!

If you want a really rich (and fattening) pate you could always melt some butter and pour over the cooled pate. Then allow that to set. Cutting through thick butter into the pate. Yoh! High days and holy day only methinks.

Alternatives are to use pork livers for a pretty strong tasting rustic pate or half pork, half lamb to tame it down. Duck liver makes a sublime pate especially if sieved after blitzing; however they are quite difficult to obtain. But admittedly my favourite.

Another idea is to put the cooked blitzed pate into an oven proof dish, fork the top up and bake again in the oven for 30 minutes, cool then serve, giving a nice crispy rustic texture and possibly more wholesome piled onto crusty bread or ciabatta for lunch, with a big pickled onion!



Make a Lemonade!

‘If life deals you lemons, make a gin and tonic’

That has to be one of my favourite sayings. So positive and up – beat. Make something good come out of something bad. Something lovely out of something bitter. Glass half full attitude

– Especially if it is a gin and tonic with a slice of lemon!

Or how about….‘If life deals you lemons, make lemonade’

So, as you probably know how to make a gin and tonic for the ubiquitous lemon to brighten up!;

here is my recipe for home made lemonade – something I have always made, even sold gallons at my restaurant; but have only recently introduced into our Merrow Savouries menus- especially to accompany business breakfasts and lunches. Proving hugely popular as it is something different to the usual fruit juice, and just so more-ish and delicious and yet embarrassingly easy to make…

To make about 2 litres, using a potato slicer or sharp knife, thinly pare off the skin of 6 large, unwaxed lemons. Do use unwaxed otherwise you have candle and pesticides in your summer tipple! Try not to peel any of the white pith – which makes it bitter, so just peel the very thin yellow skin. Now place the peel in a large bowl and pour over about a litre of boiling water. Leave overnight to cool and for the peel to release its lovely flavours. In the morning add white granulated or caster sugar to taste, about 150gram should be about right, but depends on your sweet tooth. Stir very well. Now add the juice itself from the 6 lemons you peeled last night. Leave again for a couple of hours, preferably in the fridge. Then sieve the liquid leaving any pips or peel behind, although frankly I like a few pieces of peel left for decoration.

This is probably far too strong and a tad eye wincing, so simply add about another litre of cold water or even some sparkling water. Your choice, your taste.

Serve ice cold with slices of frozen lemon slices bobbing around.

How about making pink lemonade by simply adding a good handful of raspberries to the mixture – the more you add the pinker it becomes and imparts a subtle flavour. And keep some back to freeze and decorate the glasses.

Or for a bit of a kick add a chopped piece of fresh root ginger to the peel and boiling water.

It is really very good.



Everyone loves Lasagne!

When I am asked to cook for a large crowd needing a tasty and hot but easy-to-eat supper I often suggest lasagne accompanied with some great salads and garlic breads.

I know it is not cordon bleu or rocket science and a lot of people make it themselves anyway; but sometimes lack of space, facilities, equipment or the logistics of making it in very large quantities can be a little daunting. However, it is always such a party winner, if like so many successful and popular dishes a little 1980s! So whilst you may need a little help if you are having a big party why not try out some of my ideas on your family- smaller scale.

Traditionally made with pasta sheets layered with a savoury beef mince sauce and topped with a white sauce I like to think up different variations of the theme such as substituting good quality pork mince with some grated apple or using lamb mince and topping the dish with grated parmesan or a little stilton.

One of my favourites is to make the sauce with a colourful mix of grilled vegetables such as peppers, aubergines, onions, courgettes and beef tomatoes. Although with experience, I know all to well that meat lovers often choose this version ‘just for a change’ so I always suggest to my hosts that they have equal quantities of both meat and vegetable lasagnes, both topped with lots of cheddar cheese, of course.

Wilted fresh spinach combined with posh mushrooms, pine nuts and ricotta cheese layered up with the pasta also makes a yummy dish which served on a bed of leaves and in small portions also makes for an unusual dinner party starter.

For fish lovers – using seasoned milk I gently poach white fish with flaked smoked salmon, king prawns and mussels; then using the fishy milk (which sounds awful doesn’t it?) I make up a tasty white sauce (honest!). Layering the fish, pasta and sauce and some grated cheese – this is a rich, delicious version of the old favourite.

For a really wholesome lasagne I cook and combine chopped onions, carrots and celery with sliced mushrooms and a tin of tomatoes, then a good splash of Worcester sauce and seasoning; combining this vegetable sauce with cooked red lentils results in a thick tasty mixture. Layered up with the lasagne sheets and finally topped with a tub of crème fraiche. Taking a good 45 minutes in the oven it makes a delicious filling supper.

Another great idea is to layer up the pasta sheets with a combination of tomato passata, pieces of cooked chicken, onions and peppers with perhaps a splash of chilli sauce for a kick. If you are making this version at home it is a great way of using up any left -over chicken from the Sunday roast, even the left over vegs. Topped with some more of the passata or even my refrigerator favourite of the tub of crème fraiche. Tasty and filling.

In fact come to think of it, practically anything combined with a good sauce can make a great lasagne.
Well, that’s lasagne for my family tonight – but what filling? After all, I have to practice my ideas out on someone.

Enjoy, Sue