No populace on Earth has perfected the art of eating a simple lunch al fresco as successfully as the French. Fresh crusty bread, still warm from the boulangerie, is happily paired with local cheeses and cured meats, but the understated star of the show remains that most rustic and reliable of French delicacies: the coarse country pâté. Forget the calorific indulgence of the likes of foie gras – this is humble rustic fare, traditionally created from offcuts and trimmings from more expensive cuts of meat. The classic pâté de campagne recipe features pork, combined with a small amount of pork or chicken liver to add moisture and seasoning, and some fat for richness. Garnished with fresh herbs and bound with a flour-based roux, the mixture is ground to a rough paste, never puréed. Enriched with a splash of Cognac, it is baked in a terrine dish lined with fat or bacon.
The finished pâté tastes best after having been chilled for a few days, to ensure a maximum combination of flavours. Its texture is customarily chunky yet smooth, allowing for savoury bursts of flavour when you come across a coarser morsel of meat, and remains moist thanks to the bacon fat. A good quality pâté de campagne is versatile enough to be served up as a tasty entrée at a dinner party or to jazz up a simple picnic. Spread a generous slice of pâté over a baguette, add a smidge of Dijon mustard and enjoy with a cool glass of Beaujolais. I defy anyone to argue that meat dishes and red wines are better suited to the winter months after tasting this match made in heaven.
Photo: Cretolamna/Marco Mayer/Fotolia