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pâté de campagne

January 1, 2013

Serves 4

Prep time: 30-40 minutes, plus overnight soaking time, plus a further overnight chilling time

Pate close up

If you want to write about food and publish your own recipes it helps to be a bit of an egocentric.  You have to describe everything you create as a delicious success which – even if you genuinely think it is – might make you feel slightly uncomfortable from time to time if you have an ounce of modesty in you.

Not so with this recipe, however, which I am inordinately proud of and which I have no qualms in declaring one of the most fabulously delicious successes to have emerged from my vegan kitchen.  Oh yeah!

This is a frighteningly realistic country style pâté, and one of the reasons why I am so proud of it is that it was born out of a kitchen cock-up. I overcooked a batch of artisan vegan cheese, not realising what happens to agar when it is heated too long, and ended up with a lump of grainy curds. It still tasted very good though, and as I stood in the kitchen to eat it (straight off the knife, as it happens) I thought long and hard about what the texture reminded me of. By the time I had polished off most of the batch I knew the answer.

The flavours took a fair bit of tweaking, but after studying dozens of trad French pâté recipes and trying out a few combinations I have arrived at a method that, for me, hits that liver-ish note perfectly. It is rich and mouthfilling with a metallic, meaty tang. It doesn’t taste of mushrooms or walnuts like most vegan pâtés. It doesn’t taste of potato starch like most commercial ones. It looks, feels and tastes an awful lot like traditional pâté. And I cannot stop eating it.

Pate with bread

It’s made of sunflower seeds so it makes a refreshing change from the omnipresent cashew base.  Sunflower seeds are cheap, nutritious and make it the right colour.  So it’s lovely healthy stuff, rich in protein and fatty acids and B-vitamins and vitamin E and minerals including magnesium and copper.  So virtuous!  The Marmite and nutritional yeast give an added B12 kick too.

Between the seed soaking time and the overnight chill (not to be skimped on, to let the flavours develop) it does take a bit of planning.  But it is so rewarding!  There is even some optional flambéeing for the kitchen drama queens among you.

You could serve it as a retro starter with curly Melba toasts.  You could have it as a layer in a nut roast Wellington (something I really wish I had done this Christmas! oh well, save the idea for next year).  Spread it on your favourite crackers or – for me, the ultimate lunch – sandwich it inside some good sourdough alongside rocket and some caramelised onion marmalade.  You can serve it in ramekins with melted spread over the top to make it look really authentic or, if you want a lower fat version, skip that step and just top with a few thyme sprigs.

This recipe is so good that I am almost tempted to go pro and start selling it at my local farmers’ market in the style of Pâté Pastiche.  Don’t you think their pâtés are the cutest things ever?  I lust after Pâté Pastiche and I wish I lived in Vancouver so I could find out whether they taste half as good as they look.  Unfortunately I live 4,633 miles away.

Anyway, here is the recipe for my vegan Pâté de Campagne, as my New Year’s gift to you.  Hope you like.

Ingredients

Raw sunflower seeds, 2 cups, soaked overnight in cold water, drained and rinsed

Olive oil, 1 tbsp

Four shallots, chopped finely

Two cloves of garlic, chopped finely

A few sprigs of fresh thyme

Allspice, 1/4 tsp

Cognac, a generous splash

Nutritional yeast, 2/3 cup

Cold water or cold vegetable stock, 1 cup

Marmite, 2 heaped tsp

Soy sauce, 2 tsp

Agar flakes, 2 tbsp

Black pepper

Optional: vegan margarine such as Vitalite or Earth Balance, a few tbsps

In a heavy-bottomed cast iron frying pan gently fry the shallots and garlic in the olive oil for about 5 minutes until soft.  In the last minute add the allspice, the leaves of 2-3 sprigs of thyme, and a good pinch of black pepper.

Now it’s time for the kitchen drama.  Drizzle in some cognac and flambée it – woohoo!  If you have a gas flame this is easy: just take the frying pan halfway off the hob then tilt it slightly and watch the whole thing whoosh up in a satisfying and slightly scarey way.  If you have an electric hob you can use a lighter.  I will assume that you are a sensible adult type person who knows to get their hair and face out of the way first.  I take no responsibility for any lost eyebrows.  If you’re a bit scared of uncontrolled flames in the kitchen – a natural response, let’s face it – you can just let the Cognac bubble in the pan for a minute or two to cook out the alcohol.

Now take the mixture off the heat and spoon it into your food processor or high speed blender, along with the rest of the ingredients.  Blend until thick and smooth.  This could take anywhere from two to twenty minutes, depending how powerful your equipment is and how many times you have to stop to scrape the sides down.

Return it to the same frying pan (don’t wash the pan, whatever you do – it still has lots of lovely Cognacy flavour).  Start to cook it over a medium heat, stirring almost constantly with a wooden spoon and scraping the sides of the pan down.  After about 5-10 minutes you will notice it start to thicken and stick together in a solid lump.  Keep cooking and stirring and scraping and after a further 10-15 minutes you will start to notice some more changes: it will become grainier, like sausagemeat in texture, and it will become slightly looser and less sticky.  Also the colour will suddenly darken from sandy to a mid grey-brown colour.  When you see these signs, it’s ready to take off the heat.

Divide the mixture into four small ramekins and refrigerate overnight to give the flavours time to meld.  If you like you can pour a bit of melted vegan spread over the top and let harden in the fridge.  Finish with sprigs of thyme.

Happy New Year!

Pate sandwich

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4 Comments
  1. Hi Jennie

    I just made this and WOW it’s delicious. It actually tastes like meat paté and is so much better than other recipes I have tried in the past. I actually changed it a tiny bit and used rum instead of cognac because I didn’t have any on hand and I made an agar jelly to go on top with peppercorns. Your recipe is amazing. Thank you so much for sharing it!

    Corey

  2. Hi Jennie, thank you for stopping by my blog and for the like… This recipe looks amazing. Going to try it, will let you know how it goes. There’s marmite in it, no one knows what marmite is over here in San Francisco and I grew up on it 🙂

    • That’s great, let me know how you get on with it! I often envy people in the US for having things I can’t get hold of, like liquid smoke and chipotle peppers. But then, at least we have Marmite over here! And Golden Syrup of course 😀

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