This simple recipe is the first stepping stone on the road to gentle re-acquaintance with my blog after an absence of over a month. This simple, rich and aromatic pâté recipe brought contrasting textures and flavours to a delightful spread of antipasti we enjoyed recently.
It is not every day that a friend turns up at my door with the gift of a venison liver, not even at the start of the stalking season, so the liver was gratefully received, albeit a slightly novel present. Despite having masticated our way through several red deer hinds since my vegetarian self moved to Uist, this is the first I have managed to get a hold of a liver.
Who knows where they go. I hold no secrets about the whereabouts of the North Uist deer liver mountain. Perhaps because they are the deer’s best kept secret, they don’t get as far as the punter, and who could begrudge the hunter or stalker this most glorious component of The Fifth Quarter? Not me. Well, most of the time…
Had it not been for my extensive travels over the last month, reminding me that it is indeed already November due to the potentially looming travel disruption of flights and ferries, I think I would still be under the misguided apprehension that summer had just ended. Time has flown past these last two or three months and the winter is winging past at a frightening rate. Not a bad thing, most people would argue.
Work commitments have taken me away from the island for large chunks of the last month and I have been on one of my typical circumnavigations of Scotland. Meetings in Perth, Oban, Aberdeen and Inverness, additional stopovers in Skye, Glasgow and a flying visit to my parents (literally). I felt like a pinball ricocheting around Scotland in planes, trains and automobiles (and ferries).
In truth, most of the time I enjoy these excursions off the island – good chance to catch up with friends, family and colleagues along the way, visit cities, shops, see more people than sheep on a daily basis. However, I have clearly spent far too many nights staying at the hotel next to Glasgow Airport, pending flight next morning.
One night last week, between trips, I was home and woke up with a start when I heard a plane fly over. Slightly baffled for a few minutes, I assumed I was in that hotel next to Glasgow Airport, only to find to my relief when I came to that I was in fact at home and that the air ambulance had just flown over! No doubt the sound of its arrival would be a relief to a patient in need too.
Despite a few tentative waits in departure lounges scanning the forecasts on my phone and hoping the flight would go, and occasional turbulent flights and tricky landings, pleased to say I mostly avoided the dreaded cancellations. All but once that is when a technical fault caused a ferry to break down, delaying my arrival home by 12 hours.
With a substantial workload and pre-Christmas deadlines looming, I am glad I can be back home to focus and get my teeth into meeting the deadlines before the festive break. That’s the plan, at least!
In the interim between my last post and this, one of the true originals of music, Lou Reed died. Not such a Perfect Day. Lou Reed was a true artist and a musical pioneer who has influenced and shaped rock music landscape for decades. His often wonderfully idiosyncratic and deadpan, droll delivery of his unique and thought provoking lyrics had perfect musical accompaniment. His guitar style was special – distinctively assertive yet bare bones. His work has been and will always be part of the musical highlights of my life.
While it is totally understandable, it is also pity that most of the obituaries and tributes in the music (and popular) press focused on his early years with the Velvet Underground. No denying this brilliant and ground breaking work and the 1972 solo Transformer album that followed. However, that was very knowingly hip and cool.
It was between 1989 and 2000 that his work really spoke to me. I still regularly play his 1989 album New York with such gems as Dirty Blvd, Romeo Had Juliette and Strawman, which contain some of his best bile-laden lyrics. The albums Songs for Drella, Magic and Loss, Set the Twilight Reeling and Ecstasy complete the album quintet that best summarises what I value about his work.
We saw him in Edinburgh when he toured for the Ecstasy album. He was at his cantankerous artistic best: acerbic, contrary and expressive, everything one should expect from Lou Reed at a gig: an unmalleable, difficult and complex personality laid bare.
Earlier, I was talking of plans and the ball is finally rolling with our plans to renovate and extend our crumbling croft house. In between trips away, we have been working with our architect to finalise the plans. After numerous iterations, we are pleased to say these plans are complete at last, thanks to the help of our patient, can-do architect.
It would be much easier in many respects if it was a new build. Working with old houses brings constraint, challenge and additional costs, not least because we must pay VAT at 20% on the renovation and extension, unlike a new build. We had considered flattening the house and starting again, but only fleetingly. We bought the house with our eyes open and in part because it would be a challenging, exciting and alarming project. We knew it would require total renovation and extension, and the time is nigh.
A few people have asked me if I intend to blog about the renovation and extension project of our old croft house. I would like to, if nothing else but to document the process for our own benefit and reflection later. Given I can barely maintain this blog at the moment, it doesn’t look that likely for now but I may change my mind. More on the build in future posts. For today I have had my fill.
Just before I tackled this post, I had spent a considerable amount of time researching bathroom extractor fans online. After 30 pages of looking at dull plastic objects that pretty much all look the same, fulfill more or less a similar purpose, some quieter or more powerfully than others, I lost the will to live. So here I am. Venison liver pâté.
Venison liver pâté
It does seems a pity to deconstruct this most perfect and healthy of red deer livers to pâté, but the result was well worth it. The deconstruction was , however, less than pretty. Mincing deer liver is not for the faint-hearted and the resulting passage of the organ through our electric mincer was reminiscent of the remake of the Evil Dead, a splat and sprayfest that we recently enjoyed This resulted in me shielding the kitchen from the ensuing bloodbath with a bin bag screen around the mincer. Photographs have been deliberately withheld, lest they be blocked by my server. Don’t be deterred!
Before mincing, the liver must be prepped by removing all membranes and vessels before use. This left about a kilo of liver to work with, enough for 2 terrines. The inclusion of minced pork belly to add texture meant the pâté was somewhat a hybrid between a terrine and a classic pâté, but I thought the addition of the pork was necessary to add fat for moisture and to balance the intensity of the rich and powerful gamey liver.
The pate was served with home made two seed crackers, my own rowan and apple jelly, various salamis, Sicilian Castelvetrano olives and Great Glen Game’s wonderful smoked venison (see Twitter @GreatGlenGame). This is one of the wonderful charcuterie products they sell. I have been trying in vane to get a hold of some for a while. Each time I pass Roy Bridge, unfortunately, it is after shop closing, otherwise I would stop by for some. I managed to pick up some at a new deli that has sprung up in Portree, Skye.
The olives and salami come from our great new Island Deli on Benbecula. How fantastic it is to at last have our own fresh cheese and charcuterie selection, as well as good coffee from this new island business.
The ingredients below are for 1 terrine.
500g venison liver, minced
350g pork belly, minced
50 ml brandy
6 juniper berries, crushed
100 ml port
200 g pancetta or streaky bacon
1 egg, beaten
salt and pepper
Set the oven to 180C
- Mince the trimmed venison liver, then the pork belly.
- Add the rest of the ingredients, except the egg and bacon, mix well, leave to stand for a couple of hours.
- At this stage, check the seasoning by frying a piece of mixture in a frying pan, adjust if required, according to taste.
- Line a terrine with overlapping slices of streaky bacon widthways. Combine the beaten egg into the meat mixture then fill the terrine with the mixture.
- Finish by wrapping the bacon ends over the mixture in the terrine and cover with foil.
- Place in the oven in a Bain Marie , the water coming 3/4 way up the sides of the terrine, for 1 1/2 hours.
- Place a weight on top of the terrine, allow to cool then chill overnight before running a knife around the edge, turning out and slicing.
What a brilliant present. Your terrine pâté looks and sounds delicious – I wonder if my crafty butcher can get hold of some venison liver… 🙂
thanks! It was a great present, though lots of uncertainty when/whether I will get hold of another, sadly. Good luck with tracking some down through your butcher.
You are a brave woman. That said, the pâté looks delicious.
Thanks, certainly a messy woman in this case 🙂 The pate was worth the clean up.
As always, a fascinating slice of life in the Islands, topped off, on this occasion, by a delicious looking slice of venison pate!
Great to see you back. Regards from Norfolk, as always, Pete.
Thanks Pete, good to be back! Hope to stick around this time – and catch up on some posts, if possible… Hope the winter weather is not too rough in Norfolk.
Just a bit chilly at present, nothing like what you have to endure! x
I enjoyed this post, the comfort of catching up with someone whose conversation is always interesting and well-phrased. The photo of the raw liver, in all its horrifying glory, drew me in and I was glad to be rewarded with the pictures of that beautiful pate at the end!
Thank you so much. I did wonder about including the liver image, but better than the mincing that followed….
Good to see you back on the blog. I’m sure the pate was very good, but even I’m struggling to think of a vegetarian version of this one! Good luck with the renovations – will you be starting them soon or wait until spring?
Thanks Sarah, apologies for the offal post. I should post more veggie recipes – I try to eat veggie a fair proportion of the week now. It will be spring before we get permission, have builders, plus sensible to wait until the worst of teh gales pass, given the 4 by 5m hole to be knocked in our 600 mm thick stone wall – on the side of the prevailing wind. I expect much chaos, but it will be worth it in the end. I will provide updates!
Sounds delicious and worth the effort! Good luck with the extractor fan and the rest of your renovations….
Thank you. I can’t wait to get back to the extractor fan selection, but this evening Ottolenghi is on TV, my get out clause from looking a plumbing fittings for a few hours!
I would love some of this! Can’t believe you have to pay 20% VAT to extend your house. What a dent in the budget!
Thank you. The VAT is not helping us and many builders who had to lay off staff due to the recession. A VAT reduction would help boost the building sector out of the doldrums. Yes, it is a huge dent in our already tight budget, which means we have to make up for the deficit by doing lots of work ourselves, which fortunately we are mostly capable and sort of happy to do!
Very nice! Lovely hearty food as always. Good luck with the extension, a few months of inconvenience well worth it in our experience though.
Thanks Phil, look forward to the work starting. We expect the work to take at least a year since we are almost doubling the size of the house and changing the use of all but one room, daunting but as you say, worth it and can’t wait to have heating 🙂 Progress reports will feature occasionally no doubt!
Good luck with the extractor fan, it’ll be worth it. Hope to see some more posts during your winter, as I always love reading your writing about island life.
Thank you very much, hope to be back on track with the blog, notwithstanding being distracted by selecting fixtures and fittings for the house!
Hi really enjoyed your blog about the venison liver have managed to get some Roe liver a few times from my son, one of the nicest things I have tasted, looking forward to trying the new Deli the next time we are on the islands,
Hi Stuart, thanks, never tried roe liver, suspect milder (and smaller!) than red. New deli is great, plugs the shopping gap here with some decent charcuterie, cheese and coffee. Tightlines to you too, when the season starts again!
I don’t know how ‘game’ I would be to deal with the liver but the result looks absolutely wonderful and the whole feast – your rowan and apple jelly, the salamis, the seed crackers, etc. – sounds perfect.
Thanks Lindy, the preparation was worth the effort!
Welcome back and what a post to mark the occasion! Your pâté looks fantastic. I’d love to say I’ll make this but I cannot get my hands on any venison, let alone the liver. If ever I do, though, I’ll be sure to come back here.
Thanks John, good to be back. Pity you can’t get a hold of venison it’s not that easy to get liver here, despite being surrounded by deer!
I have had a great morning catching up with my reading and I’ll take the image of your blood spattered kitchen to work with me! If only I could taste the pate.
As for the fan, try and get something with a humidistat built in, or better still look at a heat recovery ventilation system, the fan goes in the roof space (less noise) and recovers any heat that would otherwise be lost.
Thanks Eddy, I have been looking at those including humidistats, but a heat recovery system would be tricky to retro fit in this old house (flat roof, where the fan is going) unfortunately. I’ve been distracted by kitchen fittings meantime, building up the courage to go back to the fans… :).
Okay, you win. The breadth of your taste astonishes me. Venison pate and Evil Dead–and people complain about me. I can’t wait to do a post on wild boar and Hostel II. Funny, we were talking about venison pate the other day. The ingredients are fairly rarified, so unless you hunt, know someone who does, or are in the restaurant biz, it can be hard to get your hands on a venison liver. That said, it makes gorgeous pate, especially with some tart little lingonberry whatever on the side. Nice. Ken
Thanks Ken, yes, all in the nostalgia of the original Evil Dead film which I saw when I was pretty (arguably too) young, cemented my enduring love of horror. I look forward to your Boar and Hostel post with interest 😉 although Hostel I’m not sure about. The John Carpenter classic The Thing perhaps. Still one of my top ten scariest films. Maybe not to accompany food in retrospect… 🙂 I think the lingonberry would be the best accompaniment, as you suggest. I had Rowan jelly with the pate, nice slightly bitter edge.
Lovely pate. Thought the liver looked like E.T. in its raw state !
Thanks Mum, not sure I’ve seen that version of E.T. That does sound scary 🙂
Oh wow, that looks amazing! I love pate but don’t think I’ve ever had venison. Sounds lovely and delicious!
Thank you so much, I’ve made the most of this rare gift and have lots stashed in the freezer!
It sounds as though you made the most of that gift of liver. Your whole evening meal looks great and I’m sure was very enjoyable. I hope life is settling down a bit for you.
Thank you Karen, we did make the most of it, still enjoying it with a second terrine in the freezer. Trying to catch up with stuff, including blogging, hope to make time for a post this week, fingers crossed 🙂