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.