Pie’s the limit

Charcuterie platter

I’m almost at the end of Intermediate Cuisine. Exams up next. My last lessons were a charcuterie extravaganza spanning 3 days and 15 hours in the kitchen. Fantastic. Great fun. I’m back.

Historically charcuterie is the preservation of pork through methods like curing, cooking, smoking, salting, etc. Think products like bacon, hams, sausages, terrines, galantines, ballotines, pies, pâtés and confit. The word charcuterie comes from the obsolete French word char, which means flesh, and cuite meaning cooked. Splendid.

Foie Gras

First up, Terrine de Foie Gras de Canard avec Kumquats en Aigre Doux et Gelée au Porto Blanc. Duck foie gras terrine with pickled kumquats and white port jelly.

Duck liver has 2 lobes. Each lobe has 2 vein systems, one on top of the other. Chef said he likes to use a spoon handle to find and remove the veins. He explained that cutting the liver with a knife is destructive and prevents the meat coming back together. It’s like archeology. Gradually scraping layers of meat to the sides until the first vein shows itself. With the spoon handle underneath the largest veins in the tree are easily pulled out. Then it’s about removing the finer veins. This was repeated for the second vein, then the meat was softly pushed back into shape.

Seasoning foie gras is very specific—15g salt for every kilogram of foie gras. The salt was mixed with white pepper and distributed all over. The amount of salt seems excessive but it needs salt! The lobes were then marinated for 24 hours in sauternes, cognac and white port. You know, there’s no limit to the extravagance when it comes to foie gras.

The foie gras was cooked in the oven and left to cool in its own fat. And there’s plenty of it. At room temperature, the foie gras was rolled tightly in cling film, popping any air bubbles en route, and placed in the fridge. It was served with pickled kumquats and frosted pistachio nuts. The pickling liquor was white wine vinegar, sugar, salt, cloves, black peppercorns, ginger and cardamom. The pistachio nuts were toasted in a pan then sugar, lemon zest and Maldon sea salt added, stirring continuously on the heat until the sugar crystallised or became “dirty”. At this point the sugar won’t caramelise.

Chef dextrously wields his spoon handle to remove the veins from foie gras

Foie gras terrine with pickled kumquats, frosted pistachio nuts on white port jelly

Pâté en Croûte

I’ve been really looking forward to this one. Pâté pie! Pâté baked in hot water crust pastry. Once a crowning dish of French gastronomy Pâté en Croûte is coming back into fashion.

Pâté en Croûte on jellied milk

Preparation—make the pastry; make the forcemeat. The flour was sieved then crumbed with cubes of cold butter into a sandy texture. Salt was dissolved in water, warmed to 60C then added to the flour. Mix and a quick knead then rested overnight. The forcemeat was veal belly, pork liver and pork neck, marinated for a day in white wine, sugar, salt and pepper, shallots and thyme leaves. Then minced. Some meat was reserved and cut into small cubes for texture.

Next day the pastry was rolled and cut into pieces to fit the mould. A bit of a jigsaw. Chef cut lattices and stuck these to the side sections of pastry for decoration. With the forcemeat packed tightly inside, the lid was fitted, crimped and chimneys cut before getting a thorough egg-wash. It was baked in the oven at 180C. Chicken jelly was poured into the chimneys while it was still hot. It was then left to chill overnight.

Chef gave me the unused pastry and I’ve ordered my mould. Home project coming up. Wehey!

Pâté de Campagne, Parfait de Foie de Volaille and Rillette de Lapin with pickled vegetables and chutney


Rye bread and pickled cornichons

Rillette de Lapin avec Pain de Seigle et Cornichons. That’s rabbit rillette served up with rye bread and pickled cornichons. Rabbit fronts were butchered and the legs cooked confit in duck fat. The meat was cooled, pulled from the bone and shredded over a bowl of ice. Most of the fat and cooking liquor was stirred in with my fingers until the mix became buttery. Then into ramekins with a spoonful of fat over the top to seal. Into the fridge for a couple of days. I made a cracking rye bread to go along with the rillette. Wow. So much fat. So mighty fine. So damn delicious.


Parfait is the one where chefs apparently tempt fate. Some cook the parfait at a low temperature to achieve a really, really smooth texture. This risks bacteria and ultimately food poisoning.

Parfait de Foie de Volaille et Chutney de Pomme aux Figues or chicken liver parfait with apple and fig chutney. A reduction was made with shallot, garlic, thyme leaves, cognac, port and Madeira. Chicken livers were trimmed of fat and nerves. Avoid piercing any green spots. These are bile pockets. Pop one and it’ll ruin the liver. The livers were blitzed in the Thermomix with salt, pink salt and pepper. On a slow speed, eggs were added one at a time. Then the cooled reduction. Lastly melted butter, slowly, and now at room temperature. The mixture was passed through a chinois and cooked in a Bain Marie in the oven at 120C. Then chilled in the fridge.

A quick apple and fig chutney was made to accompany the parfait. Noice.

Pâté de Campagne

Pâté de Campagne et Légumes Acidulés. This is a country-style terrine. A cooked marinade of white wine vinegar, Madeira, garlic, shallots, sugar and spices was mixed with pork belly, jowl and liver plus lardo over ice. A liaison of bread, milk and eggs was added. The pâté was wrapped in caul fat, baked in the oven then into the fridge.

Baby onions, chantenay carrot, radish and girolles were salted for half an hour, rinsed and then pickled.

Salted vegetables

Girolle mushrooms

We eventually got to plate up our creations and were given free-range on style. I opted for a board. Chef said my arrangement of pickled vegetables was too structured. It needed to be more random in contrast to the placements of charcuterie. I thought it was just a bit shit. It worked in my head. LOL! Then it doesn’t. One of the first sessions in Superior Cuisine is about presentation. I’m excited about that. If only there was a good book.

The funny thing is I’m reluctantly not eating my charcuterie for a couple of days, which gives Roberta a chance to get in there. With the written exam tomorrow and the practical exam the day after I don’t want to risk getting food poisoning again. And to give it to myself—well, that would just be comical. Not. You can’t blame me for being cautious.

My charcuterie board

This last one’s a bit freaky. It’s called Sauce Chaud-Froid. Hot-cold sauce. Chef loves it. It’s a visual spectacle. And it tastes good too.

The sauce is essentially a thick velouté made from a white roux, chicken stock and cream. That’s the hot bit. Gelatine is added and left to cool and thicken. That’s the cold bit. Think a savoury glaze. As it’s ladled over steamed chicken medallions it sets with a shine. Magic. The base is jellied milk made with milk, obviously, potato starch and gelatine. One version was dyed with charcoal. Snazzy. It would look right at home in the Palace of Versailles.

Perhaps “freaky” is overstating it. It’s unusual—at least to me—I think because it looks like it’s going to be sweet but you get savoury smooth ganache and chilled chicken. I can get used to it.

Cold chicken medallions in Sauce Chaud-Froid