One of the most celebrated dates on the French calendar is the14th of July — the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille in 1789, which signalled the beginning of the French Revolution.
It is a day of leisurely family activities and celebrations. In the evening in Paris, a grand concert takes place and around 11pm the sky explodes with a magnificent firework display which features a different theme each year.
I’m a great devotee of French cuisine and the respect that the French people have for food. So most years my husband and I hold a soirée — either drinks or dinner — for friends on or around the 14th of July. Pâté is our favourite starter as it can be prepared well ahead and even frozen for several months.
The origin of pâté is rooted in northern and central European cuisines. In the Middle Ages, it was a staple food for farmers — pâté evolved as an economical and tasty way to use all the animal from head to tail. Today pâté remains a mainstay of the French diet. According to the latest statistics, 25 per cent of French people eat pâté at least once a week and 68 per cent at least once a month.
SLOW COOKER COQ AU VIN
I used chicken cutlets — bone in but skinned.
Chicken: 1.5-2kg chicken, jointed
1 1/2 cups red wine
2 tablespoons each: olive oil, butter
2 middle rashers bacon, finely chopped
2 each: onions, carrots, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste
3/4 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 bunch fresh herbs eg parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme
Extras: 200g button mushrooms
8 each: baby carrots, pickling-sized onions, peeled
25g butter, softened
3 tablespoons flour
Place the chicken in a shallow dish. Pour the wine over then cover, refrigerate and marinate overnight, turning once or twice.
Heat half the oil and butter in a large non-stick frying pan. Sauté the bacon until cooked. Add the diced onions and carrots and sauté for about 5 minutes or until the onion is softened. Add the garlic. Transfer to the slow cooker.
Drain the chicken —reserving the wine marinade — and pat dry. Season. Melt the remaining butter and oil. Sauté the chicken until lightly coloured. Place on top of the diced veggies and bacon.
Add the chicken stock, reserved wine and tomato paste to the frying pan and bring to the boil. Pour over the ingredients in the slow cooker. Add the herbs tied together with string. Cover and cook on low for 3 hours.
Halve the button mushrooms if large. Add to the slow cooker with the baby carrots and onions. Mix the butter and flour to a paste. Whisk into the slow cooker liquid. Continue cooking for 1-2 hours until the carrots and chicken are tender. Garnish with parsley. Serves 6-8.
The pâté may be frozen in the ramekins for up to 3 months.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon dried thyme or mixed herbs
500g chicken livers, washed and dried
1/4 cup brandy
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
200g cold butter, diced
generous amounts of freshly ground black pepper to garnish
Heat the oil on medium in a large, non-stick frying pan. Sauté the onion, until softened. Add the garlic, herbs and chicken livers and continue to cook for 5 minutes, turning the chicken livers over after 3 minutes.
Add the brandy, warm through and set alight to burn off the alcohol. Simmer until the liquid is almost evaporated. Season.
Place the hot mixture in a food processer. With the motor running, slowly add the diced butter, mixing until very smooth. Pour into small ramekins. Smooth the top then coat with black pepper. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours.
Serve as a starter with crusty bread and/or crackers and cornichons. Serves 12-16.
LITTLE APPLE GALETTES
These can be cooked ahead, refrigerated then reheated on a hot oven tray until just warm.
2 sheets ready-rolled flaky pastry
1/2 cup apricot jam, sieved if lumpy
2 tablespoons gin
1/2 cup pistachio nuts, lightly toasted and chopped
Preheat the oven to 190°C. Line one or two baking trays with baking paper.
Using an 10cm diameter bowl or similar, cut out 4 rounds from each pastry sheet. Place on the paper-lined trays. Brush the rounds with the jam.
Peel, core and thinly slice the apples. Place the slices over the pastry circles, overlapping them slightly like scales on a fish. Brush with more jam and sprinkle with the pistachios.
Bake for about 25 minutes, until the pastry is crisp and slightly browned around the edges.
Excellent served with crème fraiche, whipped cream or ice cream. Serves 8.