Sunday 18 November 2012

Uncle Kazik's Polish Pâté with Prunes

Usually, I go to Poland twice a year - for Christmas and during the Summer. Yet this year, my original homeland has been calling me back again and again. First, to see my grandma Ziuta before her death, then her funeral in March... Then it was the usual Summer trip, and now, my grandma Halinka is unwell and I needed to return. In 6 weeks, we are going to spend Christmas in Zakopane with my cousin and his family, then back to Warsaw. Perhaps I am more attached to this harsh, unstable land than I admit, even to myself. My aunt who has been staying with us laughs at how our life here on the plains of Eastern Europe is so typical of the area. It is funny, since our family is not a traditional one. Or perhaps this is precisely why we cling to the old ways... In our manic four days spent in Poland we have cooked bigos and made pâté. While I was grinding meat for the pâté yesterday it occured to me that despite everything going on in my life right now, in that particular moment, I felt happy. It is comforting to know know that whatever happens in life, happiness can still be found in performing a simple task that has been performed for hundreds, if not thousands of years. I hope that if you make this pâté, you too will find that soothing connection to something bigger

500g fatty bacon
500g chicken breast
500g pork
700g beef
500g pork liver (but can be any liver)
3 onions
large handful wild, dry mushrooms
5 bay leaves
2 tblsp majoram
1 tsp dried juniper berries
1 tsp whole black peppercorns
6 eggs
2 white, dry bread buns
2 handfuls pitted prunes
3 tsp nutmeg
2 tblsp fine (sea) salt or to taste
vegetable oil for frying
butter for greasing the baking trays
1 tblsp breadcrumbs
First, we cook the meat, which is best done a day ahead of the pate making. The meat needs 2 hours cooking time, then it needs time to cool. Fry the meat on both sides to seal it.  Put it in large pan and pour the frying oil over the top. We cook the meat (apart from the liver) in a pan half-full of water with the onions, bayleaves, juniper berries, peppercorns, majoram and dried mushrooms (these need to be soaked for 10min in boiling hot water first). Here, this kind of cooking is called suffocating the meat, because we do it covered and for a long period of time. Once the meat is falling off the bone (after about 1hr 45min) add the liver and cook for a further 10-15min. Finally, add the bread and allow to cool overnight. The next day, mince it all a couple of times, or until you get the consistency of pâté. Put it back in the pan with the remaining liquid - this will give the pâté moisture. Now, break in the eggs, roll up your sleeves and get dirty squishing the mixture between your hands until it's all completely smooth. Add the salt and nutmeg. Taste the mixture to see if you feel it needs anything more right now... then fill the pre-buttered and breadcrumbed baking trays, like so
 Bake these on 180 degrees Celsius for about 1 and a half hours, or until they look like this
You can eat this pâté with crusty bread, cranberry sauce and gherkins like I did, take it to parties or give it to people as a little gift. It may sound a bit weird, but I think giving someone something you made to eat is always a welcome present. Unless they're vegetarian perhaps. Although simple, pâté making is one hell of an effort, so it's nice to share the spoils and show it off

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