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There is definitely a sense of satisfaction in making a delicious terrine.  They are not half as difficult as people seem to believe.  If you have a food processor the time spent actually working is minimal. What will take time with a meat terrine is the marinading and cooking but these are both very easy on the chef.  If I am making terrine I reserve a lazy Saturday afternoon when I am pottering about the house. The dish will then last well in the fridge for a few days and can be rolled out for an easy Sunday lunch and many snack times in between.
A pre-prepared terrine is a great addition to a dinner party, as a first course or nibbles, because it makes your life easier on the night. For this very reason it is not uncommon to find terrines or pâté on the menu in the most expensive restaurants. They are every chefs dream during a busy service.  Simply cut it, place it on a plate with some dressing and Voilà, all the work is done earlier in the day to make the evening run more smoothly.

The original use for terrines was the preservation of some of the bounty of meat when an animal was killed as a terrine is a very tasty and economical way of using offal from an animal.  There is evidence of this form of cooking in the drawings of ancient Egypt and pâté and terrines were enjoyed by the peasants in France and neighbouring countries for many centuries.

French style terrine

600g lean pork cut up into small cubes
100g pork belly cut up into small cubes
300g chicken livers, cleaned and trimmed
100g streaky bacon, chopped
1 ½  tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper, crushed
1 tsp nutmeg, grated
1 tbs of juniper berries, lightly crushed
4 tbs of brandy
2 onions, finally chopped
100g of dried apricots chopped
1 large egg, lightly beaten
8 thinly sliced streaky rashers

Put pork belly, livers and chopped pork into a food processor and give them  a light blitz, or chop everything very finely by hand.

Place the meat into a large bowl with the salt, pepper, nutmeg, juniper berries and brandy. Mix carefully and leave in the fridge to marinate for at least six hours or over night.

Add the chopped onions, apricots and egg to the mixture and stir them in.

Line a lightly buttered terrine dish with rashers leaving enough hanging over the edge to cover the top.  Spoon in the filling then fold the ends of the bacon over the top and cover with a layer of well buttered greaseproof paper.  Wrap the whole thing in tin foil.

Place your dish into a large baking tray filled with water.  Make sure the water level comes halfway up the side of your terrine tin.

Bake in this bain-maire for 90 minutes or until the terrine is shrinking away from the sides of its tin.

Your terrine will keep in the fridge for four or five days and it also freezes very well.

(A bain marie is a method of cooking that involves filling a baking dish with water and placing your terrine dish into this hot water so it comes halfway up the side of  the dish.  This helps distribute the heat and seems to be a well kept secret among chefs.)




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Fancy a date?

A friend of mine asked me if I realised that there are more than 1000 varieties of dates in the world, I had not until that moment thought about it.  He asked this as I stuffed the third medjool date into my mouth. This same friend had just returned from the Middle East and was filling my head with tales of chocolate covered dates, rich date stews and presentation boxes of sweet almond stuffed dates. It was he who brought the very welcome gift of the medjool dates back from his travels.

Our conversation got me thinking of the sweet intense flavour that only dates can impart. They are a natural sweetener and work wonders on the digestive system.  Dates are used to break the fast after Ramadan and so are embedded in the Muslim culture. The same friend described seeing oasis filled with date palms in the desert, where the fronds stretched high into the hot, blue sky and the heavy sagging bunches of dates are left on the tree until they are bright yellow and ripe for picking. Although the exact origin of the date palm has been lost in time it is known to have been used in the construction of temples in Southern Iraq as far back as 4000 BC.

Dates are called nature's toffee for good reason, they are one of the sweetest natural foods I know.   They are also a great way of helping you get over that mid-afternoon slump. A date is full of fiber and provides our bodies with energy and natural goodness, as well as potassium, magnesium and calcium. I like using sweet ingredients in savoury cooking so I love combinations such as sweet dates in a bitter winter salad. The bitterness of winter leaves mixed with perhaps a creamy goats cheese and slices of date all work to create a tasty meal.  Medjool dates wrapped in bacon and quickly popped under the grill are a great pre dinner snack.  They have all the saltiness of the bacon and it bounces of the sweet sticky dates and works so well.  You can stuff the canapes with a sliver of blue cheese before wrapping them in bacon for an extra rich and flavourful hit.

Dates wrapped in bacon

you will need: a good knife, 10 cocktail sticks and a wire rack and a grill

10 medjool dates de-stoned
5 thinly cut rashers, all cut in half lengthways

Wrap the bacon around a date and secure with a cocktail stick.  Place it on a wire rack.  Do the same with all of your dates and then place them under a medium grill for just a few minutes until the bacon starts to crisp. Turn the canapes around until they are completely cooked.




New York I love you .....

I love walking across the Williamsburg Bridge on a crisp and clear morning, I love strolling through Central Park in the Autumn, I love turning onto a soaring avenue and feeling the wind in my face, I love walking along the “High Line Park” and watching the sun set behind the Jersey shore, I love sitting at the tip of Red Hook and looking across the bay at the Statue of Liberty standing tall and most of all I just love being in New York.  I am probably not the first person to point this out but in my mind New York city is the best city in the world. It is certainly the best when it comes to food.  It has made the cupcake famous, it has the best pizzas that I have ever tasted, it has queues of people lining the streets by a battered old Mexican food stand selling slow roasted pork cooked in spicy mole, it has amazing Vietnamese bread rolls filled with coriander and julienne veg and of course it has breakfast. Nobody does breakfast, or should I say brunch, quite like New Yorkers.

New York is an ever changing city, with new favourites and adventures to seek out upon every visit. On my last trip I found myself sitting outside the fantastic “Five Leaves” diner, in Greenpoint, having brunch and watching the achingly hip locals walk by. Venturing down under the Williamsburg Bridge to sit at the bar in “Marlow and Sons” and munching on pancakes served with a boozy brandy cream.  In Manhattan I sat in the tiled booths of “Goat Town”, in the once legendary Alphabet City,  and slurped down oysters straight from their shell while drinking tomato spiced beer, much nicer than it sounds, I promise.

Egg's Eggs Rothko

I also visited a diner called “Egg in Brooklyn on my last whirl wind tour of New York breakfast joints and I enjoyed one of the best and most excellently named breakfasts on my trip; Eggs Rothko. If any of you are familiar with the painter Rothko you will have seen his blurred canvases. well what was served in frount of me did very much resemble one of his atmospheric paintings.

you will need: knife, a frying pan, a grill, a cookie cutter, a grater

1 tablespoon butter
1 thick slice of brioche bread
1 large eggs
enough Cheddar to cover your slice of bread, grated, Hegarty's works well

Melt half of your butter in a pan and fry the bread until it is golden on both sides.  Using a cookie cutter or a glass cut a circle from the centre the slice and remove the extra piece.  Put the rest of the butter into the hole you have created in the bread. Once the butter is hot crack an egg into the hole. Once the egg is solid enough, flip the bread over and cook it on the other side.

Remove the bread from the pan and sprinkle it with the cheese and place under a medium grill.

Once the cheese has melted you are done. Serve the circle that you cut from the centre alongside your dish. You can top it with grilled tomatoes if you like.



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