Some of the best heritage recipes are passed down from generation to generation. Pauline D Loh discovers some gems in the heart of the Limestone Coast.
Lavender bushes, vineyards and a rocky shoreline are all part of the landscape. The stiff sea breeze sprays the air with a salty tang and the musky aroma of wines in oak barrels adds yet another layer to the heady scent.
This is the Limestone Coast of South Australia, where the land is a rich terra rosa and a high water table prevents it from suffering the drought inflicted on other parts of the country. This stretch of the southern coast is often referred to as God's own country, where milk and honey flow.
Actually, it's not just milk and honey. There's plenty of riesling, cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay flowing as well.
Here, a young Belgium chef is quietly making waves with his handcrafted chocolates, and his love of traditional recipes passed down from his grandmother.
Chef Jason Van Leuven believes we should all go back to the basics as far as food is concerned. At the lunch he served us, his little pastries, terrines and pate were all "old-fashioned" classics using produce from the region. The pate, almost mousse-like, is silky smooth and butter rich and when I asked him for the recipe, he gladly gave it.
This is his grandmother's silk stocking chicken liver pate and part of a collection of what he called "leftover food".
Terrines and pates were originally peasant or farm food, made with the organs and odd parts of the animals that could not be sold at the market. With typical thrift and ingenuity, the farmer's wife would waste nothing, turning the livers into a smooth, silky pate to be had with chunks of crusty bread for a hearty meal.
Other bits of tongue, odd cuts of meat and ham hock ends were all cut up into tiny pieces or ground into sausage meat. For variety, dried fruits and nuts harvested from the garden or orchard would be added to add flavor and color. The mixture would be bound together with breadcrumbs soaked in egg white and then baked, with or without a pastry crust.
As for Leuven's silk stocking pate, therein lies another family tradition. His grandmother would make the pate, and then pass it through a pair of silk stockings to get a very fine creamy paste. These days, of course, Leuven settles for a pair of new nylon stockings.
But the resulting pate is indeed amazingly creamy and literally melts in the mouth. This is a very good recipe for entertaining and can be easily done on the stove top. It stores really well and if stored covered in the fridge, will last a whole weekend when friends come over for drinks and movies.
Recipe | Chicken & Ham terrine
500 g minced chicken
300 g honey ham, cubed
2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
75 ml cream
3 egg whites
1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
1 tbsp grated lemon zest
1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
1 tsp sea salt
8-10 dried apricots
8-10 dried cherries
3 tbsp fruit liqueur
20 walnut halves
24 slices streaky bacon
1. Beat together egg whites and cream until just combined. Add breadcrumbs and mix until well combined. Leave mixture aside in a covered bowl.
2. Place minced chicken, grated ginger, lemon zest, sea salt and black pepper in a blender and process. Add breadcrumb mixture and blend until smooth.
3. Soak the cherries and apricots in the fruit liqueur for about 15 minutes.
4. Chop up the fruit roughly, but not so fine that they disappear. They should still be chunky.
5. Transfer the chicken mixture to a large bowl and stir in chopped fruit, walnuts and ham cubes.
6. Line bottom and sides of a papered loaf tin with the bacon slices so they hang over the edge.
7. Pour the chicken mixture into the pan and fold the bacon strips over the top.
8. Cover the loaf pan tightly with foil. Bake in a pre-heated 180 C oven for an hour. Alternatively, you can steam the terrine over a medium fire for an hour, tightly covered.
9. When terrine is cooked, chill well before slicing so that the juices will firm up the terrine.
This is another recipe that is a great party stand-by. You can make it ahead of time and keep it well-covered in the fridge. It can be eaten either warm or chilled and served as a main course or part of your canap set. To vary the recipe, you can also use minced pork and ham. If you are using minced pork, keep it to a rough mince for texture. You can also layer the terrine with blanched vegetables like carrots or asparagus to get contrasting color and texture.
Recipe | Silk stocking chicken pate
400 gm chicken livers, cleaned
400 ml full cream milk
2 tbsp olive oil
25 g m unsalted butter
2-3 shallots, roughly chopped
1/2 garlic clove, roughly chopped
1 thyme spring
1 bay leaf
25 ml cognac or brandy
125 g unsalted butter
100 g cream
1/2 teaspoon of salt
Freshly cracked pepper to taste
1. Marinate the cleaned chicken livers in the milk with the thyme and by leaf for six hours in the fridge.
2. Strain the milk, keeping the thyme and bay leaf. Pat the chicken livers dry with paper towels.
3. Heat a large frying pan with the olive oil, until it is almost smoking. Place the livers into the hot pan and seal them for 30 seconds on each side, then set aside.
4. Quickly add the butter and fry the shallots and garlic until they start to turn clear. Return the livers to the pan, together wit the thyme and bay leaf, then add cognac or brandy. The cognac or brandy may flame, so be careful .
5. Cover the frying pan and cook on a low heat for five minutes.
6. Place the contents of the frying pan into a blender with the cream, 125g butter, salt and pepper. Blend until smooth.
7. Strain the pate through a silk stocking and smooth into a pate dish or bowl.
8. Wrap the bowl in cling film to prevent a skim forming on top, and set overnight in the refrigerator. Serve with crusty bread.
The secret to a really flavorful pate is to keep the chicken livers well marinated. You can try adding the cognac or brandy to the raw livers together with the milk. Take care to clean the livers of all the veins and strings of fat if you want a baby-smooth pate. I like adding a thin layer of gelatin on top of the pate to keep it moist. Just soak a teaspoon of gelatin powder, or a sheet of leaf gelatin in a cup of thin chicken stock. Heat it up and stir until the gelatin is melted. Place a few herbs or wolfberries on top of the pate and spoon the gelatin liquid over. Chill until set.