The writer Len Deighton published his Action Cook Book and Où Est le Garlic within months of each other in 1965. The former was a collection of his “cookstrips”, illustrated recipes that ran as a column in The Observer, and the latter was a guide to French cuisine. I am the proud owner of a Penguin box set produced in 1967 with both volumes, the royalties for which were donated to Oxfam. This was a generous act on the part of the author, even if his cookery-book career was small beer compared with his success as the author of thrillers such as The Ipcress File and Funeral in Berlin.
Deighton’s cookbooks attempted to draw the key components of a cooking process. The books and the newspaper column were very popular, yet I am unaware of anyone emulating that success with a graphic approach to cookery writing, until now. Christophe Blain is a French graphic novelist (Isaac le Pirate is perhaps his best-known work) who turned his hand to the subject of food with his book In the Kitchen with Alain Passard. It graphically recounts vignettes from the chef’s life but it is also a sort of recipe book. There is a thread of narrative running through it that makes you want to turn the page.
To get Blain to illustrate my recipe I had to enlist a helper to film me making the terrine and I was obliged to speak in French as Christophe has little English. While these tapes are not for public consumption, Blain’s graphic version most definitely is. We were in two minds as to whether to translate it back into English. I argued not. As my old boss Albert Roux used to say, “Food always sounds better in French, don’t it?” You’ll forgive me if I got my way.
You may also take one look at this recipe and think it is not for you. There is quite a lot of fat, liver and garlic, none of which might appeal to the squeamish. In addition, it requires a mincer: however, there are ways around this awkwardness which I shall come to later. But before I enter the mitigating pleas, let me explain that, should you go to the bother of making this powerful pâté, you will have produced something inimitable and almost impossible to buy. It will have a freshness and a juiciness rarely found in shop-bought pâté, allied to a robustness of flavour that will transport you back to a notion of French country living that we have long forgotten.
I promise that the moment you cut a slice, you will see yourself in a café inhabited by old codgers with berets, the air thick with the smell of Gitanes, sitting at a table with a baguette and a litre jug of rough country red.
If such an image is suitably enticing, the only hurdle will really be the mincing business. Fifty years ago, every household had a bench-mounted hand mincer. A few of you will have such an object deep in the recesses of a kitchen cupboard; even fewer of you will have one in active use. The other option is to have a mincer attachment on a food mixer but I suspect these, too, are also few and far between. By and large, however, the functionality of the mincer has been usurped by the food processor: whereas these are terrific tools they are less than ideal for mincing meat. The trick is to cut the meat and fat up quite small and chill it in the freezer until it is very cold and to then use the machine in very short pulses. Or buy the meat from a good butcher, prepare it yourself and ask him to mince it. That suggestion should make me popular among the butcher fraternity.
Correction: I owe readers a grovelling apology. I suggested 175ml of water to a whacking 800g of flour in the pizza dough recipe a couple of weeks ago. It should have been 375ml.
Rowley Leigh is the chef at Le Café Anglais
Sufficient to make at least two large terrines: they will keep at least a month.
750g neck or belly of pork
500g pork back fat or lardo
½ tsp mixed spice (cloves, nutmeg, allspice)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp very coarse black pepper
1 glass dry white wine
4 tbs brandy
1 sprig of thyme
2 bay leaves
12 crushed juniper berries
250g chicken livers (or pork)
200g additional pork fat or lardo
6 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 bunch flat leaf parsley
● Remove the rind and sinew from the belly/neck pork. Cut this and the pork fat into long thin finger-sized pieces and marinate with the spice, salt, pepper, wine, brandy, thyme, bay and juniper berries. Mix well; refrigerate overnight.
● Remove the connective sinews on the underside of the livers and cut away any green stains resulting from contact with the gall bladder. Cut the livers in half (into fingers if using pork liver) and combine with the additional pork fat, cut into long fingers. Add the garlic and the washed parsley leaves.
● Mince the first pork mixture on the medium blade of the mincer, ensuring it cuts the meat cleanly and creates a good mince. Grind the fat and liver combination, first on the medium blade then the fine blade and pass this through the mincer again before combining with the rest of the meat. Stir to produce a consistent mass.
● Slice the pancetta very thinly and drop it in to a terrine mould, leaving a generous overhang over sides. Pack the minced meat into the terrine, pushing down to avoid air pockets. Bring up overhang pancetta over the meat and ensure the top is well covered.
● Place the terrine in a deep oven tray half full of boiling water and place in the oven at mark 6 (200C, 400F). It should take 70 minutes to cook: a needle should emerge clean and juices clear. Remove, cover with a weight of 1.5kg and chill. The terrine is best after four days.