Chicken liver Pâté and Cumberland, a precurse to Julfika

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Oven baked chicken liver pâté served on toasted white bread, with cornichons and a slice of orange.
Text and Photo © JE Nilsson and CM Cordeiro 2011

Part of our Christmas tradition in Sweden is to prepare and subsequently feast upon, the many dishes that go into our the traditional Swedish Julbord or Christmas Table. In reality the dishes are so numerous that it would be impossible to sit down and enjoy them all in one sitting as a grand jultide smorgasbord as intended. So, we have found it better to start well in advance and use the dark months ahead of the mid-winter celebrations for various cooking experiments.

One of those many dishes that just came to mind was various pâté to be served with a wonderfully fruity cumberland sauce. When it comes to liver pâté there are lots of recipes on line. The traditional ones ask of you to mince and mix the ingredients first and then bake the pâté in a water bath in the oven. The more modern ones if one might say so suggests that you can fry the ingredients first and then just put all of it in a blender and voilá, pâté. Both methods work and the blender method is of course faster. It also gives the benefit of better control of how much you cook the liver, since liver doesn’t benefit from over cooking. Really tasty and flavourful liver should hardly be cooked at all or at least as little as possible. Then again the slightly browned crust you would get from oven baking is also delicious so, I have done both and if I have the time, prefer to bake the pâté.

When it comes to the Cumberland sauce various cookbooks as well as the Internet offers several suggestions on how to make it. If you consult the universal source of all human wisdom on cooking, the solid Larousse Gastronomique, you will find a recipe on cumberland sauce that begins with reducing port and adding quite some juice from an orange and a lemon which will give you a very thin sauce that is quite dominated by the acidy fruit juices. Personally, I prefer my sauce a bit sweeter than that, and for those who prefer the same, perhaps you could give the recipe below a try?

Ingredients
1/2 lemon
1 orange
1/2 – 1 dl good-quality redcurrant jelly
1/2 – 1 dl red vintage port
1 tsp mustard powder
1 tbs freshly ground ginger

The redcurrant jelly should ideally be your own homemade with a high fruit content, but some good quality commercial variety can also do.

Pare off the zest of both the lemon and the orange and cut into small strips as long and thin as possible. Simmer them in water for 5 minutes to extract any bitterness and drain well.

Mix the redcurrant jelly with the port in a saucepan and melt. Whisk them together over a low heat for about 5 or 10 minutes until the redcurrant jelly has melted completely. Then mix the mustard, ginger, juice of half the lemon and the juice of the whole orange with the port and redcurrant mixture and finally the strips of lemon and orange zest. Mix well and the sauce is ready to use.

Cumberland sauce is always served cold and should not be thickened artificially, getting its consistency from the jelly. Kept in a screw-top jar this sauce will store well in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

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A generous slice of this pâté on crisp bread accompanied by a jewel toned of deep burgundy drop of cumberland sauce would be a nice addition to this year’s office julfika

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The final thickness of the sauce depends on the quality of the redcurrant jelly used.

Back to pâté making, here’s one of my favourite short videos on the French pâté by Mark Bittman of the New York Times. There are different consistencies of pâté too, where you can get them as chunky or as creamy as you like, by adjusting the length of time you process and blend the mixture.

Just yesterday at work, a round table discussion on the menu to the office julfika or Christmas coffee session that is upcoming in December, where in Sweden, most organizations will have an afternoon of Christmas celebration during the advent weeks leading up to Christmas Day. And I think a generous butterknife wad of this pâté on crisp bread accompanied by a jewel toned of deep burgundy drop of cumberland sauce on top would be a nice addition to this year’s julfika.

Enjoy!

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