The classic charcutier's terrine has evolved to become a simple, fuss-free dish. Nick Coiley's partridge, pheasant and rabbit terrine ticks all the right boxes and can be adapted for the game available. Michael Raffael reports
Terrines have been a restaurant mainstay for well over half a century. In the 1950s The Good Food Guide would flag up a nice "pâté maison". In the Nouvelle Cuisine era, Robot Coupe mousses and parfaits took centre stage. Then came a generation of layered, pressed vegetable terrines. Most recently we've been living with ham hocks, give or take a few ounces of foie gras.
During this time the classic charcutier's terrine has evolved. Chefs have learnt to bypass the sloppy game marinades, the dense textures of a classic pâté en croûte or the fiddly wrapping of fillets in barding fat. They've outgrown a jammy Cumberland sauce accompaniment, even though cornichons with a coarse pork terrine have stood the test of time.
Nick Coiley's partridge, pheasant and rabbit terrine ticks the relevant boxes. It tastes of game without being over-assertive. It's moist and not too firm. Provided that a chef works around the basic proportions it can be adapted according to the game available: venison instead of rabbit, for instance, would produce a darker appearance; hare a distinctive flavour. On the plate it looks simple and fuss-free. The quality of the raw materials and their accurate cooking speak for themselves.
This will vary depending on where you are, how you source your game and what time of the season it is. Nick Coiley snares his own rabbits, buys pheasants for about £4 per brace, and partridges for £3. He estimates that the finished terrine costs him £12-£15, and provides 10-12 portions at £8.95 each, including VAT and excluding service.
The number of terrines made depends on demand. Multiples of two are good because the recipe uses one leg and one loin of rabbit.
TIPS For THE RECIPE
â- There is no need to pluck the feathered game, as the skin is going to be thrown away
â- Use poultry shears or kitchen scissors, which are quicker and more efficient than chopping
â- Don't use pheasant or partridge drumsticks, as they contain too much cartilage
â- Par-freeze the meats before mincing, so the mincer cuts them properly rather than crushing them. Add a small crust of bread at the end to get out the last of the meat
â- There is no need to marinate the ingredients; the shallot and alcohol reduction acts as a marinade
â- When mixing the farce in the bowl, listen for any shot pellets scraping against the sides
â- To prevent discolouration, only cut the portion when the order comes through
â- When plating, finish with a very small amount of good quality olive oil; it helps the taste of the game to stay on the palate
CHOICE OF CONTAINER
There are two main brands of rectangular terrines used by chefs: Chasseur and Le Creuset. Both come in two sizes: 28cm (about 1.25 litres) and 32cm (about 1.5 litres). The advantage of these heavy-duty cast iron containers is that cooking is even. If you use lined bread or cake tins instead, cooking time is less predictable.
Recipe: Partridge, Pheasant and Rabbit Terrine
Think proportions of boned meat rather than precise weights. For the farce you'll need about 500g minced game plus the strips of game running through the terrine, 500g pork belly and 200g chicken livers.
Day 1 - After preparing the meats, put them in the freezer to harden, but not quite freeze. Once you have assembled the terrine, refrigerate it overnight before cooking.
Day 2 - After cooking, weight the terrine in the chiller, typically for a working day before serving.
(Makes one 1.5 litre terrine/Serves 10-12)
Partridge - breasts and thighs only
Pheasant - 1 plump breast and thighs only
Rabbit - 1 loin (with fillet) and 1 boned leg
500g fatty pork belly without rind - half pickled for 48 hours in a traditional butcher's pickle; half left as it is
Chicken livers - about 250g pre-trim per terrine
300g sliced green streaky bacon without rind (don't scrimp on the quality)
30g finely diced shallots
Â½ clove crushed garlic
10g Maldon salt
3g freshly ground black pepper
3g quatre epices
Sprigs of fresh sage, thyme and rosemary
Small crust of bread (around 15g)
Skin the feathered game - use the same method for both the pheasant and the partridge. Lay the bird breast upwards on the work surface. Snip through the skin with kitchen scissors. Gradually, tearing the skin, pull it back to expose the carcass. To remove it, completely snip off the neck, wings and feet.
To remove the innards, snip through the thin layer of flesh above the vent. Put two fingers into the carcass. Slip them behind the heart and draw out all the insides together.
To remove the legs, pull them back from the carcass against the joints and cut them off with a sharp knife. Chop off the drumsticks and reserve for stocks or soups. With the tip of the knife work the flesh away from the thigh bones. Following the conformation of the carcass remove the breasts.
Trim the sinew from the chicken livers.
Put the different meats, except for the streaky bacon, on a tray and transfer to the freezer until they start to stiffen. This will improve mincing. (The meat shouldn't be frozen solid - think carpaccio: about -2Â°C).
Next, make a reduction. Melt the butter in a small pan, add the diced shallots and sweat until softened. Add the alcohol, and the stalks from the herbs to help flavour the reduction. Reduce to a glaze and discard the stalks. Allow to cool.
Put the meats, herbs, garlic, seasoning and reduction through the mincer once (using a fine blade) . Put the bread through at the end - this helps to extract the last of the meat.
Line the inside of the terrine with film. Next, lay each strip of bacon on a work surface and stretch it by running a knife along it, then line the terrine with the stretched bacon.
Put the minced meats in a bowl and mix thoroughly by hand. This should take at least a couple of minutes; otherwise the mixture could be patchy when cooked. Also this will enable you to find any stray shot that might be left.
Take a third of the mixture and shape roughly into a patty that fits the terrine. Put it in place and press down well.
Cut the rabbit fillet into strips and lay it along the farce.
Make a second patty like the first and press it in place. Cut the partridge and pheasant breasts into strips and lay them along the farce. Cover with the rest of the farce and then fold the bacon strips back over it. You may want to place a weight on top at this stage. Cover and chill for at least 12 hours.
Preheat the oven to 180Â°C (plus or minus a few degrees isn't important). Stand the terrine with its lid on [without the weight if you've used one] in a bain marie. Boiling water should come about two-thirds up the sides. Bake to an internal core temperature of 68Â°C if you are using a probe, or for 90 minutes.
During cooking the terrine will have swollen a bit. Remove the lid. Put a weight on top and chill for at least half a day before using.
Turn out the terrine and remove the film. Only slice portions to order, to prevent it from discolouring. Agaric cuts two thin slices per portion.
Agaric serves its terrine with toasted squash bread, salads in a mustard dressing and a quince compote.
To make the compote, bring 100ml each of wine vinegar and sugar to the boil with a 5cm stick of cinnamon, Â½tsp coriander seeds, one star anise and three or four cloves. Add three peeled, cored and diced quinces, and simmer until tender; less than 10 minutes.
Agaric restaurant with rooms
Nick Coiley and his wife Sophie have been running Agaric for over a decade. Prior to that, he was Joyce Molyneaux's executive chef at the Carved Angel in Dartmouth, Devon.
In fact, he has taken the Elizabeth David, Jane Grigson (and Simon Hopkinson) approach up a notch. Everything is genuinely homemade. The salad greens and herbs come from his greenhouse at the back of the restaurant. He built the bread oven by the kitchen door himself. An eight-acre smallholding allows him to grow his own vegetables and develop an orchard producing cherries, damsons, medlars and quinces as well as apples and pears.
Open four days a week, working with a sous chef and an apprentice in the kitchen, Coiley has managed the trick of earning a living on his own terms. Kitchen space has doubled since he started. He opened a kitchen shop to the public a year ago and he has set up a four-room B&B two doors away from his 24-seat restaurant.
The Agaric name implies a passion for mushrooms, but Coiley's is more of an obsession with his craft and its debt to the raw materials.