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Chicken & pistachio terrine

Chicken & pistachio terrine

For such an innocent, well-intentioned object, the terrine is subject to a surprising amount of fear and suspicion.  I think that people’s pre-conceptions of terrines are that they are: a) Fatty b) Set in spooky aspic and c) Fiddly to the point of ponciness to make.

While all these accusations may be true on occasion, they aren’t necessarily so. Now, I love a coarse, fatty, porky, Frenchy sort of terrine as much as the next cardiac patient-in-waiting, but a terrine can also be light, even healthy, like this one made from chicken breast mince and fillet. And aspic – well, it’s a divisive issue.  A little bit of natural jelly is a good thing, a sign of the quality of the real ingredients being used, but a clear rubbery sheen of added gelatine is the culinary equivalent of laminating an oil painting. As for fiddliness, can I just say (and even my slightest acquaintance will back me up here), you would be hard-pressed to find a more cack-handed cook than me, and I managed to make the glorious vision you see here without any trouble. So. Having efficiently dealt with the perceived negative points of the terrine, we can now proceed to the positives. Terrines are:

  1. As delicious as the ingredients that lie within, here, chicken, tarragon, pistachios and prosciutto so, you know, like, delicious.
  2. Impressive.  Even though they’re not difficult to make, they look terribly pretty and professional.
  3. Brilliant to prepare ahead of time. I made one last Friday because I knew we’d be getting back late after a movie on Saturday night and oh, what a pleasure it was coming home at 9.30pm when all I had to do was toast some sourdough, cut a few slices of terrine and arrange it prettily on a plate with a few of the chutneys and pickles that breed in my fridge. I felt quite the efficient French housewife.

So here it is. This recipe makes a one litre terrine that would serve six to eight people. It would be very easy to multiply this by any number for entertaining.  If you had two trays of water in the oven, each could fit three terrines side by side, so you make enough for 40 or 50 in one hit with no trouble.

Prosciutto-wrapped chicken and pistachio terrine

Ingredients:

1 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 onions, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped/minced
1 tsp salt
450g chicken mince
Couple of sprigs of thyme, leaves plucked
1 tbs tarragon, chopped
1/2 cup coarse breadcrumbs (I chucked a couple of pieces of toast in the food processor - instant fresh breadcrumbs)
40g shelled pistachios
1 heaped tablespoon grain mustard
1 egg, beaten
Few grinds of black pepper
100g chicken breast fillet (half a chicken breast, sliced through lengthways, giving a skinny fillet)
80g prosciutto

Method:

Preheat the oven to 175. Heat oil and cook onion and garlic with salt till soft and translucent. Set aside to cool. 

When cool, combine the onion mixture, herbs, breadcrumbs, pistachio, mustard and egg in a bowl. Roll up a small ball of mixture and form into a patty to fry and taste for seasoning. Adjust the seasoning to your taste.

Season the chicken breast with a sprinkling of salt and a grind or two of pepper.

Take a 650 ml loaf tin and line it with 4 pieces of prosciutto, criss-crossed and with ends trailing over the sides, making sure all the tin is covered. I did this with two long pieces meeting in the middle and two cross-ways pieces side by side.

Fill the tin with half the chicken mixture. Lay one chicken breast fillet on top and fill the rest of the tin with the remaining chicken mixture, pressing down well.

Fold the prosciutto over the top so it's all neatly packaged.

Put the loaf tin in a baking tray half filled with warm water, pop in the oven and cook for 40 minutes. If you have a meat thermometer check that it reads 75C - otherwise stick in a skewer and then place it on your lip to make sure it's piping hot.

Carefully lift the loaf tin out, pour off the juice (unless you want the aspic) and allow to cool. Refrigerate then turn out and slice in thick slices. Serve with chutney or pickles and crusty bread.