Ask Peter: Pates and terrines
What is the difference between a pate, a terrine and a galantine? I enjoy eating them all, but I’ve never understood the difference. Should they be served differently?
A pate differs from a terrine in that pate is usually made from liver, is much finer in texture and can be made in any shaped container. A terrine is generally made from much chunkier meat - chunks of pork hock, diced lamb leg meat, duck breast or minced pork.
The term terrine refers to the dish it’s baked in, as well as the dish itself.
A galantine is a bird whose skin has been taken from it and the meat is either minced or chopped and laid back on the skin, before being rolled up and either poached in stock, or rolled in paper and foil and baked.
The ballotine is a boned out poultry leg that is treated in much the same way as a galantine, stuffed, rolled and baked or poached. The thing they all have in common is that they are traditionally served cold.
In France you can walk up to the deli counter of food stores and see in the display cabinets rectangular dishes containing meaty bits wrapped in a pastry case. The top pastry will likely have scalloped edges and be glazed with egg, and inside there will be a fabulous cold piece of culinary art made by some expert in charcuterie.
Charcuterie is the art of preserving meats, mostly pork and game birds, using all sorts of techniques, from salting and brining, through to potting in fat and baking in pastry - anything to prevent the spoilage produced by bacteria.
Traditionally, pastry was wrapped around meats to help preserve it, whereas now, with our love of pies and pasties, the pastry is just as important as the filling itself. In France the pastry is often very firm and fatty and I tend to discard it. However, what it helps with is the gentle cooking of the meaty bits inside and trapping the moisture as it cooks.
In New Zealand we tend to think of pate as a product one buys in a plastic tub. It might be flavoured with cognac or orange juice, or be peppered with peppercorns. Mum always made a wonderful pate by frying thinly sliced onions and garlic in butter until just caramelised. Then she’d add cleaned chicken livers and cream and boil it for a few minutes, before throwing it all in the food processor with a slug of brandy and coarsely blitzing it.
The art of terrines
As an apprentice chef in Melbourne, I really got into the art of terrines as I think most chefs do at some point, and I feel it’s time I got back to them. I loved mixing coarsely minced duck leg meat with finely minced pork shoulder, pistachios and finely chopped lardo (cured pork fat). I’d flavour the mixture with lightly toasted fennel seeds and a little star anise and chopped ginger then layer it in a terrine tin lined with streaky bacon. After two layers, I’d place on a few duck and pigeon breasts and then cover it with moreminced meat and more bacon. Then I’d cover it with baking paper and foil and bake it in a bain marie. When it was cooked, I’d leave it to rest for half an hour before weighing it down with a tray and some heavy bottles of water. A few days later I’d unveil it and serve with toast and chutney.
I also really like making rillettes from pork belly and leg, and a whole boned duck. Remove the rind from the belly and discard it, then cut the belly into large chunks along with a lesser amount of diced leg and a chopped duck, skin included. Add heaps of peeled garlic and herbs such as thyme and oregano. Add a few cups of boiling water or wine and then either slowly stew on top of the stove, or bake covered in the oven, until the meat starts falling apart and the liquid evaporates. Shred the meat between 2 forks until it’s very fibrous, season well (you’ll be eating it cold so it needs to be almost overseasoned with all the fat it contains) and press into a tin or several jars. Delicious!
In our Ask Peter series, executive chef Peter Gordon answers your curly culinary questions. If you're stumped over something food-related, send your question to email@example.com and keep checking in for answers. You can read more on Peter on his website, have a read of his Ask Peter articles or check out his recipes on our site.