Last year when I was teaching English in France I was sometimes invited to the end of term apéro hour. Or three. It was here in a classroom colourful with childrens’ artwork on a snowy night in late December that I had my first taste of home-made charcuterie.

As the teachers’ cars were steadily being hidden under snow, we kept the glasses at spirited levels, no one ready to retrieve the snow shovels yet. One teacher brought out from her handbag a knobbly, white-dusted saucisson. She sliced this salami into fine chips and we gently tore off the white skin. She told us her husband made it.

The saucisson was mild and still tender, a slightly smoky, sweet taste. I told her I had never eaten home-made saucisson before. She said I had come to the right place, France. I had to agree.

A few weeks ago, to give me a little taste of France again, we made a pork terrine. On thick grainy bread with baby cornichons and a sweet chutney, it did feel like a rustic, French country lunch. We followed Jamie Oliver’s recipe in Jamie does… Spain, Italy, Sweden, Morocco, Greece, France. We thought it needed a few improvements; more seasoning, and dare I say it, a little more fat.

Last weekend, to overcome the winter blues and take a trip down French memory lane, we had a go at another terrine. We were after something light, yet warming and comforting. A simple, hearty terrine is a more interesting way to channel rustic France than a thick vegetable soup, we thought. As I perused French recipes, I wondered if I could convince Mum of my home-sickness for France enough that she would buy foie gras and a bottle of young Sauterne. Mum is easily persuaded by these things: I’ll keep you posted. Instead, we bought a pork shoulder, a pork fillet, smoky bacon lardons, chicken livers and the most beautifully fragrant thyme.

My dear elderly Nana, who always phones us during weekends and holidays, is a keen ear to Mum’s kitchen stories. Nana leads a quiet life now and our family’s francophile habits seem quite exotic to her. Nana asked what a terrine is. Mum told her it was a bit like a chunky paté: mince various cuts of meat, add herbs, seasonings, breadcrumbs and something to bind it all together then bake it in the oven. Nana said that sounded like an awful lot of hard work and wouldn’t we be better off serving our lunch guests a nice egg.

It should be said that the French have wonderful ways of preparing and serving eggs, but I don’t think they would be able to look past this hearty terrine.

French Pork Terrine
Based loosely on Jamie Oliver’s recipe.

For the very best flavours, make a few days ahead and keep refrigerated.

large knob of butter (think French proportions)
3 roughly chopped shallots
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
slosh of brandy
1.5kg of mixed pork cuts (we used a shoulder and a fillet)
100g chicken livers
200g smoked bacon lardons
1/3cup duck fat
1 handful fresh breadcrumbs
1 small bunch parsley, coarsely chopped
1 small bunch thyme, coarsely chopped
1 egg
1/4cup cream
2tbsp salt
4-5 bay leaves

Pre-heat oven to 180°C. Place butter in a frypan on medium heat. Add chopped shallots and cook until soft and transparent. Add garlic. Once shallots are cooked, add the brandy and turn off the heat.

Chop the pork meat into cubes, removing any tough pieces of fat or skin. If you have a mincer, great, if not, a food processor works fine. Mince the meat in several stages, it doesn’t have to be too fine, in fact, a coarse mince works well. Mince the chicken livers, the lardons and the duck fat.

In a small bowl whisk the egg with the cream.

Place the minced meat in a large mixing bowl. Add the cooked shallots, chopped herbs, breadcrumbs, salt and egg mixture. Mix well (with your hands is best).

(To test the seasonings this second time round we took a spoonful and cooked it in the frypan.)

Once seasonings are to your taste, lay the bay leaves in the bottom of a loaf or pie dish. Spread terrine mixture smoothly on top. Place terrine dish in a roasting pan and fill half way up with water to create a bain-marie. Bake in the oven for 90 minutes or until the juices run clear.

Once cooked, take the terrine from the oven and place a piece of tinfoil on top. Lay a few cans on top of tin foil as a weight to compress the terrine creating a denser and more easily sliced terrine. Leave the terrine with weights on top for about 4 hours, or until cold. Remove tinfoil and weights and refrigerate. Don’t discard the juices, they set to a loose jelly, which while not appealing to look at, keep the terrine moist.
Serve with crusty bread – toasted is good – cornichons, salad greens and a selection of chutneys, spicy mango and beetroot are delicious accompaniments.