A thick slice of beautifully presented terrine can be a thing of beauty. Wrapped in an outer shell of finely sliced pancetta, and with a varied inner texture, it should be dense, moist and full of rich flavours. But taking it on requires time and commitment. In an effort to avoid a future of dry and lack-lustre terrines, we asked Max Vloet, head chef at Vincent in Sydney’s Woollahra, for his tips on perfecting this incredible dish.
“You need the time to build it and cook it,” says Vloet of the veal and pistachio terrine currently on the menu at Vincent.
“It’s the coarse grind of the meat, and the style of cooking, that sets it apart,” he says of the difference between terrine and pate. “Generally, there’s more meat in a terrine and no liver. But he acknowledges the variety in both can result in some cross over. “Pate can sometimes be 100 per cent meat, and a terrine can also be an aspic terrine with gelatin and vegetables.”
While the ingredients vary widely, the shape of a terrine is all important.
“It’s always a rectangle, and it has to be quite firm. Pate is generally softer in texture and can be different shapes.”
Vloet has been making terrine since early in his career, but as recently appointed head chef at Vincent (and previously sous chef at Quay) this has been his first chance to create one with his own flavours.
“The pistachio and peel is a classic terrine combination. They just work really well together,” he smiles. “We use mince meats in two different varieties with high-pork-fat content, so that the terrine doesn’t dry out. That’s very important.”
Given that it takes several days to create the perfect finished product, patience is a must. “It takes two-to-three hours to make it, you need to press it overnight, and then you have to wait a few days for the flavours to infuse. You shouldn’t eat it straight away.”
Needless to say, the time invested produces quite the reward.
“We serve it in a nice slice at room temperature, so the flavours can really come out. It’s served with a lemon mustard made with preserved lemons and Dijon, a bit of witlof on the side and extra bread.”
Shaping a terrine
What you’ll need
A terrine mould – Vloet recommends the cast-iron Le Creuset terrine
A block of wood wrapped in cling film, or any heavy object that is a snug fit inside the top of the terrine dish – this will be used for pressing the terrine
A large container of water (or any heavy object) to sit on top of the wood
Can be any mix of good-quality mince meats, along with added pork fat, onions and spices to your liking. Vloet uses produce from Haverick Meats.
You will also need enough strips of pancetta to line your terrine tin, as well as to cover the top.
Vloet also includes blanched pistachios and chopped cornichons for texture.
Mince your meat, keeping it nice and loose.
Chop up your pork fat and mix it with chopped onions and your spices so they infuse.
Combine the pork fat and onions with the mince and mix well.
Add your chopped cornichons and blanched pistachios.
Line your terrine mould with the pancetta, making sure there is enough overhang to cover the top once the mould is filled with terrine mix.
Press the mince mixture into the mould, packing it tightly to make sure there are no air pockets.
Fold the excess pancetta over the top of the mince, layering extra on top to completely encase the filling and to stop it from drying out.
Cook the terrine. Vloet cooks his for 1.5 hours on a steam bake, but advises that this will vary depending on your terrine filling and oven. The most important thing is to not overcook it or to cook it at a high temperature.
Once the terrine is cooked, let it cool, then use the block of wood to weigh down the top of the terrine, placing the container of water on top to press it overnight in the fridge. This will ensure a good, tight texture and flatten air pockets that may have developed.
Turn it out of the mould the following day.
Have patience – “Let the terrine ripen for a few days so the flavours can really infuse,” says Vloet. “It’s much nicer after a week.”