Wrapping a delicious and colourful mixture of meats (especially game, such as venison, pheasant, rabbit or hare), herbs, nuts and dried fruits in a free-standing rich shortcrust pastry case makes for a very special pâté, ideal for parties. Make sure, though, there are no cracks in the pastry for any juices to escape, and although the pastry case may sag a bit on the base this adds to the lovely homemade feel of the pâté. When cool, pour well-flavoured aspic mixed with extra gelatine through one or two small holes in the pastry to fill in any little gaps and hold the pâté and pastry together better.
For this recipe, to serve about 8, you will need shortcrust pastry made with 375g (12oz) plain flour, ½teaspoonsalt, 175g (6oz) butter and 3-4tablespoonswater.
First of all prepare the ingredients for marinating: mix together 500g (1lb) minced game meat or pork or veal, 250g (8oz) diced uncooked ham or gammon, 250g (8oz) pork fat cut into thin strips, 1 chopped onion, 2cloves crushed garlic, salt and freshly ground black pepper and 1-2tablespoons chopped fresh herbs, and a splash or two of brandy or sherry.
Place the well-mixed meats and other flavouring ingredients in a large glass bowl and marinate overnight, stirring when possible. Check the seasoning by frying a small amount of the marinated mixture first, tasting, then adding more salt, or freshly ground black pepper if necessary.
Add flavourings such as green peppercorns, pistachio nuts, stoned olives or chopped ready-to-eat dried apricots to the marinated ingredients. Make the pastry and roll out slightly less than half to a large oblong about 5mm (¼ in) thick and place on a greased flat baking sheet.
Cut into strips an additional 175g (6oz) lean game or meat such as breast of pheasant or pigeon, fillets from a hare saddle or pork tenderloin. Spoon the marinated ingredients into a long tall mound in the centre of the rolled-out pastry, layering as you go with the strips of additional lean meat.
Roll out the remaining pastry to an oblong large enough to cover the pâté easily. Lay it on top, glaze the edges with beaten egg, trim and press the edges to seal. Make 2 steam holes in the top. Reroll any trimmings for decorations such as leaves or cut out letters spelling PÂTÉ or even EAT ME!.
Glaze the top with beaten egg yolk, attach the decorations and glaze again. Chill for 20 minutes. Cook the pâté at 200°C, 400°F, Gas Mark 6 for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 180°C, 350°F, Gas Mark 4 and cook for another hour. Remove from the oven and cool the pâté on the baking sheet.
Make up 300ml (½pint) of aspic by dissolving 2teaspoonspowdered gelatine in 300ml (½pint) hot pork or chicken stock. Allow to cool before pouring carefully through the holes in the top of the pâté. Chill for at least 1 day before serving. Transfer to a serving dish and cut into slices with a serrated knife.