A special smoked pork pâté from The French Comte
“The name of the stall is a play on words based on an area in France called Franche-Comté. It is in the Jura mountains to the east the French-Swiss border and all of our products are from this area,” says Arnaud as he points with a sweeping gesture to the large array of goodies The French Comte has on display.
“These rillettes come from Maison Barbier, who is one of the producers we deal with. Unlike the typical pork pâté that many people here know well, rillettes are produced in a different way,” Arnaud explains. “The first difference is that the meat is cooked as whole joints, unlike many pâté s where the meat is shredded and mixed with other ingredients before cooking. With rillettes, the seasoning is added to the pork before the meat is cooked—the meat is only shredded afterwards.”
The meat is shredded rather than minced as it gives the finished paste more texture, before being mixed with its own fat.
However, Arnaud reveals something that sets Maison Barbier and the other rillettes of the Franche-Comté region apart. “The meat has been slightly smoked before being seasoned and cooked—that is a particularity of this area,” he explains, “which makes it a ‘rilettes comptois’. In France there are different rillettes produced all over the country, but the smoking process sets rillettes from this region apart.”
Methods of smoking
The tradition started when one producer experimented with smoking the pork. “The rillettes they produced were excellent. It tasted so good that other producers started doing the same thing. Now there is a competition between producers, using different woods and methods of smoking. It may just be a friendly contest, but the producers take it very seriously and of course it helps to raise the quality of rillettes across the region.”
Arnaud says the best way to enjoy it is simply to spread it on some of the wonderful bread available at the Market, with some pickles or gherkins on the side. “Before opening it you just need to keep it in a cool place where it will last for months. Once opened, you must store it in the fridge and it will last about a week—but I promise you that will not be a problem, because once opened you will never be able to make it last that long!”
This is a view shared by Justin Saunders, head chef of the recently opened pop-up Borough Plates, at 1 Cathedral Street. The idea behind the pop-up is to showcase the outstanding quality of produce available at the Market.
“Rillettes typify what I love about the best French cuisine—making great food using inexpensive ingredients,” Justin says. “On the surface it sounds so simple: it is a great way of preserving the pork, which is probably where the technique started, and it is simple peasant food, but it tastes amazing. We will be using it in the restaurant with a souse, which is an old English way of pickling.
Our little twist
“We take some russet, cox and bramley apples from Chegworth Valley and produce a gel, which we will serve with the rillettes and some really good bread. It is the classic pork and apple combination, with our little twist on it.”
If you are taking some home, Justin suggests making a remoulade “with grated apple and celeriac, bound together with a mustard mayonnaise, perhaps with some diced gherkin or cornichons in there. Serve the rillette with the remoulade and some good bread.”
If you wanted to wash it all down with a glass of wine, go for a nice, crisp white like a sauvignon blanc or a chenin blanc. “Definitely something without oak. It’s nothing complicated, but I promise you it will be absolutely delicious.”