An impressively intricate winter terrine from Tartufaia
“Making terrines is a passion of mine,” says Mario Prati proudly, picking up the layered wood pigeon, foie gras, pork belly, wild mushroom, bacon, asparagus and kale terrine from behind the counter at Tartufaia, to show off its impressively intricate layers. “The pork is from a free range farm in France, but—other than the foie gras of course—everything else is English,” he continues. “The wood pigeon is from Yorkshire, there are six or seven different types of foraged mushrooms, and the asparagus is from the Isle of Wight.”
The process of constructing the terrine is long and involved, as each ingredient requires a different method of cooking: the pork belly is slow cooked for six to seven hours in white wine, the wood pigeon flash fried, the asparagus blanched.
“If you cook it all together it comes out like a paste, more similar to pate,” Mario explains. “And the wood pigeon, because it’s extremely lean meat, would be really dry and tough if cooked for too long. Which makes this particular terrine quite tricky.” The ingredients are then layered, cooked in a bain-marie for 40 to 50 minutes, rested for an hour, then pressed overnight. “It takes about two days in total.”
A defining ingredient
Terrines have been around for centuries. During the Victorian age, ‘brawn’—a dish markedly less sophisticated but close in character to terrine—was a defining ingredient of the Christmas table. Traditionally all the ingredients, typically boar or pig offal and offcuts, were cooked together: boiled, preserved by sousing, then packed together as a “way for hunters to preserve what they had shot for a couple of weeks”.
Terrines can be made using just about any meat, making them an excellent way of using up leftovers. “I make terrines using different ingredients depending on the season,” says Mario. “Our pistachio and wild rabbit terrine is particularly popular during winter.”
And they look impressive, too. “We mainly sell them for dinner parties, particularly around Christmas. A lot of my customers buy a terrine then they take all the credit for it,” he laughs. “But I’m okay with that!”
In recent years, terrines have branched out from their primary position as a dinner party starter. “It’s slowly starting to become more popular,” says Mario. “Today, for example, it’s nice and sunny so I have sold half already to customers who want them for their picnic.”
Though his terrine needs to be refrigerated, it’s best eaten at room temperature, so “leave it out for 10 minutes or so before you eat it,” Mario advises. “Terrines are generally served with a chutney or marmalade, but because this particular one has so much going on inside it really doesn’t need it”— all you need is a thick slice of terrine, some good bread, a bit of salad, and you’ve a deliciously simple, light lunch.