Why terrines are perfect on hot days

Smoked pork terrine with Cumberland sauce

Smoked pork terrine with Cumberland sauce

Nothing says summer on a plate quite like a terrine, writes Fergus Henderson, as he presses the flesh.

You can keep your Caprese salads and prawn cocktails, your ice-cream and barbecues. The dish which, for me, best expresses summer on a plate is jellied tripe. And, as it happens, this is the one dish that will convince everyone to eat tripe. It's strange, I know - the very name usually sends people running - but taming it in jelly and serving it with a salad of chicory dressed with Dijon mustard, red wine vinegar, olive oil, capers and parsley seems to do the trick.

Above: Smoked pork terrine with Cumberland sauce

Yes, when it's hot, my feeling is that nothing is finer than a beautiful terrine. The trick here is, of course, that it's something prepared in the cooler moments of the day, and then savoured later at leisure, ideally in the shade. All the dishes I want to commend to you here have been put through their paces, experiencing heat and pressure themselves at one point or other in the preparation process so they are in accord with diners.

Let's start with what might be considered the most esoteric of my hot-weather suggestions: pressed pig's ear. Stay with me. A wonderful weave of ear meets the eye, then when you bite into the slice the cooling jelly greets the palate and a reaffirming crunch of cartilage, quickly followed by more of the soothing jelly.

Related: 14 terrines and pâtés for a French-style picnic

Now I'd like you to picture a dry stone wall wrought in pigs' tongues and confit duck fat. After salting the tongues for a night in the fridge, wipe them with a clean cloth, then place them in duck fat. Get up early to confit the tongues when the day is still cool. Peel the tongues while they're warm, pile them in terrine tins, weight the tops and return them to the relief of the fridge for a day or so. When they have set under this pressure, tip them out and slice them. And there you have it: a dry stone wall, elegant and seemingly effortless in its construction and most appropriate for outside dining.

A word on wine and dining outside: fresh air has a thirst-provoking effect, so it pays to be prepared. Make doubly sure the white wine is cold and at the ready.

Now you're refreshed, I'd like to introduce you to the brain terrine. It's a farce of duck liver surrounding a not-so-evil eye of brain (lamb or veal both work nicely). It's delicious to eat, but is also a thing of beauty. Some food-safety advice: one of the beauties of the terrine is that once the work is done, it can serve you well for several days. The thing to pay heed to is how much time it spends out of the fridge and on the table (especially when there has been plenty of cold white wine at the ready). My advice for all alfresco terrines is the same, but it applies to this one particularly: if the terrine stays in the warm for too long give it a very good sniff when you take it out of the fridge the next day. Brain is a fragile organ.

A further cautionary tale about the importance of keeping terrine cold, and having somewhere flat to cut it: I once went on a BBC Radio 4 show called Loose Ends, and they asked me to bring in some food. I brought that great moveable favourite, jellied tripe. Unfortunately I was the last person to be interviewed and as I waited in the hot studio, the jellied tripe was slowly warming. Trying to slice the stuff as the jelly melted and went everywhere while trying to defend myself on air as a chef was an edifying experience. Allow me to say with confidence that you ought only bring jellied tripe on a picnic if you know you have a flat surface, a sharp knife and a cool box.

Please feel free to express yourself in the way in which you arrange your ingredients in a terrine. When do you feel like a slice of terrine is staring back at you? When there is a prune and bacon roll winking out at you from the middle of the farce, giving you the old prune eye. It's amazing how much feeling a prune can express.


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