An impressive dish of many textures and flavours, a terrine is surprisingly easy to make, writes Lisa Featherby.
A terrine is a thing of beauty - an impressive, bountiful dish ideal to have on hand for unexpected guests and perfect to prepare ahead for a special occasion such as a spring weekend picnic. Thickly sliced, it makes the perfect entrée, too. While there's a certain luxury and fanciness about a terrine, it is deceptively simple to make. And, once you've mastered the basic technique, you can play around with using various meats and aromatics. Think duck terrine flavoured with fragrant orange rind or a fancier version such as foie gras with truffles; the choices are endless.
You'll need a watertight mould to make a terrine. This prevents the loss of essential fat and moisture during cooking, and, as many terrines (including this one) are cooked in a water bath, it also prevents water from seeping into the terrine. There are two types of terrine moulds. The less expensive ceramic versions don't usually come with a lid, so you'll need to cover the terrine with foil when baking. For the more serious terrine-maker, there are cast-iron versions made by French companies such as Le Creuset and Le Chasseur. In theory, though, any watertight mould or baking ramekin is fine. The decorative moulds used for baking terrines in a pastry case are not suitable because they can be disassembled for ease of removal and therefore are not watertight.
The way you chop and mince your ingredients and place them in the mould will affect the appearance and texture of the terrine. We've opted for a rustic version here with a mixture of minced and diced meat. For a more composed mosaic effect, you could cut the pork into strips and run them along the length of the terrine, so that you get a patterned result when you slice it, or you could arrange your ingredients in separate layers.
The addition of fat is important for a moist, well-set terrine. Although you can make terrines without fat, the result just isn't the same. Pork back-fat is great - many butchers will have some readily on hand, but others may require you to order it. You can dice the fat yourself or get your butcher to coarsely mince it. Just keep the fat cold while you are handling it.
We've lined our terrine mould with bacon rashers for extra flavour and presentation, but this isn't absolutely necessary. Some terrines are cooked first, then wrapped in a hot water or puff pastry, glazed and baked for a presentable finish (in this case it becomes a pâté, or pie) but the water-bath method we have used here is ideal for first-time terrine-makers. The water bath ensures gentle even heat during baking. All you have to do is seal the top of the mould with baking paper and foil and tie it securely with string. If you're using a cast-iron mould with a lid, you can just cover it to seal and bake.
To test whether your terrine is ready, insert a metal skewer into its centre - it should feel hot to the touch when you withdraw it. Alternatively, you can test the internal temperature with a meat thermometer. It should read 70C in the centre.
Cool the terrine to room temperature, then weight it in the refrigerator so that the mixture compresses and becomes easier to slice. You can use food cans for this purpose or even a brick if you have one lying around.
After the terrine has set, it will keep for three to four days. If you aren't serving it immediately, melt some lard or butter and pour it over the terrine to completely cover it. Placed in the refrigerator, the lard will set and preserve the terrine's freshness for up to two weeks. Just before serving, scrape off the layer of fat, slice the terrine and enjoy it with crusty fresh bread and piquant pickles.