There isn’t much else that is more closely linked to animal products than pâté is, and its a word that oozes with connotations of meat. For many meat eaters, eating pâté becomes almost a part of their identity.
Of course, there are many ethical, environmental and health-related reasons for everyone to steer clear of animal-based pâté products. When you can make a fantastic plant-based alternative, there isn’t even a need to eat animal pâtés to get your pâté fix.
What’s the history?
Pâté is known to have been used as far back as Ancient Greece. Market traders would sell it along with other meat items, in efforts to use the entire animal and maximise their profits. It has since been a favourite in charcuteries ever since.
The dish was popular in the Middle Ages and in the Renaissance period. It was also popular at the end of the First World War, when the chef at the Carlton Restaurant had few supplies. Pâté served its place in creating a celebration meal when war was over.
Pâté is usually cooked in a terrine and can be served hot or cold, and are traditionally made from liver, pork, game or other meats. However, as more people look to plant versions of old classics, there is a rising demand for vegan pâtés that are better for our health and don’t include animal meat.
How can you make them vegan?!
It always seems something of a surprise when people realise that pâtés don’t need to be made from animal products, but can be produced using vegan ingredients too.
Vegan alternatives to meat pâté can really be made from anything, but usually plant-based foodies turn to mushrooms, beans, chickpeas or lentils for making pâté. These ingredients give the pâté texture and vegetables can be added along with seasonings for even more flavour. Common ingredients included to give the pâté extra flavour include all the usual suspects, such as garlic, onion, salt and pepper.
DIY or shop bought?
If it’s a quick and easy pâté snack or meal you’re on the lookout for, then a shop bought product will do the trick. Nowadays you can find some kind of plant pâté in the free-from aisle of most major supermarkets, which has made eating vegan pâté far more accessible for the masses. If you want more choice then a trip to a speciality store or your local health food shops might be in order.
Alternatively, if you’d rather have a go at making your own — whether you prefer to know exactly what you’re eating or are trying to impress dinner guests — then this certainly isn’t difficult, and we’ve got some satisfying pâté recipes on the following pages.
Making your own
The first step is to decide what your main ingredient is going to be. This is going to be the overarching taste and colour. Once that’s decided, it’s usually a simple process of cooking the mushrooms or pulses in a pan, with herbs, spices and seasonings. After these have cooked and cooled, add them to a food processor to blend together, scraping the side for any stray ingredients.
You can choose to leave bigger lumps and chunks if you like, or go for a far smoother pâté-like texture. If your pâté isn’t binding together so well, it’s worth thinking about other ingredients needed as binders or setting agents. Something like coconut oil may be used when melted so that it helps to solidify the pâté as it sets, though this can add a hint of coconut to your pâté.
Alternatively, agar-agar — extracted from algae — is another potential setting agent. If you find that your pâté texture isn’t right, then it might require the use of nuts like cashews or pine nuts to help to thicken it up and add some creaminess.
Serve in style
Serving pâté doesn’t take too much creativity. But, if you really want to do your homemade pâté justice, seek out thick, chunky bread to complement your creation. If you don’t eat it all in the first sitting, save some in the fridge as a sandwich filling for lunch. If it’s not too thick, use it as a tasty dip for snacking between meals.
Pâté is a versatile dish and when seasoned right can be mouth-wateringly good. Don’t think you have to leave it off the menu, just because you’re not eating meat; plant pâté can and should become a staple in your fridge.