A tale of two pashtets

Do you share our love for pate?

Do you share our love for pate?

Anna Kharzeeva
The Soviet recipe for pashtet, the Russian version of pate, has a hard time measuring up to a tried-and-true family version.

This piece is part of the Soviet Diet Cookbook, a blog about a modern Russian girl cooking Soviet food. To read more of the series, click here.

Liver pate, or pashtet in Russian, is one of Granny’s signature dishes. She makes it in big batches, and when I was growing up, she would bring an empty sour cream tub filled with it over to me, my brother and my mom. We would put it on dark bread spread with butter for breakfast and a midday snack. Over at Granny’s, we also eat it with pancakes, or on bread with some homemade sauerkraut and pickled cucumbers on the side.

To Granny, one of my husband’s most endearing qualities is his love for pate – specifically her pate. She always makes a big tub of it for his birthday, and the knowledge that he enjoys it fills her with happiness.

The Book of Healthy and Tasty food also has a recipe for liver pate, and I thought it was worth giving it a try when Granny came to visit me. When I read the recipe from the Book aloud to Granny, she cringed : “I don’t like to fry anything in oil, and I don’t like the idea of adding butter into pate,” she said. After some negotiations – imagine trying to convince your Jewish grandmother to cook her signature dish from someone else’s recipe – we reached an agreement. We decided to make half a batch following her recipe, and half following the one from the Book.

As per the Book’s instructions, we fried the liver with the vegetables and, as per Granny’s instructions, we fried the liver on a very hot frying pan with no oil at all and added some onion a little later. We got ready to grind the meat using my small and, to be honest, not top-of-the-line blender, only to discover that it didn’t work. “These are the times when it’s really good to be friends with your neighbors,” Granny said. I suggested she go and ask our neighbors if they could lend us a meat grinder, since no one would deny a sweet little old lady (babushka, in Russian) anything. “A babushka who doesn’t own a meat grinder is not a babushka, but a joke!” Granny exclaimed indignantly, and refused to go.

A day later, we found a place to fix the blender and returned to making pate. We put the version with the Book’s ingredients through the blender and added butter. For Granny’s recipe, we did the same, but added olive oil, as well salt and pepper.

When I asked Granny why she made pate without frying the liver, she explained that my grandfather used to have stomach ulcers and couldn’t eat anything fried. She adapted the recipe to his eating restrictions and her own taste, and this is how her signature pate was born.

We sat down to try the results of two pates, with pancakes and bread on the table. Granny took much delight in the fact that neither me nor my husband liked the book’s pate very much. It tasted kind of greasy, and the addition of carrot didn’t work in its favor, and neither did the butter, it seems. The liver bits were a bit tough, too, and didn’t spread as well. Granny’s pate lived up to its reputation, however, and was consumed with the traditional sauerkraut and pickles.

Sorry, Book writers. Competing with the recipes of an authentic babushka is hard. Maybe you’ll win next time, but for now, my empty sour cream tubs will be filled with Granny’s pate only.

Liver pashtet (pate)

The recipe from the Soviet Cook Book, page 58The recipe from the Soviet Cook Book, page 58

Ingredients:

  • Liver u2014 500g
  • Bacon fat u2014 100g
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 onion
  • Bunch of parsley
1. Wash the liver and remove all film and the bile duct. Cut into small pieces.

2. Peel carrots and cut into thin slices.

3. Fry the vegetables and the liver in the bacon fat. Add a bay leaf and a few whole allspice grains.

4. Put the mixture through a meat grinder two or three times (it can be further rubbed through a sieve). It is important not to overcook the liver when frying, as otherwise it will not form a paste properly.

5. Put the liver mix into a saucepan, add salt and pepper to taste. Mix well, gradually adding the butter.

6. Put the mix onto a glass or porcelain dish and refrigerate.  

Serve an appetizer with boiled eggs as a garnish or eat as a sandwich for breakfast.

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