Heston Blumental meets Jamie Oliver in a strictly practical, less indulgent but still exquisite take on the iconic Meat Fruit from Dinner at the Mandarin Oriental. No fiddly individual fruits here – just an ineffably smooth and deeply savoury chicken liver parfait, topped with a fresh clementine jelly rather than the traditional clarified butter.
The parfait recipe is Jamie Oliver’s – I’ve been making it for years – and have been asked for the recipe basically every single time. Since I was making it strictly as written, I always just happily directed people to Mr Oliver’s website – but that changed after a trip to Dinner for my birthday. We ordered the much-hyped meat fruit and the tipsy cake – both of which more than measured up to the hype! And I realised that I could replace the layer of clarified butter on top of the chicken liver parfait (which had always kind of bothered me) with a clementine jelly, just like in the Meat Fruit, where the delicate, almost floral bittersweetness enhanced the aromatic sugars and complemented the savoury richness of the parfait.
After a few iterations, I realised that the best clementine jelly is the simplest – literally just the freshly squeezed juice of the fruit, set with leaf gelatine. There’s no need for extra sugar, and not heating the juice ensures that the flavour really sings. Grating the zest over the top of the jelly before it sets provides a further fragant complexity.
Recipe: Chicken Liver Parfait with Clementine Jelly
Heston’s recipe for meat fruit (for home cooks!) was featured in the Guardian a few years ago, but it uses much more expensive ingredients and takes much more time – I honestly cannot imagine it tastes better than this quick and easy recipe though!
- 150 g butter, cubed
- olive oil, just a splash
- 2 shallots (ideally – if not, use one white or yellow onion)
- 2 cloves garlic
- 400 g organic chicken livers (I only specify more-expensive versions of items when I really believe it’s necessary. Whilst both organic and conventional chicken livers are pretty inexpensive, given the liver’s role in processing toxins etc. I think it’s definitely worth buying organic in this case – my closest local supplier is Waitrose)
- about 150ml sherry (Jamie Oliver says brandy, but I’ve ever only used Lidl sherry, which I keep on hand for for cooking)
- (optional – don’t buy it just for this) a few fresh sage leaves
- Crackers, baguette, oatcakes or toasted sourdough to serve. Or, chunky cucumber slices make a surprisingly good low-carb alternative!
- 3 clementines
- Leaf gelatine, about three leaves
- Line a loaf tin with cling film and set up the food processor.
- Peel and finely chop the garlic and shallots. Gently cook in a large frying pan with a generous grind of salt and enough olive oil to lightly coat them and ensure they don’t stick. Cook until soft and translucent, but don’t let them brown. Slice the sage leaves into thin ribbons and add them as well.
- Whilst the aromatics are cooking, rinse the chicken livers. Trim any gristly bits off – I use a sharp knife to help cut out the thin elastic tubes which connect the lobes, but don’t worry too much about this, as you’re going to (spoilers!) blitz the pâté in a food processor and pass it through a sieve later anyway. Pat dry with paper towel.
- When the shallots are translucent and fragrant, scrape them into the bowl of the food processor. Turn the heat up as high as it will go. Then add the chicken livers all in one go – they will spit and hiss a bit. Let them sit for about 20 seconds, and then turn them over.
- Fry the chicken livers for no more than a minute or two on each side. You don’t want to overcook them – they will continue to cook when you blitz them in the food processor. They should be browned on the outside but still juicy – you don’t want them to become hard and rubbery. If you cut into them the juices should still be red, but the interior should not be raw.
- Add the sherry all at once, and sizzle for another minute or so until the alcohol has cooked off (Jamie Oliver says you can flame it but I’ve never tried). The fumes should no longer give you that blinding sensation. There will still be liquid in the pan, so don’t expect it to all evaporate off.
- Add the chicken livers and cooking juices to the food processor, and blitz. When the texture turns from gravel to concrete, add the cubed butter and carry on processing until it is really, really smooth. You should hear the pitch of the food processor rise slightly, and the colour slightly lightens – but really, make it very smooth. Future you will be grateful.
- Taste for seasoning and add more salt if neccessary. I don’t suggest adding pepper because freshly ground black pepper doesn’t make it through the sieve, but a little fine white pepper might be okay, I expect.
- Pass the pâté through a fine sieve, spoonful by spoonful, directly into your prepared loaf tin. This is the faffiest part of the recipe, by far, but it’s really worth it. Really. The resulting parfait is so meltingly, velvetly smooth that it’s absolutely worth the effort. And you can watch TV, listen to the radio or have a conversation at the same time.
- Carefully smooth the parfait so that it is level and even. Cover with the cling film so that the surface doesn’t discolour, and leave it in the fridge to chill and set.
- Juice the clementines into a measuring jug (roll them firmly on the kitchen counter beforehand so that they will release more juice). You should end up with about 150ml of juice.
- Soak the gelatine leaves according to the packet instructions – it should say how many you need. For example, if 12 leaves set 600ml of liquid, you will need 3 leaves.
- When the gelatine is soft, heat over a minimal flame in a small saucepan. Use a heatproof spatula to gently move the gelatine around. As soon as it has melted, add a little of the juice and stir it in to the melted gelatine, until fully combined. Remove from the heat, and stir in the rest of the juice.
- Immediately pour the jelly over the chilled parfait and ensure it fully covers the top surface. Leave uncovered in the fridge to set.
- Serve alongside crackers/baguette etc. I normally just put the parfait on a board with some butter and knives for people to help themselves. Everyone cuts their own bread/cucumber (and makes their own toast) or helps themselves to crackers. Do not, as I once did, pre-spread the parfait onto baguette slices for people. The pâté discolours most unattractively.