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Mme Laroche's Pork Terrine

The Domaine aux Moines, can be found just outside the little Loire town of Savennieres – a country road winds up into the steeper vineyards. A mass of tiny pink Autumn cyclamen were flowering along the walls of the lovely old house when I first visited. Mme Laroche (who has handed over the winemaking to her daughter now) was busy supervising the picking, to-ing and fro-ing in an old truck between vines, vat-house and kitchen. Wishing to put good food on the table for her small band of pickers, she had got ahead in a quiet moment – this terrine was perfect as it matures and improves in the fridge for up to a week.

For 12 servings

500 g (1 lb) belly of pork, boned

1 kg (2 lb) lean pork

6 allspice berries

1 egg, beaten

2 tablespoons cognac

150 ml (5fl oz) dry white wine

salt and freshly ground black pepper

caul fat, back-fat or slices of streaky bacon

to cover the terrine

1 bay leaf

Preheat the oven to gas mark 4, 350°F, 180°C.

Mince the meat coarsely or ask your butcher to do it for you. The belly of pork should give enough fat to keep the terrine moist. Grind the allspice. Mix all the ingredients, apart from the fat or bacon, together in a bowl, making sure that the egg, cognac and wine are blended into the whole mixture. Season well.

Pack the mixture into a terrine, capacity about 1 litre (1¾ pints). You could use an earthenware or enameled cast-iron terrine, or a meat-loaf tin which, if it has no lid, you will need to cover with two layers of foil. Caul fat, that thin lacy-looking fat, should be spread over the top. It is often difficult to obtain; if so, use either thinly cut strips of back-fat or streaky green bacon instead, although the latter will give a rather bacon-y flavour to the juices. The point is to use something that will help to keep the terrine moist. Put a bay leaf on top as a garnish, if liked.

Bake, with the lid on, in the preheated oven, for about 1½ hours. About 20 minutes before the end remove the lid and the covering fat, so that the top may brown a little.

Remove from the oven. Cover with a piece of foil or greaseproof paper, weight - you can use one or two cans of food if you have no measuring weights - and leave to cool. Once cold, remove the weights. Any surplus fat will have solidified on top and can be easily removed.

Slice and eat with gherkins and some of the juices that have set to a jelly round the terrine.

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