24 April 2019

Le Pâté de Pâques berrichon

Even though bunny rabbits are not part of Easter traditions in France, eggs certainly are. One of the foods French people enjoy at Easter, at least here in Loire Valley, is a kind of pâté en croûte (a meat pie) called le pâté de Pâques (Easter pâté).

The adjective berrichon appended to the name marks this kind of meat pie as having originated in the Berry province of central France. (Historically, Saint-Aignan was known as Saint-Aignan-en-Berry, but not any more...)

What distinguishes pâté de Pâques from other pâtés en croûte, and makes it an Easter tradition, is the hard-boiled eggs that are baked in the pie along with the meat filling. The meat is a mixture of ground pork and ground veal. Some versions also include some ground duck meat. Here's a recipe.

It's interesting — to me, anyway — that the dictionary lists the primary meaning of the word pâté as originally meaning pâte en croûte. I think for most people nowadays the primary meaning would be what we also call pâté in English — a meat "paste" baked in a dish that the French call a terrine.

In other words, pâté de campagne, for example — the baked-in-a-dish meat mixture that's served cold, often with little gherkin pickles (cornichons). That's the second meaning of the term pâté in the dictionary I use (CNRTL).

So there was a time when pâté used alone was understood to be a ground meat mixture cooked in a crust, but in France since I've known it (50 years and counting) people say pâté for the meat mixture, and they specify pâté en croûte for the meat pie version where the meat mixture is cooked in a kind of pie crust (either pâte brisée or pâte feuilletée).

Now I understand why the Cornish/Welsh meat pie is called a "pasty" (pronounced pass-tee, not pay-stee). Even though in Great Britain the meat used is beef, and the recipes includes vegetables in the mixture, it's a pâté en croûte by another name.

What I take away from this is that the pâté de Pâques is an old-fashioned concoction. The Berry province is rural and agricultural, meaning old-fashioned and conservative. I don't remember ever hearing about or seeing pâté en croûte with œufs durs baked into the pie in Paris, though I'm pretty sure you could find pâté de Pâques there these days.


  1. My favourite Easter treat.... our Boulangerie does a particularly nice one, better than the butchers! That's good, too.
    And I must take you to task over the Cornish Pasty... it should always be lamb, not beef... lamb was the readily available local meat in Cornwall, beef is a relative newcomer.
    A pasty is made up from slices of potato at the bottom, sliced turnips [NEVER carrots] and then sliced lamb. the pastry is then folded over and "knotted" along the edge.
    If it is a "full meal" pasty, there is a pastry divider towards one end where fruit, usually apple with additions and sugar was placed before the fold over. This would be marked by a different pattern "knotting" so that the tin miner knew which end to start... you don't want to eat the pudding first!
    And the pastry should always be solid at the ends... that allowed the miner to hold it easily and discard the knob end that he has soiled with his hand.
    Like you were saying about the "en croute".... pastry is a cheap wrapper.
    If you every visit London, buy a real Cornish pasty from the "Real Cornish Pasty Company" take-aways on the big main-line stations... that is if they are still going and still making them traditionally. They used to do a very nice "full meal" one with rhubarb at the pudding end....

    1. More than I ever wanted to know about Cornish pasties! This blog is about France, not England. I have little knowledge or experience of the country my ancestors were forced or at least motivated to flee in the 1600s and 1700s. If I made pass-tees I'd surely put carrots in the mixture. Just ask CHM.

      I think you should go correct the Wikipedia article on Pasty, which says: "The traditional Cornish pasty, which since 2011 has Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status in Europe,is filled with beef, sliced or diced potato, swede (also known as yellow turnip or rutabaga – referred to in Cornwall as turnip) and onion, seasoned with salt and pepper, and is baked. Today, the pasty is the food most associated with Cornwall."

    2. I will leave a true Cornishman to correct that...
      unfortunately Les, the person who could, and who taught me the history thereof, is sadly long dead! He and his wife used to hold Pasty Nights...
      Swede is, to me, turnip... or neeps... and has a better flavour.... white turnips always have a slightly bitter cabbaginess about them [there is one exception to that*]. And, probably it is true to say now that it is filled with beef which has now become the cheaper meat.... pasties were a poorman's food... a meal initially for a tin miner...

      There are probably as many family tweaks to the recipe as there are versions of pesto in Italy

      But, whilst I would happily eat a true pasty.... a Ginsters, which has the PGI stamp upon it because they set up a huge factory to make the things.... is revolting! A greasy, slimy apology of a fastfood.
      But, paté en croute wins hands down, even against a proper Cornish pasty.
      And don't forget the traditional English veal and ham pie with eggs all down the middle...
      paté en croute in Dutch proportions.... can't remember it tasting as good as paté Berrichon, tho'....

      *[Virtue's Hammer or Marteau.... white and creamy, such a nice taste that it can be grated and used raw in salads or slaws]

    3. One local specialty where I come from, North Carolina as you know, is rutabagas and neckbones (pork). We also eat a lot of white turnips, mostly just steamed or boiled and served with melted butter. I love both white (purple) turnips and rutabagas. Turnips grown in the hot SE American climate may have a completely different taste compared to those grown in the damp, chilly UK.

    4. I think that that is certainly the case... Virtue's Hammer is a Spanish/French varity and only did well for us in Leeds when we had a "good" summer. Here, however, it can't stand the chalky soil... it does better in freshly fumier'd soil [against everything that the books say!]
      And the occasional purple-tops I have bought here are not bitter when small.
      I think it is down to the speed of growth.... British ones take forever to get to a useable size as opposed to rutabaga which seem to love a duller climate...
      and not all of the UK is damp and chilly... the reason Yorkshire is so nice is that it is sheltered from the Atlantic grot by the Pennines... our climate here is pretty much the same as Leeds [until last year's hot, droughty weather that went on & on & on!]
      I can do without that thank you....

  2. And you should know that there is an alternative pronounciation for pasty. The 'a' can be that of 'pass' or 'mass'. I say the former, but the latter is very common, and may be the authentic pronounciation (the difference in the 'a' sound in regional English tends to be geographic).

    BTW, great minds think alike. I made paté de Paques berrichon yesterday.

    1. To me, pass and mass sound exactly the same (except for the initial consonant of course). When we Americans see the words pasty or pasties, we think pay-stee (as in pastry) and we think of full-figured exotic dancers (female) in a sleezy club somewhere.

  3. As a former [?] Paris native, I never heard of the pâté de Pâques berrichon, but it sounds intriguing. I wonder what's the taste of the egg-meat mix. Is it somewhat dry?

    Very interesting post on the meaning of pâté. Any connection with les pâtés de sable I usked to make as a todler in Les Sables-d'Olonne or a pâté de maisons, the latter being a block in American English?

    1. As I mentioned before, I prepare my comments on my tablet instead of writing directly in Chrome. In the above, my original was, I used to make... I haven't the slightest idea how a K came up in used!

    2. The meat and egg are not actually mixed, as you have seen, but they are good together. Think of bacon and eggs. The pâté de Pâques is dry, as opposed to moist, but not overly so. We just ate some cold, but I wonder if people warm it up in the oven before eating it. Often, pâté en croûte is served cold or room temperature, but some petits pâtés are served hot.

  4. Looks good, that kind of stuff can be fun to make.

    1. I agree. We have good vendors at the market, so we tend just to buy it.

  5. Put a pastry crust on anything, and I'll eat it :) Actually, though, I've never had pâté en croûte, only a few varieties of naked pâté. Never had a pasty, never seen one in person, never knew how to pronounce them until not long ago.

  6. "If I made pass-tees I'd surely put carrots in the mixture. Just ask CHM.'

    This made me laugh! I didn't know the origin of Cornish pasty. Now the other pronunciation " pay-stee" is something you find in Las Vegas. Actually I think that's spelled "pastie."

  7. Put a pâté de Paques in a hot-water pastry crust and it would be known in the UK as "gala pie". Or I've seen a similar meat-egg combination as a recipe using up Christmas leftovers of diced/minced ham, poultry and bacon.


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