By Andrew Valente
UNTIL the 1970s, pâté in Britain meant liver paste that was tasty on toast and also made a nice sandwich. It was sold in small tins that sometimes gave the impression they were French pâté de foie gras made from the deliberately fattened liver of the duck or goose. But at best they were made with pig’s liver.
Some 40 years ago we began to see new types of pâté made with lentils, chickpeas, white beans and veggies such as aubergines or red peppers. They were also known as dips or creams and were specialities from Arab countries.
But they weren’t brought by the Arabs. Immigrant Greek cooks introduced them at their small restaurants in outlying parts of London. These dips were served with pita bread and were an instant success that was soon being repeated all over the country, as well as the rest of Europe. Vegetarian restaurants also started to serve these dips but often preferred to call them vegetable pâtés. Today they are so widely available that even supermarkets sell them as if they were traditional local dishes. The most popular of these veggie pâtés is ‘hummus’, made with chickpeas and served with freshly made pita bread. But as always happens with imported foods, I have been served versions of ‘hummus‘ that had nothing to do with the original. In one central Palma place it was made with mashed potatoes instead of chickpeas. As you can imagine, it was a disaster.
That wasn’t the case at the new JP Bistro in La Lonja: their three veggie pâtés were a great success. They are on the menu as individual pâtés, each one served with a different kind of bread or toast. But they also have a deal that allows you to order a trio of small portions. We wanted to share this mini portion and there was no problem.
There was a nicely smooth yet grainy ‘hummus’ with a lovely chickpea and spicey taste, and ‘muttabal’, the other highly popular Arab spread made with baked aubergines. A Mediterranean one was mashed black olives. All three came with pita bread and toasted snippets of white and brown Majorcan bread.