I don’t think veggie pâté exists outside of Quebec, and even in Quebec it’s a bit of a culinary enigma. Across the internet you can find present and former Montrealers reminiscing and trying to recreate the staple food of the Quebecoise vegetarian, but no one seems to know the origin of this perfect vegan food in an otherwise very meat-centric culinary landscape. It’s presence in epiceries and menus throughout the province is ubiquitous, where it’s enjoyed by omnis and vegetarians alike as an appetizer with bread and pickles or in California-style sandwiches on seedy bread with tomatoes, sprouts, pickles, avocado and mayo.
Veggie pâté was one of the first vegan things I noticed on my very first trip to the grocery store just after moving to Montreal from Edmonton, the only other place I had lived as a vegan. The shrink-wrapped plastic packages came in several varieties, nestled in a group beside the hummus and other spreads. I was delighted, as I had enjoyed pâté in my pre-vegan days and interpreted this as a sure sign that Montreal would be a very vegan-friendly place indeed. Sadly, I quickly learned that I was mistaken- but that is a topic for another post.
My first impression upon trying veggie pâté was that it tasted like Thanksgiving. Specifically, it tastes like stuffing. Dense, creamy and somewhat crumbly, characteristic flecks of carrot stud the fine loaf, which is pressed and baked in bread pans before being sliced or scooped into rounds like ice cream. Traditionally made by finely grating carrot, celery, onion and potato, it’s often made in the food processor these days. Wheat flour and vegetable oil binds it together, and chopped sunflower seeds provide textural interest. Herbal notes of thyme, sage and rosemary pull together the flavour profile, sometimes with white wine, nutritional yeast and garlic. Variations, such as eggplant, sundried tomato and cranberry are common, but even these flavours are subtle additions to the overall toasted wheat and golden-baked mirepoix base.
There are several varieties available for purchase, and several recipes published by Quebecois bloggers and tv personalities, such as the ever-loveable Ricardo. I am working on my own, and will share it when it’s perfected. In the meantime, here’s a basic veggie pâté sandwich recipe. It served as lunch during camping at least twice. However, the overall experience was greatly diminished by the omission of a pickle, the standard pâté accompaniment. Putter’s is the best choice. It’s what they serve along the famous Montreal smoked meat at Schwartz’s, and alongside the veggie pâté at Aux Vivres, the institution most representative of the Montreal vegan community. You probably can’t find Putter’s outside of Quebec, in which case go for the sharpest, cloudiest fresh brine pickle you can find.
Veggie Pâté Sammiches
2 slices of multigrain bread
1 tbsp Grapeseed Vegenaise (or vegan mayo of choice)
2 slices of tomato
1/4 sliced avocado
1 leaf romaine lettuce
1 small handful of sunflower or broccoli sprouts
1/4 sliced green onion
3-4 slices of veggie pâté, 1/4 inch thick
1 Putter’s Pickle, sliced in the sandwich or whole on the side
Herbamare and pepper, to taste
Assemble sandwich with mayo on both sides. Enjoy with a beer if you’re like me, or a kombucha, if you’re doing it Aux Vivres-style.