Pâté is one of those real Holidays’ season staples that you find popping up on restaurant menus and in supermarket deli aisles near the end of the year. From creamy and smooth chicken liver pâtés to large slabs of country-style minced offal and wild game-y varieties to the more delicate smoked fish based ones – it seems we can’t get enough of these spreads once the weather starts getting colder.
Yet, pâté also seems to be one of those foods that is loved as much as it is hated. Some, like me, enjoy pâté for its decadent richness and strong flavour (ranging from gamey to offal-y), while others loathe it for its petfood-like qualities (likewise ranging from gamey to offal-y). Luckily for the latter and despite some people being of the opinion that a real pâté can only be prepared by using minced meat, offal, or fish, the word pâté does simply mean ‘paste’ in French, so there can definitely be vegetable-based varieties as well (should you disagree, simply call this here ‘mushroom spread ’, or something like that). If you are someone that usually avoids pâtés for their ‘petfood-like qualities’ or don’t consume meat in general but do not entirely want to be left out of the joy of consuming this Holiday treat, you might enjoy my recipe for mushroom pâté below (meat-eaters might enjoy it too, just saying).
This mushroom pâté is made with made with chestnut- or button mushrooms, dried porcini, toasted walnuts and a bit of ricotta. When served in small ramekins or jars, it can be sealed with a thin layer of clarified butter decorated with pink peppercorns and sage (or anything you like, really), which not only adds a lovely flavour, but also extends the shelf-life slightly and just makes it look perfect for the Holiday’s or other special occasions. This recipe makes about 350 grams of pâté, which makes it perfect for serving in small ramekins or jars (serving 6 – 8) as an appetiser or light lunch, or in a larger bowl or on a platter for sharing as part of a snack board alongside some crackers or toasted bread.
Mushroom Pâté (Vegetarian Mushroom Spread)
- 25g dried porcini mushrooms
- 200ml warm water
- 300g button- ,or chestnut mushrooms
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 75g ricotta
- 40g walnuts, shelled
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, or more to taste
- salt, to taste
- For the clarified butter seal:
- 50 - 75g butter*
- pink peppercorns
- few fresh sage leaves, or dried thyme
- flaky sea salt
- * amount of butter needed depends slightly on the size/circumference of the ramekins or jars you are using
- food processor
- 6 - 8 small ramekins or jars, or a serving bowl for sharing
MethodMakes around 350g of mushroom pâté.
- Place dried porcini in a small bowl and pour over 200ml warm water. Leave to rehydrate for 10 minutes. In the meantime, finely chop the fresh mushrooms.
- In a dry skillet over medium-high heat, toast the walnuts until warm and fragrant, then set nuts aside and return skillet to the stove.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in the skillet over medium high heat. Add the chopped mushrooms and salt lightly. Once your porcini mushrooms are rehydrated, remove from liquid (but reserve liquid – see next optional step) and add to the pan with the other mushrooms. If your porcini seem particularly sandy, rinse them quickly under running water before adding them to the skillet.
- [optional step] For a more intense mushroom flavour, you can add a (few) tablespoon(s) of the porcini soaking liquid to the mushrooms at this point. Be aware that this will lengthen the cooking process a bit as the mushrooms should be quite dry near the end of cooking. If you decide to do this, carefully scoop out a few tablespoons of liquid without scraping the bottom of the bowl instead of pouring it in all at once; sand/grit may have accumulated at the bottom of the liquid that you definitely do not want to add to the dish.
- Stirring frequently, sauté mushrooms until they are cooked through and start to look a bit dry with no visible liquids in the bottom of the pan then take off the heat and leave to cool slightly.
- Add the mushrooms, ricotta, walnuts and freshly grated nutmeg to a food processor and blend until relatively smooth (I like to leave in a few small chunks). Taste and season with more salt if needed (and some pepper if you are not making the clarified butter seal with pink peppercorns) .
- Divide mushroom pâté over small ramekins and smooth out the tops with the back of a spoon. Alternatively, serve in a larger bowl for sharing or as part of a snack platter.
- Melt butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Do not stir and continue heating until the milk solids start separating from the fat (butter will get a little foamy and white specks and blobs will appear). This can take around 5 - 10 minutes.
- Whilst the butter is heating, gently skim off the foam and floating whitish solids with a spoon until you are left with a clear liquid. At times, remove butter away from the heat so that it doesn’t brown or burn.
- Once clear, pour still-melted clarified butter over the mushroom pâté in the ramekins/jars to create a thin butter seal of a few millimetres thick. Sprinkle with lightly crushed pink peppercorns and flaky sea salt and press in a fresh sage leaf or some dried thyme. Allow to set in refrigerator for an hour, or overnight.