Mushroom pate and contemporary art
Originality is for people with short memories
This saying came up in one of the brilliant series of four Reith lectures by Grayson Perry who explored topics such as what makes good art, who should judge art and how to become a contemporary artist. Grayson is a cross-dressing potter who by his own admission protects his ball of creative energy “with a shield made of jaded irony. A helmet of mischief and a breast plate of facetiousness,” and wields a “carefully crafted blade of cynicism”. His extensive knowledge, sparkling wit, honesty and great delivery meant I forcibly clamped my headphones onto my youngest teen’s ears and have been urging anyone with the slightest interest in creativity to listen ever since.
The fashion equivalent of this paté wouldn’t get near Grayson’s wardrobe; it’s resolutely beige as opposed to his peacock colours (he attributes his cross dressing to being poppered into a PVC pottery smock at the age of nine). On my visit to Borough Market one of the things I tasted was mushroom pate from Pate Moi. I was reminded of just how good a simple purée of funghi with something creamy and something spicy can be. It was tucked away in my food memory and resurfaced when I returned to Dubai. Now I’m sure that this recipe is far from original, (just how many variations on mushrooms with cream can there be?) but it’s what I created in my kitchen. I was almost going down the classic lemon, garlic and parsley route but had some thyme in the fridge that needed using up and a bowl full of oranges.
As for my teen, when I told her I’d linked Grayson Perry to a recipe for mushroom pate she enquired, “Did you serve it in a pot?”! So the question is, if I served this paté in a Turner prize winning pot would food be art?
Mushroom paté (vegetarian)
4 tablespoons of butter or ghee plus extra to cover
1 medium onion, chopped finely
1 large clove of garlic, chopped finely
440g chestnut mushrooms, sliced thinly
1 orange, zest finely grated plus half the juice
2 tablespoons cognac (optional)
2 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves picked
1/4 whole nutmeg, finely grated
sea salt and black pepper
- Melt the butter or ghee in a large flat pan and lightly fry the onion until soft. Add the garlic and stir through, then add the mushrooms to the pan and fry until they begin to brown, soften and shrink. Cook until any mushroom juices have evaporated. Pour in the orange juice and zest, and cognac, cook for a couple of minutes, stirring until the liquids reduce. Add the thyme and stir for a further minute, then add a good grating of nutmeg.
- Remove from the heat and spoon the contents of the pan into a blender or food processor*. Add the créme frâiche, along with sea salt (approx. 1 teaspoon) and freshly ground black pepper. Blend until smooth. (*If you want a chunkier texture, add half at a time and give a whizz for a quick burst only for the second batch.)
- Spoon the mixture into small ramekin dishes or a jar, smooth the top of the paté level with a knife or spatula. Melt a large knob of butter or ghee and pour carefully over the paté. Cool and leave in the fridge for at least an hour before serving. It will keep for at least a week.
Serve with butter on brown bread or crackers with gherkins, add to pasta as a sauce or as a baked potato topping. Tastes great on rye bread or brioche with chutney. As a lover of meat-based paté I can say honestly that this was equally satisfying – maybe due to the cognac.
So pate/ modern art – love it or loathe it?
- The Reith Lectures (bbc.co.uk)
- Grayson Perry’s Reith Lectures (digital-diva.co.uk)
- Borough Market (mycustardpie.com)
- Grayson Perry and the ‘national treasure’ problem | Lisa Jardine (theguardian.com)