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Mushroom pate and contemporary art

November 23, 2013

Mushroom pate

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 pate

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
3 tablespoons
créme frâiche
sea salt and black pepper


  1. 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.
  2. 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.)
  3. 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?

  1. November 23, 2013 3:26 pm

    Great post. I only caught bits of the lectures and must try to listen to them all properly. Grayson Perry is wonderful. I love his work and hearing him talk.

    • November 25, 2013 7:57 am

      I’m now a fan – will definitely listen to these again. If anyone sees me laughing out loud on my dog walk, this is what I’m doing!

  2. November 23, 2013 4:07 pm

    ooh – orange zest? Never thought about adding some of that! I’ll be giving this a try soon, thanks.

    • November 25, 2013 7:56 am

      The orangeyness needs to be subtle, a fruit flavour to balance the slightly medicinal taste of the thyme – a bit of rind helps to do this …imo 🙂

  3. November 23, 2013 5:26 pm

    Love your wonderful mix of entertainment and tempting pate. Looks delicious, keen to make it soon.

    • November 25, 2013 7:55 am

      …and I bet you have access to some lovely mushrooms…

  4. November 23, 2013 6:14 pm

    A heavenly pate! What fabulous flavors.



  5. November 23, 2013 8:26 pm

    Lovely pictures….glad you’re getting your children to listen to some good stuff. Art’s a difficult thing to talk about and Grayson Perry does it well. I found that my time at art school taught me all the things that I didn’t need to know…so that got them all out of the way in one fell swoop….that was the art schools of the 60’s, so maybe it’s changed:)

    • November 25, 2013 7:54 am

      There’s a danger in over-analysis (or it just sucks the life out of creativity) but I found these thought provoking, inspiring and entertaining. He is a lecturer too – lucky students.

  6. November 24, 2013 2:04 am

    That looks wonderful. How I would love to dip into some right now. Love all the flavours.

  7. November 24, 2013 9:57 am

    I love using thyme with mushrooms!

    • November 25, 2013 7:50 am

      A natural pairing isn’t it Tandy – and you have such good taste 🙂

  8. glamorous glutton permalink
    November 24, 2013 2:09 pm

    I’d never had much time for Grayson Perry before, although I love his work. After listening to his lectures, I was astonished. He managed to demystify art and how we could/ should encounter it. There was none of the self righteous anger of some of the earlier Turner Prize winners, just an engaging thoughtful, grounded attitude that was also very funny. As for your pate, in a jar or Turner Prize pot, good food is always art!! GG

    • November 25, 2013 7:50 am

      Being out of the UK he was totally off my radar but I’m now an avid fan. Funny and wise….I was listening to the podcast on my morning walk and had to keep stopping to make notes on my ipod – not easy without glasses and with two dogs in tow. The purpose of creating art? “meaning making” – this really struck a chord with me.

  9. kstienemeier permalink
    November 24, 2013 2:40 pm

    Perfect! quick and tasty, a great holiday appetizer Sally.

    • November 25, 2013 7:46 am

      It is indeed, thanks Karin.

  10. November 24, 2013 2:41 pm

    Oh my goodness, how smooth and how Alluring! Fab pics x

    • November 25, 2013 7:45 am

      I made it smooth for my daughter but would try a bit more chunky texture next time…and maybe a lemon and parsley version….

  11. November 24, 2013 4:43 pm

    Not a huge fan of modern art but I am a fan of paté, especially this lovely pot of flavors Sally. I often add mushrooms to my chicken liver paté but I never thought of making one wholly out of mushrooms. I thank you and my vegetarian daughters thank you!

    • November 25, 2013 7:44 am

      Honestly you don’t miss the absence of liver. I made this with my vegetarian daughter in mind but she is on the first rung of liking mushrooms and wouldn’t eat it. I had no problem polishing off the jar myself 🙂

  12. November 24, 2013 8:54 pm

    Beautiful recipe and thoughtful post. I will have to click on that link when I know I will have time to sit and appreciate it. My in-laws are very arty (one is an architect and painter, and the other used to be a theatre director) and I always feel a bit left out when they go on about paintings and performances. I hope to pick up a clever bon mot to drop in the conversation! Yes, that shallow 😀 PS These images ARE art.

    • November 25, 2013 7:43 am

      The title of the first lecture may inspire you Kellie – Democracy has bad taste!! Thanks for kind words about pics – I know beige food isn’t usually your thing!!

  13. November 24, 2013 9:38 pm

    Sound delish. Have always had a meat pate never quite had a mushroom one….would love to try this out…Great and easy recipe…

  14. November 24, 2013 10:49 pm

    I do love that quote!!

  15. November 24, 2013 11:29 pm

    I firmly believe food can be art, especially when photographed as beautifully as you have done. Lovely pate, this would be good for a Christmas spread.

  16. November 25, 2013 10:51 am

    ooh Sally, oranges and mushrooms are certainly a combo I’ve never thought about! I too am a meat pate lover, so am certainly curious to try this dish and see how it compares!

    • November 25, 2013 2:47 pm

      It’s lighter but no less satisfying Lisa – thanks for stopping by

  17. November 25, 2013 4:36 pm

    Sally this looks a delicious dish, which I definitely intend to make. Perfect as a starter during the winter months here in Blighty!

    • November 26, 2013 7:35 am

      I can’t imagine how cold you are now.

  18. November 26, 2013 12:23 am

    This looks like such a tempting pate Sally & beautifully photographed. I am planning a first time trip to Borough Market after Christmas – I can’t wait!

  19. November 26, 2013 6:18 pm

    Oh yes, I am a long time fan of that mushroom pâté stall at Borough too:) This looks terrific!

    • November 29, 2013 3:45 pm

      Cheers – I think my version went off at a tangent 🙂

  20. November 27, 2013 7:23 am

    I have never tasted a Mushroom paté and this looks so tempting. Whether you serve it in a Turner Prize winning pot or not, this is still going to be art. Our closest pals are vegetarians and I am often struggling to come up with ‘new’ veg dishes for them, so this is surely going to be on my Christmas dinner.

  21. December 1, 2013 12:39 pm

    Great pate and brilliant set of lectures!

  22. December 3, 2013 3:44 pm

    Brilliant- I love pate and struggle to get decent stuff here. I have all the ingredient too- shall be making this tonight- thank you!

  23. December 4, 2013 10:47 pm

    I think I love you now,…..mmmmmmmmmmm. This vegetarian patė looks so fantastic, the way you presented it too,… 😀

  24. December 5, 2013 10:15 pm

    This photos are gorgeous ….I love the layer of ‘fat’ on the top! Art I like….I can imagine the depth of flavour – boy, this smeared on freshly baked le baguette would be wonderful!

  25. olgafanin permalink
    December 9, 2013 5:16 am

    I’m a huge mushroom fan so I’ll have to give this a try 🙂 looks yummy!

  26. January 20, 2014 3:24 am

    Made this today with greek yogurt instead of creme frache and red wine instead of cognac. Was glorious! Have a great week.

    • January 20, 2014 7:55 am

      Thrilled you made this – you’ve made my day.


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