The Musette: mushroom pate

A few months ago I made a vegan mushroom risotto. In the process, I had an idea. For some time I had wanted to try to make a mushroom paté, trying to replicate one I’d had at The One & Only, Wolgan Valley which had been heavenly. I could see that part of this risotto recipe could be re-purposed to that end. And, I was right!

The depth of flavour in this paté is out of this world. It’s one of those dishes that no one believes is purely plant-based. I typically make myself a large jar for eating on crusty bread but serve it to friends set in little pots with some crusty bread and a green salad.

Ingredients (serves 4-6)

  • 30g (1¼oz) dried porcini mushrooms
  • 300ml (10floz) boiling filtered water
  • 40ml (8tsp) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 50g (1¾oz) shallots, finely sliced
  • 200g (7oz) chestnut mushrooms, finely sliced
  • 1/2tsp fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped
  • 125ml (1/2 cup) ruby port
  • 3/4tsp agar powder
  • 100g (3½oz) pine nuts, toasted
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2tsp truffle oil


1. Put the dried porcini mushrooms and boiling water in a jug to make the stock. Cover with cling film (plastic wrap) and leave for 45 minutes until cold. Sieve the stock, reserving all of the liquid and two-thirds of the rehydrated mushrooms.

2. Put the olive oil into a pan and heat gently. Add the shallots and sweat until soft. Add the sliced mushrooms and thyme, turn up the heat and cook until the mushrooms have released all of their liquid and it has evaporated. Add the ruby port and reduce until you’re left with a thick syrup.

3. Add 160ml (2/3 cup) of the reserved mushroom stock, the agar powder and the rehydrated mushrooms. Bring to a boil and remove from the heat. Add the toasted pine nuts, salt and pepper and transfer to a blender. Blend until smooth.

4. Add the truffle oil, check the seasoning  – remember it will be served cold – and blend again. It should be silky smooth. If you don’t have a powerful blender you may have to seive it to achieve that consistency.

5. Pour into one large or individual pots and place in the fridge for at least a couple of hours to set.

6. Serve the pate in its individual pot or scoop from the larger one. Serve with crusty bread and salad.

7. A large pot will happily last a week if kept in the fridge. I haven’t attempted to freeze it.

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1. The trick to really well-cooked mushrooms is to use a large pan over a high heat so that they don’t stew in their own juices.

2. You can change the mushrooms, just don’t use those tasteless white button ones.

3. If you can avoid it, do not substitute the dried porcini (cep) mushrooms or truffle oil. These give the dish depth and a lot of umami.

5. Unless you advise your guests, no one will be able to tell that this is a vegan paté. A number of French people have assumed it was fois gras. Yes, it’s that rich!

6. If you want to serve it as a starter at a dinner party, you can easily make this in advance.

Sculpture Saturday #18

Today’s sculpture M-Twentyfour is by local artist James Parrett whose sculptures pose questions of form, sculptural process and material. This particular artwork is on the Montalto Estate on the Mornington Peninsula, Victoria. The vineyard’s kilometre sculpture trail winds its way around the property over grassy lawns, gravel pathways, vines and wetland boardwalks providing diverse settings for its 30+ permanent and visting sculptures.

This challenge used to be hosted by the Mind over Memory blogger but he’s unfortunately stepped back. I, however, am ploughing on!

Please join me and share a photo of a favourite statue or sculpture.

Go on, give it a go, you know you want to!

Friday Photo Challenge – shadows

Today’s challenge was set by Sandy who says more times than not when she sees a shadow in her photo, it’s a mistake. It means that she focused so much on one part of the picture, she forgot to look at the whole. I do  know that feeling? Indeed I usually delete or crop the photo.

Of course, there are times when shadows are deliberate. The play on light and dark can emphasize a shape and provide visual interest. Shadows can capture a feeling or add atmosphere to a scene. Indeed only yesterday I commented on how much I enjoyed the contrast between light and shade in Derrick’s photos.

Here’s my modest selection from near and far.

I’m much enjoying these weekly challenges hosted on alternate weeks by either Amanda or Sandy because they force me to think about what’s in my photo archives and how I might re-use them.

If you’ve enjoyed this post, why not join in the fun?

Friendly Friday

One from the vaults: Altitude attitude

Another one from the early days, July 2011, and as Greg Lemond (three times Tour de France winner and twice UCI Road Race world champion) famously said:

It never gets easier, you just go faster

Whenever I watch professional bike racers I marvel at their speed, particularly going uphill. By and large a professional will complete an average stage in half the time it would take me. They’re around 40% faster than me on the flat, 20-25% faster than me downhill and a staggering 3 times faster than me going uphill. This enormous difference can be explained in part by age, sex, power to weight ratio, years spent training and bike handling skills. Consequently, I always come back from watching them feeling inspired and enthused. So there’s only one thing for it, yes, a trip up the Col de Vence.

After a smooth ascent to Vence, I rode up the first steep section feeling positively enthused. Now I don’t generally look at my Garmin as I’m riding along but as I still can’t seem to download the data, I thought I’d check on my splits. I started off doing 5 minute kilometres which wasn’t too shabby as the first bit  is quite steep. As usual, this went out to 6 minutes once I reached 6.5kms to go and continued for another 2.5kms. This stretch is always my bete noire. It was a perfect day for a ride: not too warm, not too much wind and hardly any traffic. I gritted my teeth and rode on overtaking a whole bunch of people (don’t you just love tourists!). With 4km to go I was back to riding 5 minute kilometres and once I’d passed the riding school, I was positively sprinting.  I rode the last 500m en danseuse (dancing on the pedals) to complete my fastest ascent this year and a minute shy of my best ever. All that altitude training paid dividends. I’m still waiting for the improved power to weight ratio to kick in but maybe it’s being offset by rapid age-related decline. An hour to ascend, then just ten minutes to get back to Vence.

This is my rest week where I’ll be doing a couple of recovery rides and some splashing about in the pool/sea. Over the coming weeks, I’m going to tackle with a bit more vim and vigour “Operation Elimination of Silly Tan Lines” – the bane of all cyclists. I now have my sun bed handily placed on the balcony, outside the office. I could, of course, sun myself down at the swimming pool, but there’s a bit of a bun fight for the loungers during August and I’m wary of frightening small children with my current scary tan lines. In addition, I find  any more than a 30 minute daily dose of sunbathing a bit boring. How my sisters manage to spend all day lazing on the beach is quite beyond me.

Having deposited my beloved at the airport this morning, I have a couple of day’s welcome respite before we meet up again in San Sebastian on Thursday evening. Meanwhile, he’ll have held a training session in Boston and given a presentation in London. I’ll have hopefully restored order to the flat, caught up with numerous administrative tasks, rounded up all the volunteers for our club cycle race “La Ronde” and baked a few more cakes to feed the hordes.

Thursday doors #77

Here are some doors from our recent trip to Mougins where there were lovely examples at every turn, enough for a couple of weeks!


Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favourite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments’ on Norm’s site, anytime between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American Eastern Time).

Back in support

Early this year my beloved signed up via his club to take part in this year’s L’Etape du Tour scheduled to be held the weekend after the Tour de France 2020 start in Nice. While COVID has moved the Tour’s start forward two months, it’s had a similar effect on L’Etape and with under two months to go until the event, my beloved is ramping up his training and I’m back in my support role.

This year’s stage, its 30th running, covers 175km (110 miles) with an elevation gain of 3,600 m (12,000 ft) in the beautiful Niçois hinterland.

The course starts with a rising false flat  – don’t you just hate those? – most probably into a headwind, in the first 50 km (30 miles) which will help everyone warm up and spread out the peloton which will most probably number less than 5000 participants. It’s also likely that masks will have to be worn up and until the start.

The riders then tackle the first challenge of the day, the Col de la Colmiane. After going over the top, a 20 km ( 12 miles) descent will give the riders’ legs a break prior to climbing the major difficulty of the day, the Col de Turini (profile below).

Riders will however need to leave something in the tank to avoid mistakes on the extremely long descent that will take them back to Nice. It’ll also be chilly at the top so they’ll need to wear a light vest or jacket for the descent. The (in)famous Col d’Èze, set against the backdrop of the superb view from the Moyenne Corniche, is ideally positioned near the end of the course. This is where they should burn their final reserves before heading (gratefully) to the finish line where I shall be waiting for my beloved.

My beloved has been steadily building up his mileage and on Sunday decided to tackle the Col de Turini which he’s never ridden before. When you see the elevation and the photos you may understand why!

The scenery is breathtaking! My beloved, despite his pained expression, was grateful to reach the summit in relatively good shape and before the afternoon onset of rain.

He’s previously tackled both La Colmiane and Col d’Eze, he just has to string them all together now and hope that everything goes ahead as planned. If not, at least he’ll be in great shape!




40 years of Memorable Moments: my beloved takes up cycling

I don’t think I’ve ever fully explained how we both came to take up cycling. Here’s the short version of events.

We had moved permanently to the south of France in 2005 hoping for a slower pace of life as we wound down to retirement. My beloved had expressed a desire to improve his golf handicap and his tennis game. While I wanted to spend more time on my many interests.

In reality, it was difficult to find partners to play tennis with when my beloved had time available or book golf tee-off times that fitted in with his limited down time. Consequently, he bought himself a cheap racing bike from Decathlon and regularly rode around nearby Cap d’Antibes.

Our first Christmas in France I bought my beloved a subscription to Vélo magazine. When the first instalment arrived in the post it contained a flyer advertising participation in L’Etape du Tour (amateur participation in the Tour’s most difficult stage). Believing my beloved needed a challenge, I signed him up and promptly forgot about it.


A few months later my beloved received confirmation of his place in l’Etape, stage 15 of that year’s Tour de France, 187km (117 miles) from Gap to l’Alpe d’Huez. He was sceptical of his ability but I assured him that with the right planning and preparation, masterminded by yours truly, he’d have no trouble. It really was a case of « ignorance is bliss. »

I researched local cycle clubs and he joined one in a neighbouring town that was well-organised and had plenty of good local riders. I spent hours searching the internet for kit recommendations. At that time Assos was regarded as the gold standard – it probably still is. I put together a training plan, again something I’d found thanks to Mr Google, and bought him a more serious 9and more expensive) racing bike. He was all set.

My beloved mentioned to a long-standing business colleague what he was attempting and the latter suggested that he should undertake the ride for a dental charity. To support fund-raising efforts, the colleague would publish regular updates on my beloved’s progress in his leading UK dental magazine.

My beloved’s chief campaign manager (aka me) swung into action with the begging bowl. People were most generous – I’m a hard woman to say no to. We raised sponsorship of goods and services to the value of Euros 80,000 and I wrote a series of humorous, tongue-in-cheek articles for said magazine. Articles which later enabled me to acquire a UK press card.

My beloved’s training was going well, he was (finally) managing to keep up with some of the club’s riders. In early May I decided we should take a look at the route in some detail and cycle as much of it as conditions permitted. We based ourselves in Briançon at the foot of the Lauteret, the second and by far the easiest of the three ascents my beloved would be expected to conquer.

I drove the support car either driving behind my beloved or ahead, then waiting until he caught up. I was part-way up the Lauteret, still on a relatively gentle incline, when my husband swung over and got off the bike muttering that this was a foolish idea. I agreed with him and said something to the effect:

Look, no one would be in the least surprised if you didn’t take part given your age.

This immediately galvanised my beloved, who was 50 at the time, and he never once complained again!

Over that weekend he successfully ascended the Lauteret, l’Alpe d’Huez and a large part of l’Izoard which was still impassable in early May. This early reconnaissance gave him the confidence that he would be able to complete the challenge.

On the day of l’Etape my two sisters also turned out in support on what was an exceedingly warm day and, although my beloved had a wobble at the base of l’Alpe d’Huez, he successfully completed l’Etape within the time allowed. Others were not so fortunate. I still remember their sad faces pressed against the window of the dreaded broom wagon.

He went on to take part in l’Etape the following year, held in the Pyrenees, which turned out to be much more difficult than the one the previous year in the Alps. He’s not ridden l’Etape since but, given that this year’s is on home turf, he’s risen once more to the challenge and I’m back in the support car.

While my beloved appreciated my support, after completing l’Etape he suggested I too might like to take up riding. I told him that if I could manage at least 60km on my old bike (Euros 50 from Decathlon) I would order myself a road bike. The rest, as they say, is history!

Sunshine’s Macro Monday #50

Photos taken while I’ve been out and about!

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for all your helpful feedback and kind comments on these posts – most encouraging.

Sunshine’s Macro Monday is a challenge hosted by Irene encouraging us to scrutinise the smallest of details by getting up close and personal and bringing someone or something to life in a photograph. It’s a one day challenge without prompts.  Irene posts a Sunshine’s Macro Monday post each Monday, just after midnight Central Time (US) so don’t forget to use the tag SMM and mention Sunshine’s Macro Monday somewhere on your post, create a pingback or add a link in the comment’s section of her post.

Really Neat Award IX and X

A couple of months ago, I was most kindly nominated for this Really Neat Award by two great bloggers.

Firstly, Roxancena, a full-time Human Resource and Yoga Practitioner, who is aiming to become a motivational writer/ blogger/ speaker. Writing is her way of expressing herself and her amazing experiences of life.

Secondly, by Wild at Heart who writes about her uncertain journey through life.

Now, don’t forget to go and check out their amazing blogs and, if you don’t already do so, give them a follow.

My Nominees

If you want to run with this award, please feel free to answer any of the questions below!

Roxy’s Questions

1. What’s your biggest fear in life? How do you deal with it?

Not having enough time to achieve everything I want to. Careful planning and preparation to make the most of every moment.

2. What are your accomplishments so far in your work/ career and life?

I’ve had a successful and enjoyable career and a very long and happy marriage.

3. Share your thoughts about couples with no kids (childless)?

We’re a childless couple (from choice). I think that says it all.

4. Your thoughts about becoming a full-time blogger.

I am full of admiration for anyone who becomes a successful and full-time blogger. It’s not for me.

5. Describe your relationship with your family?

I had/have a very small family. I had an excellent relationship with my late parents and get on well with my two sisters.

6. What are your plans when you reach 60 years old?

Why 60? Because it’s the traditional retirement age? I’m over 60 and I still have plenty of plans. There is so much more I want to see and do. The important thing is to reach 60 in good health and with sufficient funds.

7. Anger Management. How do you manage or control anger?

I count slowly to however many it takes with plenty of deep breaths. Showing anger is, in my book, unprofessional.

Wild at Heart’s Questions

1. When did something start out badly for you but in the end, it was great?

Lots of things though it’s not so much going badly, more not going as planned.

2. What food is delicious but a pain to eat?

 Couldn’t think of anything. Probably anything that sticks in one’s teeth, like crisps.

3. What is the most amazing slow motion video you’ve seen?

Me, cross-country skating. The coach chose to film me on account of my near perfect technique but didn’t need to slow it down much as I wasn’t particularly fast!

4. What makes you roll your eyes every time you hear it?

On property programmes where couples say they want to put their stamp on a place.

5. What movie quotes do you use on a regular basis?

I’m not aware that I use any. Maybe I should?

6. What was cool when you were young but isn’t cool now?

Hundreds of things. How long have you got? Of course, many things from 60s/70s have become cool again.

 7. One word that describes you?


The Award Rules

1. Put the award logo on your blog.

2. Answer 7 questions asked by the person who nominated you.

3. Thank the people who nominated you, linking to their blogs.

4. Nominate any number of bloggers you like, linking to their blogs; and asking them seven questions.

5. Let them know you nominated them (by commenting on their blog etc.)

Hope you’ve all had a Really Neat weekend! Sx