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.

The Musette: beignets de fleurs de courgettes

Went down to my local market this morning and all the vegetable stall holders had beautiful golden courgette flowers. I first ate these stuffed many, many years ago at a Father’s Day Luncheon at Le Manoir aux Quatre Saisons – such a delight. Since moving to France this is one of my favourite summer treats, despite them being deep fried! I bought some and rushed home to prepare them for lunch.


Ingredients (12 pieces, starter for 4 hungry cyclists or main course for 2)

  • 20g (3/4 oz) aquafaba or 1 large egg yolk
  • 125g (1/2 cup) self-raising flour
  • 175ml (3/4 cup) ice-cold sparkling water
  • 1/2 tsp ground tumeric
  • pinch sea salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 12 courgette (zucchini) flowers


1. Firstly, if necessary, separate the flowers from each courgette and check them for insects, remove the stamens, cut any large ones in two, and set them all aside. Save the courgettes (zucchini) for another dish, another day.

2. Heat a 10cm/1 litre (4 cups) depth of oil in a suitable deep, heavy-based saucepan until it registers 140°C (285°F) on a frying thermometer.

3. In the meantime, make the batter: sift the flour and  turmeric together and add the salt and pepper into a large mixing bowl, then whisk in the aquafaba, olive oil and sparkling water. The batter should be quite light.

4. Cook 2–4 courgette flowers at a time, depending on their size and the diameter of your pan: dip the flowers into the batter to coat, then carefully lower them into the hot oil. Deep-fry for 1– 2 minutes, until puffed up, crisp and golden. Drain on kitchen paper. Serve with lemon wedges and, if you like, a spicy sauce. I love Sriracha mayonnaise (vegan mayonnaise mixed with Sriracha sauce)!