Night Owl was telling me about a girl she works with who once was slathering pâté on bread for lunch, but who refused to believe that pâté was made of liver, because “liver is gross” or something along those lines. Night Owl – who loves her offal – viewed her comment with a large dose of incredulity, whereas I’m of two minds about the matter. There’s few things juicier than that little nugget of liver hidden within that roast chicken or duck, and while I do like a cracker with pâté now and again, I feel a little reserved about slathering it a little too generously. Is it a mental thing? It’s not like foie gras where there’s a whole ethical conundrum as the liver of the poor goose is specially fattened; pâté is simply lots and lots of little livers (duck or chicken). We should all be about making the best use of an animal, but sometimes it’s also ok to take a bit of a step back.
I saw this recipe while browsing online for Christmas recipes. Night Owl’s mother was coming over for Christmas Day dinner, and is not a big meat eater. I had already planned the Beetroot Gravalax centrepiece, but really wanted to try this recipe for a side dish as all three of us love mushrooms. While a punnet of Swiss Brown mushrooms will usually set you back five dollars at your regular supermarket, sometimes if I cruise by one of the Fruit Ezy‘s in Chatswood they pack a generous tissue-sized box of mushrooms and will price it at three to four dollars. I was fortunate I managed to nab one just before Christmas, so I had more mushrooms than I needed to try this great recipe.
What results is a beautifully smooth, nutty-like pâté with a rich umami flavour – and almost completely vegetarian (use agar agar if you want it to be completely vegetarian!), meaning you can slather away as you like! It was particularly good on some little brioche crackers my sister got from a friend in Japan, but otherwise I toasted buttered white sandwich bread and cut the toast into triangles to serve. The port jelly on top is also a wonderful addition – sweet but only subtly so, as you re-hydrate the porcini mushrooms in the wine at the start. It makes a generous amount which makes it the perfect side dish for entertaining a crowd.
You will need:
15g dried porcini mushrooms;
125ml (1/2 cup) port;
20ml (1 tablespoon) olive oil;
1 tablespoon unsalted butter;
1 small onion, finely chopped;
2 garlic cloves, crushed;
300g mixed mushrooms (such as Swiss brown, button and oyster), sliced;
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme;
20ml (1 tablespoon) lemon juice;
50g cream cheese;
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley;
1 sheet (5g) leaf gelatine/agar agar;
Toasted bread, to serve.
Please the porcini mushrooms, port and one cup of water in a saucepan. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for five minutes. Remove mushrooms and set them aside. Bring liquid to the boil again and boil for a further five minutes or until reduced to 2/3 cup of liquid. Meanwhile, finely chop porcini mushrooms.
Heat the olive oil and butter in a large frying pan. Add the onion and fry over medium heat for 2-3 minutes or until soft. Add the garlic, reserved porcini and mixed mushrooms and the thyme and cook for a further 2-3 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of the port liquid (reserve remaining liquid) and the lemon juice and season well with salt and pepper. Continue cooking until all the liquid has been absorbed, then set aside to cool.
Once cool, place the mushroom mixture in a food processor along with the cream cheese and the parsley. Process until almost smooth but with a little texture. Place the pâté in a serving dish and refrigerate for 1/2 hour to chill.
Once the pâté has chilled, place the gelatine leaf in a small bowl of cold water to soften. Heat the reserved port liquid until warm. Squeeze the excess water from the gelatine and add to the port, then stir over low heat until the gelatine has completely dissolved. Allow to cool before carefully pouring the port jelly over the pâté – sit overnight or until just set before serving on crackers or toast.