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Potted Mushrooms

4 servings (2 small pots)

Potted foods were widespread staples in the traditional British kitchen, used of course for preservation before the dawn of refrigeration. Potting is worthwhile for flavor alone, however; for some reason it concentrates the essence of any ingredient. As noted in the critical, Elizabeth David sought to draw attention to the tradition in 1965 by writing an article for NOVA called "English Potted Meats and Fish Pastes." David republished the article as a booklet in 1968, but few reached print so the booklet itself is rare and valuable. It was, however, reproduced as a chapter of David's An Omelette and a Glass of Wine (London 1984; New York 1985). You can pot just about anything but, as her title indicates, for some reason David omitted a recipe for mushrooms. We particularly like this dish because it really boosts the mushroom flavor. The seasoning of mace (ubiquitous to British potted foods) adds a subtle tang too. This is dead easy to make and good on toast.

Pot for potted mushrooms- about 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter

- about 3 cups of coarsely chopped mushrooms in small pieces

- melted clarified butter or ghee, cooled but not congealed

- about ½ teaspoon of salt or to taste

- ½ teaspoon cayenne or to taste

- ½ teaspoon mace

- 1 teaspoon mushroom ketchup or to taste (optional)

  1. Melt the butter over high heat in a large skillet, then add the mushrooms, shaking the pan from time to time so that the mushrooms do not scorch, until they color.
  2. Reduce the heat to low, add all the seasonings, stir, and simmer the mushrooms until any liquid has evaporated and the mushrooms have softened.
  3. Let the mushroom mixture cool, squeeze out any residual liquid if necessary, and firmly push the mixture into small ramikins or pudding pots with a spoon. Cover each ramiken or pot with the clarified butter and chill until ready to serve.


-This recipe is adapted from Eliza Acton's Modern Cookery for Private Families (1845), a good book that, as David observes, was extensively plagiarized by the more celebrated Mrs. Beeton.

- The addition of a little Worcestershire or some minced shallots or both are other good variations.

- The optional ketchup is highly recommended.

- Do not stir the mushrooms at Step 1 or they will boil in their own liquid rather than fry.