When it comes to mushrooms, the French become homicidal maniacs. Though only when it comes to mushrooms, of course My husband is a case in point. Last year, before he’d got ‘into’ mushrooms and ceps (also called king bolete or porcini) in particular, he announced that anyone mushrooming on our land was more than welcome to keep whatever they found. Our land was there for everyone – for the greater good, blah, blah, blah. Well not anymore. No siree.
The greater good pitch vanished the moment we discovered how best to cook and savour them. We now have tacky signs up everywhere saying, roughly translated, ‘Cep bugulars get out!’, ‘Steal our ceps at your own peril!’, ‘Beware! ferocious cep-guarding dog’… During The Season, he gets up at the crack of
mushroom dawn and skulks out into the half-light, a rifle over his shoulder. OK, I’m making the rifle bit up, but he definitely would if he owned one.
Mocking aside, ceps really are worth it; they have a deep, earthy, woody taste and are rich in vitamins A and C, iron, potassium and selenium. They can mostly be found in the early Autumn under mature trees such as spruce, pine, hemlock, birch and oak. Just don’t come looking for them on our land
Ceps fried with garlic and parsley
Freshly ground black pepper
Fresh parsley, chopped
Any earth or sand clinging to the ceps should be brushed off gently with soft-bristle brush. Avoid rincing in water if possible. They should then be cut with a very sharp knife (to avoid bruising) into half centimetre slices. Heat the olive oil and butter in a frying pan – there should be enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan easily. Once the oil is hot (but not smoking), add the ceps. Cook for seven minutes on each side – the white flesh should become golden brown. Add the chopped garlic and parsley two minutes before the end of cooking.
In my opinion, the best way to eat ceps prepared in this way is on their own or perhaps with a plain omelette. They go nicely with green salad and some crusty French bread.