Tag Archives: mushrooms

Ceps in the country (and unhinged Frenchmen)

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

Ingredients :

Fresh ceps

Olive oil

Butter

Garlic, chopped

Rock salt

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.

Chilli con carne and itinerant horses

This is the sort of dish that is even better a day or two after it’s made, which is just as well really as I had no time to prepare lunch, having spent all morning chasing our Houdini horses. They escape more regularly than I like to admit – let’s just say that they are well-known by everyone within a 5 km radius and by the town ‘Mairie’.

Ingredients (serves 4)

250g dried red kidney beans (soaked overnight and boiled for 10 minutes)

500g minced beef

2 tablespoons of olive oil

2 medium onions, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

6 tomatoes, blanched and skinned

1 red bell pepper (cut into strips)

4 chilli peppers (sliced)

6 mushrooms, peeled and sliced

2 tablespoons of tomato purée

2 glasses of red wine

250ml beef stock

1 sprig of rosemary and 2 bay leaves

1 tablespoon Worcester sauce

1 square of 80% dark chocolate

Seasoning to taste : sea salt, black pepper, chilli powder

Preheat the oven to 150°C. Pour the olive oil into a medium-sized casserole dish and heat. Add the onions, garlic, mushrooms and mince and brown well, stirring around a bit. Once browned, add the bell pepper, the chilli peppers and the tomatoes and continue to cook until gently simmering. Add the tomato purée, the kidney beans, Worcester sauce, seasoning, stock, red wine and herbs and bring back to a simmer. Cook in the oven for about two hours, checking from time-to-time that there is enough liquid. Add the dark chocolate, stirring well to melt, just before serving.

May be served as a standalone dish, like soup, or with coleslaw and green salad.

Basque Chicken


Our multi-talented Spanish carpenter, who my husband disparagingly refers to as the ‘poet’ (as in Real Men Don’t Do Poetry), gave us several jars of his home-made spicy tomato sauce, which my son then referred to as ‘ketchup in a jar’. Between them, husband and son make quite sure that neither carpenter nor tomato sauce get too up themselves.

Poulet Basquaise should really be made with Espelette pepper, which is a cross between paprika and chilli pepper, and is a speciality of the village of Espelette in the Basque country.

Ingredients (serves 4)

4 chicken thighs and 4 legs

1 tin of peeled tomatoes (or homemade if possible)

1 tin of white beans

4 cloves of garlic

1 onion

5 mushrooms, sliced

1 bell pepper

1 cup of black olives

olive oil

sprig of rosemary

1 glass of white wine

seasoning to taste (salt, pepper, paprika, chilli powder or if possible Espelette pepper)

Chop the onions, garlic and mushrooms and add to the olive oil in an oven-proof casserole dish. Cook until golden and then add the chicken pieces, which should also be cooked until golden-brown on both sides. Add the wine, herbs and seasoning and cook for about 2 minutes so that the chicken can absorb the wine. Add the tomatoes and heat until simmering. Lastly add the beans and olives and cook in a medium oven (150°C) until the tomatoes begin to caramalise (just under two hours).

Poulet Basquaise is usually served with sauté potatoes or rice, although I often serve it with polenta and a crisp green salad.