Tag Archives: porcini

Cock~a~leekie, mugger ponies and cocky pheasants

As always seems to be the case in October (mushroom season), everyone is acting randomly. I was mugged by a pony yesterday morning: Our neighbour’s Houdini pony who spends more time out of his field than in. The little sod ran off with my cross-body handbag that I had used as a makeshift halter trying to put him back in the field. It was a great photo op., but of course he had my ‘phone.

We are slowed down leaving the house in the car since a cock peasant moved in, with his harem of hen pheasants, to the woodland in our driveway. He insists on walking directly in front of the car all the way down the sandy track that leads from our house to the road. He’s either graciously escorting us to the road, or he’s a nutter control-freak – I haven’t decided which yet. It might be more beneficial though to channel his energy into his chaotic home situation; his wives spend their time in noisy squabbling which results in feathers flying everywhere. Maybe I could try to sort them out with my handbag too.

Last of all, the humans, who are frankly no better. I don’t think there’s anything that makes the rural French as fiercely competitive as mushroom season. On my way to the main road through the woods yesterday, I was trapped by a car blocking the path. It was very inconvenient – as there wasn’t room to turnaround, I had to reverse down a narrow sandy path with trees on each side. Sweating and cursing, I came across six or seven people scattered around the woods, eyes manically fixed to the ground, and I asked each of them if it was their car blocking the path. Nobody admitted to it, but each one gave me advice on how to deal with the rogue car owner. The advice ranged from calling the police or leaving a vindictive note to puncturing his tyres or smashing a window. I assume this advice was so generously given on the basis that it would result in one person fewer to share the mushrooms with…

Ingredients (serves 6)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 chicken, jointed into pieces

4 carrots, chopped

2 sticks of celery, chopped

2 leeks, rinsed and cut into rounds

1 clove of garlic, crushed

1 glass of white wine

2 bay leaves

2 sprigs of thyme

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon paprika

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Fry the chicken pieces in batches until golden brown, then remove and set aside. Add the carrots, celery leeks and garlic, and fry for five minutes until everything turns golden brown.

Add the the wine and bring to the boil. Return the chicken pieces with the herbs and seasoning and add enough cold water to cover. Slowly bring to the boil, then simmer for 40 mins until the chicken is tender.

Remove the chicken and leave to cool slightly. Pull the meat from the chicken bones and tear into large chunks. Return to the saucepan and simmer for another 30 minutes.

Roast pork tenderloin with ceps and a bossy gourmet cat


Luc appeared in the kitchen the other day armed with a hefty chunk of venison supplied by a hunter friend, and a bottle of good red wine supplied by our wine cellar. Apparently our cat, Minou, a tiny semi-feral ball of fury who terrorises humans and animals alike, had gone on hunger strike having polished off the venison bourguignon that he’d been eating for the past week (unbeknown to me). He was back on a diet of tinned food and had not taken kindly.  He had apparently become distant — defiant even — to better convey his displeasure. All along I had naively imagined that the cat ate cat food. I won’t be publishing his recipe though (here is my recipe for human beef bourguignon), because Luc had been detailed to have it made without mushrooms or carrots, both of which he despises and spits out; Minou is a cat of temperament.

discerning cat

Ceps, or porcini, are high in vitamins (A, B complex and C), minerals (iron, potassium and calcium), fibre and antioxidants. An excellent source of protein, they are also good for digestive health and for fighting inflammation.

Ingredients (serves 4 people plus a discerning cat)

1 pork tenderloin (600-800g)

Tablespoon olive oil

300g ceps, finely sliced

1 shallot, sliced

2 cloves of garlic, cut into small pieces

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Esplelette pepper (or paprika)

2 bay leaves

Fresh thyme

175ml white wine

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Coat the pork in olive oil and place in an ovenproof dish. Cover the meat with the ceps and shallot and then make small cuts in the meat to insert the garlic. Add the seasoning and gently pour the white wine over the top. Cook for about 30 minutes, or until the pork is properly cooked through, without being dried out.

 

Crab, chilli and grapefruit salad and unfortunate associations

crabsalad

I used to hate grapefruit until my friend, Lucie, recently put me straight. One of the things I love about Lucie is her enormously resolute talent for ‘putting people straight’; now I’m Team Grapefruit, especially if served with crab. Crab and grapefruit is a marriage made in heaven, even more so with a bit of chilli for ‘zing’. I am big on harmonious combinations and for me one of the biggest culinary sins is the confounding Surf ‘n’ Turf. When I’m trying to decide if two ingredients will go together, I think about their natural habitats and how far-fetched it would seem for them to find themselves on the same plate. Lobster and beef? I don’t think so. As we plunge headlong into cep (porcini) season, I find myself once again skating on thin ice. Given the chance, my reckless anarchist of a husband will happily add ceps to absolutely everything. I sometimes have to resort to my ‘Flavour Thesaurus‘ to convince him that ceps and chocolate, coconut or crab do not, in fact, make for a palatable union.

Crab is a healthy source of protein, calcium, magnesium and selenium and grapefruit is rich in vitamins A and C. This fresh and fragrant salad is adapted from a Jamie Oliver recipe.

Ingredients (serves 4)

2 pink grapefruits

200 g white crabmeat (I used tinned)

1 tomato, chopped

2 fresh red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped

6 fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces

extra virgin olive oil

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 handfuls crispy green salad

Carefully peel and segment the grapefruits. Place the crabmeat in a bowl with a tablespoon of grapefruit juice, the chopped chilli, basil leaves, salt and pepper and olive oil. Mix well. Add the salad and tomato to the bowl with the grapefruit segments, add a little more olive oil and salt and pepper, tossing well. Arrange the mixed salad and grapefruit segments in a bowl with the crab over the top. Sprinkle the remaining basil leaves and serve.

Perfectly scrambled eggs with porcini and smoked salmon

We have just arrived back from a busy and exciting trip to London (where I got some great food ideas – watch this space), but I appear to have returned minus my cooking mojo. It’s amazing how quickly my default-to-lazy kicks in. I couldn’t think what to cook for lunch today and might even have resorted to opening a tin of something if I’d had one to hand #shockhorror 😉 My husband solved the problem by disappearing into the woods and proudly returning with yet another kilo of porcini (yawn). I just about managed to rustle up this plate of Scottish smoked salmon (far and away the best!) and scrambled eggs with porcini, chilli peppers and garlic; a truly eclectic dish! Lėo, my son, on seeing this exclaimed ‘oh great: a picnic lunch!’ He has never yet been known to lose his cheekiness mojo…

Ingredients (serves two)

1 mushroom-obsessed husband. Failing that, a farmers’ market will do.

20g butter

2 medium-size porcini mushrooms, sliced

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 chilli pepper, finely sliced

4 large organic eggs

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Break the eggs into a bowl and whisk gently until well combined. Add the seasoning. Fry the sliced mushrooms, garlic and chilli pepper in the half of the butter in a heavy-based saucepan until soft (roughly ten minutes). Pour in the beaten egg mixture and stir briskly with a wooden spoon or fork. It’s extremely important to make sure that the egg doesn’t cook too quickly, or overcook to avoid it becoming dry and flaky. Keep the heat low. Once the egg is almost cooked, remove from the heat and add the remaining butter. Continue to stir with the wooden spoon – the eggs will finish cooking in the heat remaining in the pan. Serve immediately with smoked salmon and a green salad.

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.