Saturday, 23 October 2010

Brutish Boletus there anybody out there?

       Once again I headed off blind-folded by my long standing yet cautious Breton friend/forager extraordinaire, M. Kilda Giraudon.  His protective nature over hidden mushroom patches knows no bounds and is a little unfounded as so few of you Brits can be found basket in hand, forest bound.  So, if anyone observed a passive passenger in a small French car careening about the South Devon lanes chatting away happily to his 'captor' check the was mushroom season.
  Now tis the end of mushrooms.  As soon as the first frost hits, that is usually the end.  What a great harvest.  Ceps everywhere!  Ok, ok, so the majority weren't true porcini but lesser cousins...still a great haul, free and tasty.  Also spotted and eaten- parasol, pied de mouton, girolles, and a good few field mushrooms.  I really want to find puffballs.  Not sure if there are any down this way but they are prolific in other parts of the UK.
     The cep is a king amongst mushrooms second only to the divine truffle.  Attractive, earthy and meaty they lend themselves well to any number of dishes from soup to risotto.  I love them simply sauteed in a little butter, garlic and parsley and served on grilled bread.  Once dried, the sublime cep transcends its fresh state and becomes a heady additive that can be used almost as a stock cube for bolognese or any preparation where you desire a beefy kick.  We harvested so many this season that I pickled a couple kilo to great effect.  Simply boil them up for two minutes in a little white wine vinegar, white wine and water to cover, drain well and pour into a sterilized canning jar.  Top with a flavoured rapeseed or olive oil.  I infused mine with a hint of garlic, bay and thyme.  Let sit for a few weeks in a cool dark place before popping.  Great for an antipasto or through pasta etc.  
     Remember, wild mushroom picking is a healthy mix of knowledge and skill.  Do not put anything into your mouth from the forest floor without possessing the former.  The latter comes with years of practise.  I am confident to go picking on my own, but it is difficult to spot the camouflaged little blighters.  The real skill comes from M. Giraudon...he can spot a 2 centimetre girolle peeking above a bed of autumn leaves at 100 yards.
     Top tip:  If there are loads of fly agaric around...good chance ceps are nearby.


  1. With this kind of passion surely you have some memories of long past childhood adventures picking field mushrooms or pine mushrooms...

  2. Yep...I do remember up in Nakusp. I remember being about 10 and crying cause Mark Nesbitt didn't give me fare share of the pine mushroom booty when we went to sell! Bully!