I was driving through the village and suddenly my friend Chantal leapt out in front of the car.
‘I was hoping to catch you’ she said. ‘Meet me behind the church in five minutes’. Very clandestine and mysterious.
When I arrived, Chantal was getting a basket from the boot of her car. It was FULL of mushrooms.
‘I won’t show you my mushroom hunting ground’, she said very honestly, ‘but I will share this morning’s harvest with you. Do you prefer pied de mouton or cep mushrooms?’
‘I don’t think I’ve ever tried either.’ I said, quite honestly.
‘Well, you shall today.’ Chantal replied.
As it was obvious I had no idea how to prepare the mushrooms, she then gave me a lesson on how each one should be dealt with…
She started off by asking me if I owned a mushroom brush. I expect you all know the answer, but just in case there is any doubt, it is a big, fat NO.
This all sounds far too complicated, in my opinion. Is it even worth it?
But hey ho, she was being kind enough to share not only her crop but also her preparation and cooking method with me, so I was not prepared to risk offending her in any way.
The first tip she gave me was that you must never, ever, wash mushrooms. They are already full of water, so the best way to prepare them is to brush them with a mushroom brush, or failing that, wipe them, for example with “Sopalin” (that’s kitchen roll to you and me). I found that a very tedious task indeed, but in any case absolutely necessary as wild mushrooms can be a bit mucky.
Afterwards, the best way is just to pan-fry them in some oil and butter. They tend to release a lot of water, so patience is key. Once fried and nicely cooked, simply add fresh persillade (a mix of garlic and parsley) and lots of seasoning.
The French often mix their Poêlée de Cèpes with sauteed potatoes as they make the perfect combination. Other variations on that theme can include a cep omelette, a cep quiche or even confit duck legs cooked with ceps, which can be homemade or bought as a quality ready-meal.
I know that I mentioned a secret recipe earlier, but really, there is nothing secret about this. So simple and so delicious! It would be a shame not to share this little delight with anyone, and since Chantal was happy to share her harvest (albeit not her hunting ground) and cooking method, it is only fair that I should pass it on.
In conclusion, for now, I have just decided to keep it simple: no duck confit or poêlée de pommes de terre for us. This evening we have feasted on wild mushrooms cooked in butter, garlic and parsley… absolutely delicious. Thank you, Chantal!