Friday, 27 September 2013

Mellow fruitfulness

'Belle de Boskoop' apples


There are two ingredients that traditionally mark the season of mists in France: the first are rouged apples  from the fields of Normandy, and the other are ceps, boletus edulis mushrooms, from the forests and woods.

Ceps look like the archetypal cartoon mushroom. Their tubby little stalks, topped with a cappuccino hat, make you want to prod them in the tummy like the Pilsbury Dough Man. This cuteness, that in Italy has earned them the name of ‘porcini’ or ‘little pigs’,  belies a flavour that makes them rightly prized for eating, with a price tag to match.

Ceps smell of the earth in which they grow, or does the earth in which they grow, smell of cep? I am not quite sure. Delicious raw, they have a much more stringy consistency than white or brown cap mushrooms  more like the centre of a freshly baked baguette than a mushroom. Their extraordinary flavour is scented with hints of ripe orchard apple and walnut, and leaves the aroma of freshly polished mahogany in your nose.

Cooking completely changes the texture and flavour of the cep. Allow them, diced, to gently sigh in a hip bath of butter until lightly browned, and you have something that resembles creamy scallops. Serve on a slice of toasted bread doused in olive oil and you have the perfect autumn comfort food. Who needs cheese on toast?

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