Ceps Frits au Persil

Boletus not into temptation

Fresh Ceps

With the game season in full swing, and wild mushrooms in abundance, autumn bottles need to echo the bosky notes of both. Fruit matters, structure even more so, and the right wines for the job will have solid backbones as well as generous flavours

September is a spectacular time to visit Bordeaux. On the city’s plats du jour, wild mushrooms loom large and none casts such a seductive shadow as boletus edulis, the mighty cep. Like English asparagus, Scottish raspberries and Welsh lamb, it demands and deserves undivided attention though a six-course cep menu (including ice-cream) offered by one restaurant may be a bit de trop. The Marché des Grands Hommes has baskets of the plump, brown delights, begging to be scooped up, and the urge to take a bagful home on the plane is irresistible even though the possible outcomes are all too predictable, from instant confiscation by Her Majesty’s finest to a bag of sad, crushed and very whiffy fungi. Thankfully, the “penny bun” as it is traditionally known here, is increasingly available from serious greengrocers for those of us unable or unwilling to make dawn raids on dense woodlands. The price is breathtaking, but so is the taste. All the more reason to treat them with respect.

This simple recipe was cajoled, many years ago, from the Delon family cook after an informal, but unforgettable lunch at Château Léoville-Las-Cases. It involves resting the ceps for half an hour or so, to get rid of any excess oil they may have absorbed, and it’s hard to improve on it. Both claret and oak-tinged white Bordeaux are delicious.

Ceps Frits au Persil

Serves 3-4 people as a starter

  • 500g ceps brushed or sponged clean
    (on no account wash or rinse under the tap or they will become waterlogged)
  • 2 tablespoons of oil
  • A small bunch of parsley, finely chopped
  • Half a lemon
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Trim the stalks of woody or spongy bits. Leave smaller ceps whole, or cut in half lengthwise: the larger ones are best detached from their stalks. Cut the heads into thick slices, and the stalks into thickish circles. Heat the oil in a large, non-stick frying pan. Carefully lay the ceps in the pan (you may need to do two batches to avoid stewing, rather than frying them) and fry gently for about 5minutes. With a palette knife, turn each cep over and fry on the other side,again for five minutes. Lay the cooked ceps on a large plate lined with absorbent paper and leave for at least half an hour, not more than an hour. Before serving, reheat very gently in the same pan, this time without oil. At the very last moment, season liberally with sea salt crystals and a little black pepper, Garnish with the parsley and a slice of lemon for each guest to squeeze. Carefully out of the pan and serve with crusty French bread.

Ceps go beautifully with a white with a touch of barrel, or a soft, gamey red. Try this recipe as a starter with a white Pessac-Léognan such as Château Lafont-Menaut, or as a vegetarian treat with smoky notes and fleetingly earthy Fronsadais undertones of Château de Carles.

Janet Wynne Evans

Autumn 2007

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