2014 has been a really good year for cep mushrooms. We collected a good few kilos throughout July, August and September. We had too many to consume fresh, so we sliced, dried and stored them in jars. This is such an easy soup to make and was a picnic staple in the thermos, throughout the walnut harvest period.
The cep mushroom(Boletus Edulus) needs wet conditions, yet during hot weather, as the ground needs to be warm. This summer was perfect. They exist in Great Britain, apparently, when the conditions are right, where they are known as a “penny bun”. The Italians call them porcini. The strong earthy flavour and melting steak-like texture makes a great soup. Although marvellous fresh, simply pan fried in butter with shallots and a sprinkle of parsley; or in an omelette; soup is a good option for dried ones, as you don’t need a large quantity to create strong flavours and a creamy texture.
Remember that foraging for mushrooms can be dangerous as many are toxic. 50% of the Jura consists of forest, so it is second-nature to go forgaing here: parents transmit their knowledge to children, hunters learn to identify mushrooms while out in the woods. Most people,however, restrict themselves to the consumption of 3/4 types, with which they are very familiar . In France, it is common practice to take any mushrooms you are unsure of the local pharmacy, where they will identify them for you, free of charge. Certain organisations in the UK, such as The Yorkshire Wildlife Trust organise “fungi” outings, where an expert takes you on an informative foraging trip.
Do not worry! If you don’t fancy foraging, many specialist shops sell dried ceps.You could even try this recipe with field mushrooms. 2 large ones should do the job, added directly to the shallots and pan fried in the butter.
Recipe (serves 4)
40g of dried ceps
2 medium sized potatoes
2 shallots, finely chopped
A handful of ground/crushed walnuts (or grated “pain de noix” – the leftover pressed walnuts after oil-making. This is what I use. It becomes like a flour when grated and thickens the soup. Available soon online)
25cl of full-cream milk + a dollop of cream if you prefer a rich soup
Dry bread and grated Comté or Emmental (optional)
1. Rehydrate the mushrooms in tepid water for at least 3 hours.
2.Boil 2 medium-sized potatoes.
3..Rinse the mushrroms thoroughly in a colander.
4. Heat the mushrooms in around 50cl of water. Blanch for a few minutes. Drain but keep the flavour-filled water to use later.
5. Finely chop the shallots and soften in a large pan with a knob of butter.
6. Add the ceps and leave to cook for a few minutes in the butter
7.Chop the cooked potatoes roughly into cubes and add to the pan.
8.Add the mushroom water and the milk.
9. Blend the soup and heat for a further 5 minutes.
10.Season and add the ground walnuts, dry bread and grated cheese (and cream, if you are feeling luxurious!). Sprinkle with chopped parsley.
You can also add a chopped clove of garlic to the shallots and some thyme, but I find that the ceps are so rich that it is not necessary.