Not so long ago I cycled over to Bricorama in Port-Sainte-Foy on a small errand. I elected to return to Les Terraces by coming through Sainte-Foy-La-Grande down rue de la Republique and through Place de la Mairie, rather than coming straight down Denfert Rochereau …. I like to see if there’s anything new going on in town.
It’s a good thing that I did, as I saw that there were vans parked up with trays of ceps for sale. This threw me, as I thought that the season for ceps and truffles was January-March. Clearly I was wrong. Sadly, I didn’t have the time to return and check it all out as we were mid-maintenance project. However, I hoped that the sales hadn’t been a one day wonder and that there would be ceps available in the market the following Saturday. There were, but my, what a price! They were 20€ a kilo.
We’d never tasted ceps and, as Graham & I are both mushroom lovers, I was very keen to correct that omission in our culinary experience, even at such a price. So, as I walked around the market on that Saturday I was keeping a sharp eye out for this prized fungus. There was one stall that had some ceps for sale. They were marked “Auvergne” (the origin of all market produce is clearly marked). There was a small group of men who were arguing passionately with the stall-holder about the merits of ceps from the Auvergne. They were adamant that Auvergnais ceps are radically inferior to those of the Gironde and Dordogne. It isn’t often that you hear men being so vociferous about the provenance of ingredients and, local loyalties accepted, I decided that I’d heed their words and save my pennies. Either there would be other days upon which ceps would be available during this stay, or the experience would have to wait for another trip home.
It was a good decision. The following week I stepped out early – well, earlyish – to get croissants from our preferred boulangerie on rue Victor Hugo and had a brain wave. I decided to beat the mid-morning crowds and buy what I needed for the weekend then and there. And discovered that I had only 7€ in my purse! Still, I was able to order a chicken from the rotisserie lady and pick up some veg from the stall in Place du Marché. They had some ceps, so I decided that when I returned to pick up the chicken I’d try my hand at ceps too.
When I went back to the veggie stall (I so want to buy some of their courgette flowers to play with) I said to the stall holder (in my awful French) “I’d like to buy some ceps, please, but I don’t know how much to buy, or how to prepare them.” He asked me how many we were (just 2), and suggested half a kilo would be good. As to how to prepare them, his suggestion was to slice them, sautée them in butter with a little garlic and parsley “et voila!” (recipe at foot of post). So I added a head of garlic and a bunch of parsley to the order. Word to the wise – try to speak French and ask questions and you’ll often find that an extra something is thrown into your bag. In this instance it was the garlic & parsley!
I did as recommended. They were sublime, but VERY rich. I’m hooked.
Cèpes à la bordelaise (to feed 2 as a side dish)
250g (8oz) ceps wiped clean with a damp cloth
50g (203oz) unsalted butter
1 large or 2 small cloves of garlic, chopped finely
good handful fresh parsley, picked and rinsed.
A quick squirt of freshly squeezed lemon juice.
fresh milled black pepper and salt to taste.
- Slice the mushroom caps moderately thickly (about 25mm, or ¼”), and chop the stems into a fine dice.
- Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed frying pan over medium heat until it starts to foam
- Add all of the mushroom pieces to the pan and stir well to coat with the butter. Leave to sweat their juices out, stirring occasionally.
- Add the garlic and stir again.
- Grind in a generous amount of pepper. Stir again and leave until the juices have re-absorbed.
- While the mushrooms are cooking chop the parsley, relatively finely. Sprinkle the parsley over the mushrooms and squeeze a half lemon over the top (you don’t want all of the juice, about a teaspoon is sufficient to brighten the flavour). Stir and taste. Remove from the heat
- Add salt to taste.
- Add a final small knob of butter to the pan. Stir one last time et voila! Serve immediately.
If you have any leftovers they are a great addition to pizza, or rich meaty stews, or tossed with some tagliatelle. Hmmm …. there are some in the fridge. Gotta run!