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Tom Kitchin: Ceps mushrooms are seasonal delight

Tom Kitchin. Picture: Contributed

Tom Kitchin. Picture: Contributed

  • by TOM KITCHIN
 

THOSE of you who follow my column will be familiar with my passion for fresh girolle mushrooms – the distinctive golden gems that are abundant in Scotland over summer.

At this time of year, as autumn approaches, there’s also another species of mushroom that is glorious to enjoy in simple, seasonal suppers.

Huge fresh ceps are arriving at our restaurant door right now and I’m eager to start cooking with them. They look so remarkable when they arrive straight from the ground, in all manner of sizes. Sometimes we present a small basket to our diners before they’re cooked so they can see how wonderfully fresh they are, straight from nature itself. I’m not alone in appreciating this wonderful ingredient either, as ceps are very much regarded by chefs and cooks across the world as some of the finest mushrooms to be found.

Although you may not realise it, you’ve probably heard of and indeed tasted ceps, as they can also be known as porcino mushrooms in Italian, or sometimes they are referred to as a penny bun bolete. In Scotland, they can be found growing in soil at the edges of clearings and forests. They tend to be found in groups of two or three and the caps can grow up to 30cm in diameter, while the stalks can grow up to 25cm in height.

Ceps are an extremely meaty, creamy type of mushroom. They’re identified by their earthy colour, spongy underside and white, bulging stem. Taste them and you’ll enjoy a rich, strong, earthy, woody flavour matched with a deliciously velvety texture.

Ceps are best cooked in pastas, risottos, stews, casseroles, and even very simply with eggs or on toast as a light supper, bringing a wonderfully deep, woody flavour and nutty texture to dishes. Take care when you’re preparing ceps and always make sure you scrape the spongy underside away with a small, sharp knife before you start cooking, otherwise you’ll find they tend to go a little too soggy. Don’t overcomplicate dishes that include ceps – a simple combination of parsley, oil and garlic can make these great mushrooms a genuine simple pleasure to eat.

Whatever you do, don’t let autumn pass without trying these wonderful Scottish mushrooms.

Sautéed ceps served on sour dough with fried hen’s egg

Serves two

2 slices of sourdough – toasted

2 large ceps

1 tsp chopped garlic and parsley

2 hen’s eggs

2 slices of bacon – crispy

1 tbsp duck fat or olive oil

salt and pepper

Method

Clean the ceps by carefully removing any soil and washing gently with cold water if needed. Heat a heavy-bottomed frying pan and add fat or olive oil. Cut the ceps in halves or thirds depending on size and place in the frying pan. Season with salt and pepper and cook for two to three minutes on each side. Once cooked (you can check with a small knife to see whether there’s any resistance) remove from the heat.

Heat another non-stick frying pan and add the oil. Fry the eggs for two to three minutes until cooked, keeping the yolk soft in the middle. Add the garlic, parsley and bacon to the ceps and toss together before serving on toasted sourdough. Place the eggs on top and serve.

Baby Vegetable Salad with Ceps

Serves two

½ baby gem lettuce

2 baby carrots sliced

2 florets of cauliflower sliced

2 baby courgettes sliced

2 radishes sliced

4 ceps – two for cooking and two for serving raw

100g Isle of Mull cheddar

1 tbsp crushed hazelnuts

1 tbsp duck fat or olive oil

hazelnut oil

salt and pepper

Method

Slice all your baby vegetables. Clean and prepare the ceps by carefully removing any soil and washing gently with cold water if needed, keeping two aside for slicing and serving raw. Heat a non-stick frying pan and add the duck fat or oil. Place the ceps into the pan, season with salt and pepper and cook for two to three minutes on each side depending on size, cook until caramelised. Place all the sliced vegetables into a bowl. Add the ceps and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with hazelnut oil and, using a vegetable peeler, slice strips of Mull cheddar. Carefully slice the remaining two ceps and place all the ingredients in a bowl including the crushed hazelnuts and serve.

 

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