The wacky and wonderful world of cèpes

Freshly picked cèpes mushroom and wild cyclamens

After all the excitement build-up since the kids started school, days of searching in vain, we finally found beautiful cèpes. I have been sharing a few moments from my mushroom adventures through Instagram, discovering amazing parts of the forest I never knew. Every morning, I feel like an explorer, entering the woods with my stick, scrambling the leaves, and always looking down. I have lost my trail several times, playing games of twister with the fern, spiky branches and leaves everywhere. Total freedom. If I was in the girls scouts, I think I’d deserve a few brownie points for bravery and eagerness.

Into the wild

It’s rare to meet fellow mushroom pickers where we are, but I have met a few retired farmers holding large cèpes-filled baskets. It is considered very rude and inappropriate to ask where they unearthed their cèpes. Everybody has their secret places and they are not to be shared. Cèpes are most likely to be found by oak trees, but they can really be found everywhere. I heard that grandfathers reveal their lucky cèpes locations on their deathbeds. It’s in the family’s vault. There are also women curiously referred to as mushroom witches. They know where to go and can feel the cèpes from afar. These women go home with thirty kilograms of brown buttons every day. Whatever it is, there is an element of magic in the forest. I believe it is enchanted, filled with secrets and powers. The overwhelming energy makes me feel like a stronger person. The other day, I stumbled across the most fairytale-like view. Thousands of pink and white wild cyclamens glowing in the darkest part of the woods. I don’t think I could have asked for a better movie-set. Now I should really believe in fairies!

My husband took the kids mushroom hunting Sunday morning. It was pouring with rain, but they were all geared up and super excited. They came back home totally drenched, but their faces were brightened with the biggest smiles. They found twenty gorgeous cèpes very near our house. For lunch, I prepared buttered tagliatelle with garlic cèpes (fried in garlic and parsley) for the kids. For us grown-ups, we had cèpes omelette and cèpes carpaccio (sliced raw) with olive oil, salt and pepper. The kids were so proud, and I could see how gratified they felt when we thanked them for ‘providing’ food for the family.

Cleaning cèpes is simple. I use a knife, toothbrush, a damp cloth and a potato peeler. Cut off the tip of the mushroom’s stalk, scrape off as much earth as possible, peel a single layer of the stalk. It is not advised to wash them in water, because they are like sponges. You can wipe them with a damp cloth for a proper final cleaning.

Médoc is immersed in cèpes culture. Here, the cèpe mushroom is the king of the forest and one of the most sought-after delicacies. They are so hearty and flavorful, with the perfect combination of earthy and sweet taste. There are so many ways to enjoy cèpes, this is only the beginning of this fall’s love affair. Here are a few recipes I’ve been cooking this week.

Basic cèpes cooking tips:

● Always season cèpes with salt as soon as you start to cook them.
● Cook mushrooms on a high heat so the water evaporates faster
● If your frying pan is small, cook mushrooms in batches to avoid soggy mushrooms (if there is too much water released at once, the mushrooms won’t brown and cook in its own juice)
● If you want to store cèpes, it is best to wrap them in a cloth and stored in the refrigerator. Never put them in a plastic bag.

Potato and cèpes soup (serves 4)

400 g fresh cèpes, sliced (+ 1 tbsp butter, one garlic and one shallot, finely chopped, for frying)
8 medium potatoes
3 cloves of garlic
A pinch of nutmeg
3 tbsp butter
6 tbsp crème fraîche (or more depending on your taste)
2 tbsp chopped parsley
Salt and pepper for seasoning

Peel and chop potatoes into medium chunks. In a large pot, add potatoes, salt, nutmeg and garlic. Pour water just enough to cover the potatoes. Cover with a lid and cook for 15-20 minutes. Mash soup with a potato masher. Add butter, pepper and crème fraîche. Cover and set aside. Now you can prepare the cèpes, which will take a few minutes. Melt butter in a frying pan, add finely chopped shallots and garlic and fry for a few minutes. Turn heat to high, add sliced cèpes, sprinkle with salt, give the pan a good shake – this should take one minutes. Sprinkle with parsley. Serve soup in large bowls, add a generous amount of cèpes per person, sprinkle with more parsley.

Cèpes en persillade (serves 4)

Should you not have any cèpes, many other seasonal mushrooms works well with persillade.

1 kg fresh cèpes mushrooms, sliced in half if they are small enough (see photo), or sliced.
1 bunch parsley, finely chopped
3-4 cloves garlic
1 large shallot
3-4 tbsp butter or olive oil, for frying

Peel garlic and shallot and chop them as finely as possible. I use my food processor – quick and easy. Finely chop parsley. Set aside.
In a frying pan, melt butter, add finely chopped shallots and garlic and fry for a 1-2 minutes. Turn heat to high, add sliced cèpes, sprinkle with salt, give the pan a good shake – this should take 2-3 minutes. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve immediately.

Cèpes omelette – serves one very generous omelette

4 medium-sized cèpes (sliced)
3 eggs
1 tsp chopped garlic
1 tsp chopped shallots
A handful of chopped parsley
1 tbsp butter or olive oil, for frying

Whisk 3 eggs in a bowl till slighly frothy. Set aside. In a medium-sized frying pan, melt butter (or olive oil) add garlic and shallots and fry for 2 minutes. Add sliced cèpes, season with salt, stir well and cook for 30 seconds on a medium heat. Take a few cèpes and set aside to garnish the omelette. Add beaten eggs, salt and pepper, lower heat and cook for 3 minutes (depending on how you like your omelette cooked). Sprinkle with parsley. Take off from heat, gently roll omelette on each side. Return pan to heat for a few seconds. Place on a plate, plate saved cèpes on top of the omelette, sprinkle with parsley. Serve immediately.

Cèpes carpaccio

4 small cèpes per person
Olive oil, salt and black pepper for seasoning

Only choose smaller cèpes for this recipe. Slice cèpes into thin slices. Place on a plate, drizzle some olive oil, salt and pepper.

22 thoughts on “The wacky and wonderful world of cèpes

  1. Allowing your children to be involved in the gathering and sharing of fresh produce is such an important element for a child. It allows them to appreciate what they are putting in their tummies and it allows a moment to be shared with you as well! It’s such a beautiful thing!

  2. Hello Mimi, thank you for a gorgeous blog. It’s breathtaking, everything you share from your family anecdotes to pictures. You are beautiful and I wish to ask and hope you are not offended. How tall are you and how much do you weigh? How do you keep in shape? I feel like I gain 30 kg just by looking at your delicious food. You look marvelous!

  3. Mimi, your blog is so beautiful… and I wish I could be with you in the forest… I love mushrooms! So I could not wait to see if you had posted about cèpes. I have a favorite cookbook, Monet’s Table: The Cooking Journals of Claude Monet, and inside is his own recipe for cèpes. It’s very simple. Nothing to it. But I thought I’d share it with you.

    Ma recette pour les cèpes
    (Claude Monet)

    Serves 4
    1 pound cèpes
    4 tablespoons olive oil
    2 garlic cloves
    4 sprigs parsley
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon pepper

    Wipe and peel the cèpes. Discard the tip of the stem and chop stems finely with a knife, leaving the caps whole. Arrange the stems in a shallow ovenproof dish and lay the caps on top of them. Sprinkle with the olive oil.

    Heat oven to 325 degrees. Bake the cèpes for 20 minutes, or until the oil is transparent. Combine the garlic and parsley. Remove the cèpes from the oven and sprinkle the mixture over them. Season them with salt and pepper. Return the cèpes to the oven and bake for another 20 minutes, basting at least twice with the liquid in the dish.

    1. Thank you so much for posting this. While there are no fresh cepes where we live (very sadly), I love cookbooks and French food and Monet’s Table sound great! I just ordered it!

  4. Hi,
    Just a quick one, as a family tradition picking cepes for me is pretty saint! You know you should always cut them instead of picking with the roots.. do you?

    1. Yes, I always have my opinel knife in my pocket. My local expert friends taught us how to properly cut them so they have a chance to grow back. For the photos, we exceptionally used a few with the roots to show a cèpes in all its splendour. It’s lovely that it is a family tradition for you! Have a great day. Mimi

    2. Concerning mushroom picking

      Yes, very true !

      It is important just in order to let the fungi cells (mycelium) stay in earth and multiply. Otherwise the mushrooms disappear from their spots.

      Have always a little knife in the basket and cut the mushrooms ca. 1 cm above the root. It concerns all type of mushrooms.

      Bon appétit !

  5. Je suis aussi du médoc et une folle des cèpes.
    De toutes les façons : bocaux, congélation, morceaux en lamelles pour sauce, cèpes séchés, sel aux cèpes …
    Merci de mettre en valeur notre région.

  6. Oh dear! I have been pulling my cepes mushrooms out, not cutting them, this is a great blog. I love finding them on my land in La Coquille. I shall carefully cut them in future. Thanks!

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