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Thursday, 19 August 2010

Crostini with Fresh Porcini Mushrooms (Ceps)

We hereby conclude this Tuscan trilogy with a real jewel: fresh Porcini mushrooms, also known in the UK as "ceps". At least once in your lifetime,  you have to try this exquisite, umami-drenched delicacy.  When fresh, they have a woody, rainy smell: close your eyes and you'll think you are in a dark, cool chestnut-tree wood in the Tuscan mountains. Total bliss! One mouthful will suffice for you to realise why they are so expensive. I happen to be lucky enough to have an uncle (my zio Nedo) who has been picking Porcini since he was a little child. He knows the woods surrounding his house like his own pockets, and when it rains, he gets up bright and early in the morning (read 5:00 am), then sweeps the woods and comes back home with something like 30 Kg of porcini. I kid you not! One really cool thing he does is, he never uses plastic bags when picking mushrooms; he always carries them in a wicker basket, so that the spores can fall out as he walks across the wood and new Porcini are soon born, making the supply endless and the foraging sustainable. This recipe is my mum's.

INGREDIENTS (makes about 10 crostini)
  • 6-7 large fresh Porcini mushrooms (cleaned from the soil with a moist cloth, the stalks trimmed)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • A handful of chopped, fresh parsley
  • Half a glass of dry white wine
  • Salt and pepper
First of all, a few pictures to give you an idea of the beauty of these mushrooms.


OK, enough with the gushing!

Chop the mushrooms in fine slices (stalks included). Use a sharp knife, to avoid breaking the fragile fresh porcini.
Chop the garlic cloves very finely, and cook them at a low heat with the chopped parsley in a good glug of olive oil. Add the mushrooms, turn up the heat, pour in the white wine and cook them for just two minutes, or until wilted. Do not overcook them!Season with salt then pepper, then cover with a lid to keep warm.

 Toast 10 slices of good quality bread (I used a sesame seed loaf) under the grill, then spoon the warm mushrooms on top. Serve immediately.

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