A trip to my favourite London Borough market took me 25 years back in time. Right at the south entrance I was met by the gorgeous sight of plump Porcini mushrooms. A whole basketful of them!
I haven’t had fresh Porcinis since childhood. I remember being tricked by my cousin to go to a Summer “walking” school camp…”Lest go, she said, it’s gonna be soooo much fun!” Fun? It was sheer torture! I’ve always been lazy. Walking isn’t my forte. Mountain climbing (for endless days) doesn’t even come near the spectrum of what I call fun or pleasure…Here I am, day after day, dragging my heels at the very far back of the group, with a back-pack as big and as heavy as me, huffing and puffing (and cursing) over 45 degree steep paths…On top of that, I was constantly hungry! The breakfast gong was off an 7 am every morning.( I don’t think I have “seen” what 7 am looks like by that point of my life and sure as hell have been avoiding it ever since!) By the time I managed to open my eyes and find a stream of freezing water to wash my face in, everyone, as chirpy as little annoying cherubs, was already fed, clothed, strapped and ready to go, song on lips! Honestly…not impressed at all!
One of those days, almost mid week, was particularly evil. It started poring down as soon as we left camp. I had fallen flat on my face in the mud at least a dozen times and by midday I had just about given up the will to live…At least by then the rain had stopped and the cloud had almost completely disappeared. We stopped for lunch at a large clearing ( and when I say lunch I’m talking two pieces of bread and a small block of cheese…) and I did all I could to catch a few rays and warm my battered self under the peaking sun. The “meal” wasn’t near big enough to fill me up. neither did it hit the spot…so I was lost in dreams of what I was gonna eat when this horrid week is finally over….Then someone started shouting – “Come, see, so many mushrooms! Looks like they are edible too!” Hah! So not only I was starved then! Who goes foraging for pleasure? Not interested.. I ain’t leaving my spot to go gawk over fungus..
Most of the group was busy picking them up and excitingly talking about all the different kinds you can find in this particular forest. “We should set up camp here for the day, explore the grounds and have a mushroom feast!” the head teacher said. I ain’t a big fan of ‘shrooms but the rest of that sentence was like sweet music to my ears! I made myself even more comfortable on top of the now hot rock I was occupying, basking away like a lazy lizard. Now this is more like a holiday, I remember thinking while drifting to a well deserved sleep…..Lovely
It was the smell of something really tasty that woke me up. Actually my nose woke up before me and dragged me to a line of people, leading to a large pot, bubbling over a small fire. A teacher was standing over it, handing everyone a slice of bread with a heap of sautéed mushrooms over it. It didn’t look like much but, oh my! The taste was divine! I remember taking my time with it, biting off as little as possible and savouring each tiny mouthful (there were no seconds…) That was my introduction to Porcinis. I don’t know if it was because I was so hungry or because whoever cooked them really managed to pay enough respect to these beauties and extract every last bit of flavour out of them but I was well hooked! Even to this day I can still taste and smell them…
It has been many years since I have seen fresh Porcini for sale and even longer since I’ve had them, so I had to buy a few and indulge. Up in the woods they must have been just plain fried over an open fire, but I’m gonna spice mine up a bit.
And on the heat with a good splash of olive oilAfter 4-5 minutes the mushrooms start softening and the kitchen gets filled by the most wonderful aroma. A knob of butter goes on top, followed by half a glass of white wine. Cover, turn the heat to medium and let them soak up all the flavours
A quick toss and it’s all ready! Now to assemble: slices of fresh white “village” crusty bread with a few dots of cold butter. I love the contrast of cold butter and hot mushrooms in a bite…Pile of steaming hot mushrooms follows