“After a few minutes Benedetta stopped and sniffed the air. ‘Can you smell it?’ Bruno sniffed too but all he could smell was the dank, mouldy scent of the woods. ‘Over here.’ She pushed a little way off the path and there, like a tiny Neolithic henge on the forest floor, stood a cluster of squat mushrooms. ‘These are good.’ Benedetta confirmed. Make sure you snap them off without pulling them or you’ll damage the roots.’
‘What are they?’
‘Ceppatelli. Like porcini, but they fruit earlier in the year.’
Bruno plucked one. It was lighter than the chocolate-brown porcini he was used to in Rome, but it had the same heady, pungent smell”
The Food of Love, Anthony Capella
I saw the most incredible mushrooms in my local Italian supermarket today – I asked what they were and the response sounded something like ‘ceppatelli’… I looked mystified, “it’s a type of porcini mushroom” I was told.
Well, of course, I had to try them. I searched everywhere on the internet for every spelling permutation and combination of cepatelli…. Not much came up except one fungus harvested in the autumn….but when I found these, and the shopkeeper told me proudly “they’ve just come in… they really are molto buoni” it was mid-May. They were in perfect condition and they looked as if they each needed a resident elf sitting cross-legged underneath. And thinking of the elf reminded me of the fairy circle described in Anthony Capella’s delightful book – a book accurately described by Hugh Laurie as ‘a splendid, linen suit, panama hat, distant lawnmower kind of a book’. There they were – cepatelli – mushrooms indeed of the same family as porcini whose scientific name is Boletus Aestivalis.
I take no credit for the excellence of this dish. I expect I could have done almost anything with these marvellous mushrooms due to their taste and quality and they would still have been molto buoni but this worked well.
Recipe for cepatelli – or any porcini-like mushrooms
- 60g/2 oz rocket
- 120 ml/½ cup dry white vermouth
- 2 fat cloves of garlic, crushed with 1 tsp smoked salt
- 500g/1 lb porcini style mushrooms – large, thick mushrooms
- 4 sprigs of thyme
- 50g/2 oz/½ cup grated pecorino
- Olive oil to fry – you’ll need quite a lot as the mushrooms absorb it
- Indonesian long pepper – generous grinds – the musty smell goes especially well with mushrooms
- 2 tbsp thick Greek yoghurt (don’t be tempted to substitute with cream – it doesn’t have enough bite)
- 60g/2 oz rocket – shredded to make it easier to eat
Take the yoghurt (the whole tub) out and get it to room temperature.
- Wipe the mushrooms gently to get off any dirt, cut them vertically into quarters
- Put into a big frying pan with a generous slug of olive oil, fry for about five minutes, stirring all the time
- Add the garlic and fry gently for a couple more minutes
- Add the dry vermouth, the thyme and the pepper and continue cooking gently for up to half an hour…the thick mushrooms take a bit longer to cook than most mushroom do.
- About five minutes before the mushrooms look as if they’ll be cooked through add the cheese and stir in.
- Then you have a choice of either taking the pan off the heat and stirring in the yoghurt, or putting the room-temperature yoghurt on the table and allowing people to serve themselves.
- add the rocket and mix in