mushroom illustrationChris Lacey is a British chef living in France who loves French-inspired cooking (for his full story see The French thought my onion chutney bizarre!). In the first in a series of recipes using a seasonal star ingredient, for November he rustles up one quick – Menu Rapide – and one slower – A La Carte – dish with mushrooms.

MENU RAPIDE – Omelette de cepes (mushroom omelette)
‘We have eaten this quite a few times this mushroom season. For an even faster dish, it could be made with cultivated mushrooms that would only need a few minutes cooking’

Serves 4

1 kilo bolet mushrooms(tête de nègre, orange de bordeaux or cepe d’été)
10 large eggs
Sunflower oil
Salt and pepper

Thoroughly wash the mushrooms, trimming off the bottom of the stems and removing any spongy covering on the underside of the heads of any older ones – you can use all of the younger ones. Slice.
Heat the sunflower oil – the oil that imparts minimum flavour so it does not interfere with the flavour of the mushrooms – and when hot add the vegetable. From time to time stir and after about 30 minutes watch carefully until you see that all the water produced has evaporated. When this happens add a little more oil to brown the mushrooms.
Beat the eggs with a little water (never milk or cream as they produce a heavier omelette), and add salt and black pepper. Keep the heat up high and add the eggs to the browned mushrooms, continually folding the omelette for a maximum of one and a half minutes – it should be slightly runny in the centre.
Slide it onto a serving dish, divide between 4 plates and serve with chunks of good French bread.

A LA CARTE – Cepes Moussaka

‘This is a vegetarian recipe that proved popular with meat-eating customers in the restaurant over the years. Cepes give it a French twist, but it works just as well with any other mushroom.’

Serves 8

Filling

1 kilo cepes
1 large chopped onion
3 aubergines sliced 1cm thick
2 cloves of minced garlic (optional)
100g tomato puree
50g chopped parsley
25g chopped basil
Salt and pepper
Level teaspoon of nutmeg
25 cl red wine
100g breadcrumbs + extra for topping
100g grated parmesan or other cheese + extra for topping
4 beaten eggs

White sauce

100g butter
100g flour
600ml milk
4 egg yolks

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celcius or mark 4. Lightly salt the aubergines and bake on an oiled cooking tray for 15 minutes or until tender. Remove but leave the oven on.
Slice the mushrooms, saute in butter with onion and garlic. Once the onion has softened add the other ingredients down to and including the red wine. Simmer until liquid is absorbed then stir in breadcrumbs, cheese and beaten eggs, and remove from heat.
Make the white sauce by first melting the butter in a saucepan, then stirring in the flour. The resulting paste is called a roux. Slowly whisk in the warmed milk, and continue stirring until it thickens. Then beat in the egg yolks. Remove from the heat.
Butter a large casserole dish. Cover the bottom with aubergine slices and then add half the mushroom sauce. Layer the remaining aubergines on top and cover these with remaining mushroom sauce. Top with the white sauce. Sprinkle on more breadcrumbs and grated cheese. Bake in oven covered with a lid or foil tightened around the dish for 35 minutes, and 15 minutes additional time uncovered.

CHEF’S TIPS

Storing trompettes: cut off any roots, wash and pat dry. Leave on newspaper in warm place until completely dried out. Store in a sealed jar. Re-hydrate in water when required.

Preparing and storing cepes: Trim stalks, remove any spongy covering under the heads, slice and cook in sunflower oil for 20 minutes. Strain in muslin for two hours, then bottle in small sterilised kilner jars (those with extra-tight sealing) and seal. Poach the jars in a bain-marie for one and a half hours with the water simmering gently. Store in a cool place and use as required.

Illustration by Rebecca Houldershaw; email bechouldershaw@yahoo.com.au

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