It was Bastille Day yesterday – La Fete Nationale – so there was very little actually happening.
Everything stops for Bastille Day, when the French celebrate the storming of the Bastille Saint-Antoine Prison Fortress in Paris in 1789; which marked the beginning of the French Revolution.
So did I celebrate the French Revolution, which was very tempting… or choose to go looking for Chanterelles… what do you think?
Chanterelles (or Girolles as we French call them!) thrive when it’s been warm and wet, which is exactly what we’ve had during the last three weeks; and what we got for most of last summer – which was why we had such a good fungi season last year. Nevertheless, I travelled to one of my favourite spots on the sides of the valley of the River Scorff [la vallée du Scorff], about 10 km south of Le Croisty as you travel towards Plouay.
This is a beautiful area and I love looking here for Girolles; firstly because the valley sides are fairly steep, with mature woodlands consisting of oak, ash, birch, the occasional pine and sweet chestnut, and secondly, because I love sweet chestnuts, and there are lots and lots of sweet chestnut trees here. Indeed come October, there are so many “cheggies” lying on the ground that you can fill a large bag in a matter of minutes, which is why I chose the recipe I did.
Everyone has their favourite spot for Girolles, and mine is a lovely dense thicket, that is fairly shaded and poorly drained with mosses growing over the dead and decaying fallen trees.
Once you know what you’re looking for, they’re fairly easy to spot, with their brilliant yellow colour standing out against the dark green of the moss. Having said that, every year I start looking for them, it takes me a good couple of hours to “warm up” to my foraging; but once I’ve got used to my quarry, or “got my eye in” as I like to say, I usually find them quite easily. And once you find one Girolle, you usually find many more in an area.
Suffice to say that after about three hours, I had a good haul in my basket and rushed home to eat some straight away, in an omelette with butter and fresh butter garlic.
However, this year, I decided to use some of the sweet chestnuts I’d picked from the same woods last autumn and the wild garlic I’d picked in May, on a new dish that Serge, one of my neighbours, had shown me:
Bastille Day Relish (Wild Girolles, Wood Garlic, Chestnuts and Wine)
You will need:
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 1 pound Girolles sliced
- Two dozen fresh chestnuts, peeled and shelled
- Wild Ramsons (wood garlic) bulbs (frozen from May)
- ½ glass Côtes du Rhône wine
- A dash of dry sherry
- Tabasco sauce, Salt and Ground Pepper to taste
Melt the butter in a large frying pan, add the mushrooms and sliced garlic bulbs for 5 minutes or until most of the liquid is released from them. Add the chestnuts and cook for a further 3 minutes. Add the wine, dry sherry and season with Tabasco sauce, salt and pepper to taste.
I love to serve this as a relish with some wonderful fresh Pain de champagne local fresh farmhouse bread – still warm from the boulangerie, with plenty of fresh butter. Absolutely wonderful – it doesn’t get much better than this…
… and, as for Bastille Day, well I did pop in to the local bar for a sherbet or two… well did you really think I’d miss out on such an historic date!