CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Surrey Life today CLICK HERE

Tom Parker Bowles

PUBLISHED: 16:02 28 September 2012 | UPDATED: 22:04 21 February 2013

Tom Parker Bowles

Tom Parker Bowles

Tom talks taste - this month, mushrooms are in the spotlight...

They call it the Silent Hunt, a muted chase where sharp eyes take the place of gleaming guns. And quiet determination is preferable to dead-eyed aim. At its peak now, the fields and forests of Europe are teeming with folk in search of mushroom magic. Well, everywhere aside from Britain. Because here, with the exception of a few hardy souls, we wander past this beautiful bounty with barely a second glance, instead preferring our fungus neatly packed and risk-free, which seems a crying shame.


OK, so caution is certainly needed. And only a fool would rush in and gobble blind. Acute liver poisoning and respiratory collapse hardly make for the most civilised of dinners. But armed with a copy of any tome by Antonio Carluccio or Richard Mabey, plus a soupcon of common sense, the hunt for mushrooms turns a dreary walk into a thrill-packed stroll.


The cep (or porcini, little pig in Italian) is a mighty fine find; unassuming and portly in form, it has a firm but delicate texture and the sort of taste that other mushrooms can only envy. Fried in butter and oil over a searing heat, they need only a whisper of garlic to create a dish to thrill even the most jaded of palates.


Truffles, of course, are the Holy Grail of the mycologists mission, with a scent somewhere between the sublime and the depraved. But these are best gathered by the pros, armed with a trained pig and profound local knowledge. Anyway, in Britain, we have nothing to match the white treasure of Alba, nor the black gold of the Perigord. There are truffles here. But compared to that dynamic duo, our native varieties are also-rans. But chanterelles, all gaudy, fluted elegance, grow in abundance and work wonders with a plate of runny scrambled eggs, while the good old field mushroom has serious meaty allure.


The list of magnificent mushrooms goes on and on - wood blewit, complete with violet cap, makes fine eating, along with the horn of plenty, (or trompettes de mort), clad in funereal black. The shaggy cap is a real find too, though only to be eaten, in the words of Jane Grigson, when decidedly white and clean like a new barristers wig. There are plump puffballs bigger than footballs, horse mushrooms and hedgehogs, all begging to be picked. Soups and stews, pastas and pies, these fascinating fungi are as versatile as they are alluring. Remember to brush dirt off, rather than wash. And fry in a combination of oil and butter; this allows the fats to get hot, without burning. So get outside and join the glorious silent hunt. This is one feast made all the sweeter by being free.


MUSHROOMS ON TOAST (Serves 2)


1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for bread
25g butter
300g wild mushrooms, such as porcini or chanterelles (or button or field if no wild about)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Squeeze lemon juice
Sea salt and freshly ground
black pepper
Handful of flat-leafed parsley, roughly chopped
2 big slices of good bread
Heat the oil and butter in a frying pan over a medium heat until foaming. Add the mushrooms and stir, for about 2 minutes, until the juices start to bubble.


Throw in the garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper and cook for another few minutes, until the mushrooms begin to colour. When soft, brown and a little shrunken, throw in the parsley and mix.


Anoint the bread with olive oil and cook on a griddle pan over a high heat until crisp and golden. Pile the mushrooms on top of the toast. The juices should soak through.


Taken from Lets Eat - Recipesfrom My Kitchen Notebook byTom Parker Bowles


Toms new book (published by Pavilion) is out now with a special price of 16.00 (normal cover price 25) including free UK p&p for Compass readers. Call 0844 576 8122 and quote reference CH1702

More from Surrey Life

Fri, 10:06

We round up 10 of the most beautiful photos of Surrey shared on Instagram this week…

Read more
Thu, 11:11

This edition of Surrey Life features all the local ingredients to make this month special

Read more
Thu, 00:00

To mark the appointment of Peter Estlin, a former head boy at King Edward’s Witley, as new Lord Mayor of the City of London, Surrey Life has joined forces with the 400-pupil school to give away two tickets to the Lord Mayor’s Show on 10 November plus an overnight stay in London

Read more
Wed, 14:33

With The Great British Bake Off back on our screens the nation is falling in love with baking once again. Head pastry chef at Pennyhill Park, Sarah Frankland, tells us about what it takes to make it as a professional

Read more
Tue, 10:51

Wrap up in your favourite coat and scarf, grab your sparklers and a warming drink, and enjoy one of these fantastic firework displays taking place in Surrey for bonfire night

Read more
Tue, 10:49

Home to outstanding architecture, ambitious community projects and arts ventures that are putting these villages firmly on the map, East and West Horsley are among our county’s most desirable addresses

Read more
Tue, 10:43

Chertsey’s best-kept secret, the Great Cockcrow Railway, steamed into a half-century this year

Read more
Tue, 10:34

A taste of Korea has swept into the beautiful market town of Godalming as Bada sets out its stall with a tapas-style fusion of seafood, traditional dishes and spice

Read more
Mon, 16:06

With friendship as the central theme in Adele Parks’ new book, Zoe Richards met up with the bestselling author and her publisher, Kate Mills, to find out how these two Surrey dwellers have discovered a successful working relationship, and become firm friends too

Read more
Mon, 11:37

Great things to do in Surrey this weekend: art exhibitions, walks, concerts, theatre, places to visit and other events and ideas.

Read more
Mon, 00:00

As the twilight falls, the magic begins… There’s something for everyone at Christmas at Kew – and we’re giving you the chance to win one of five family tickets for two adults and two children to the Preview Night of Christmas at Kew on Wednesday 21 November 2018

Read more
Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Good table manners have long been a source of national pride but in this modern age of social media are our longstanding traditions being left behind? Rebecca Younger visits the stately Beaverbrook estate for a lesson in British etiquette

Read more
Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Whether you're looking for fine dining, pub grub or exotic dishes, eating out in Surrey has something for everyone. Here's our guide to the best local restaurants and pubs

Read more
Tuesday, October 9, 2018

The spookiest time of the year is fast approaching! We pick some of the best events to celebrate Halloween in Surrey

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest


Follow us on Twitter


Like us on Facebook

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search