Culinary magic with forest delicacies – it's cep season

The cep mushrooms are the first gourmand messengers of autumn and it's hard to resist them, especially because they are an ideal ingredient for hedonists, thirsty for seasonal flavours.

Image author: Thinkstock

Autumn rains turn forests into veritable treasuries of culinary ideas and their diversity of fruits, scents and flavours calls for constant exploration. The cep mushrooms are the first gourmand messengers of autumn and it's hard to resist them, especially because they are an ideal ingredient for hedonists, thirsty for seasonal flavours. They are unique when fresh, even though they can be preserved throughout the entire year, if they are conserved and stored properly.

You can pick ceps in spring and autumn, but they are of best quality precisely in this part of the year because if good rainy days combine with the sun, the forest shades will be full of them. These mushrooms grow in oak, beech and coniferous forests, which means you can eat their specialties in most of Croatia, however, when it comes to their preparation and culinary imaginativeness, regions of Gorski Kotar, Istria and central Croatia particularly stand out.

When picking the ceps, it's very important to know which ones are fresh enough and which kinds are edible, so if you're not a connoisseur, it would be best to go shopping on one of the markets, with pickers flooding the markets these days with a great variety of different forest mushrooms. It's always a good idea to choose smaller ceps for preparation, because they are harder and fresher, and you should also make sure they aren't damaged. 


Ceps are quite an independent ingredient since, due to their fullness of flavour, they don't require many additional ingredients for preparation. They are ideal for vegan and vegetarian dishes, and also adaptable to all meat combinations. They can be served equally as a main dish or a side dish on your menu. Cep soups are a superb delicacy and in combinations with other mushrooms and a large amount of onions, you can make a fantastic stew that won't lack in meat additions.

They make interesting cep specialties in Kukuriku restaurant in Kastav, where owner and chef de cuisine Nenad Kukurin boldly presents the modern side of classical Istrian cuisine. Since the first prerequisite for the menu is seasonality with local ingredients, you can explore interesting ideas with ceps on their menu right about now. You can try cep soup, homemade noodles with cep sauce, drawn dough roll stuffed with ceps or steaks in cep sauce in Kukuriku restaurant, and the specialty of the house is cep carpaccio.

- Mushroom picking has just started in the vicinity of Kastav, so we have constant delivery of fresh cep mushrooms. The best mushrooms are chosen for carpaccio, they need to be small and hard. After cutting them into slices, we put some salt, pepper, Parmesan, olive oil, parsley and apple vinegar barrique on top of them. They are served on a crostini. Since the mushrooms cannot sit for a long time, the preparation is done before serving. The whole dish should give you the original cep flavour, and in this combination, you can enjoy the crunchiness along with its natural texture.

The preparation of ceps is often very simple and fast, they can be prepared in risottos, with pasta or barley, they are a great addition to shortcrust pastry pies, and, with onions, some garlic, butter or olive oil, some simple spices such as parsley or chili peppers, your dish is ready in no time. Aside from venison and red meat, the ceps go really well with sea flavours as well. You can prepare them with pasta and cuttlefish ink or perhaps with risotto and St. Jacob's scallops. Restaurant manager Andrej Kauzlarić reveals how they make risottos and pastas in Bitoraj restaurant in Fužine.

- We have numerous cep dishes on our menu, including cep soup, grilled ceps, fried ceps with onions, cep risotto, fuži (Istrian homemade pasta) with ceps. Since cep soup is on the menu throughout the entire year, our guests order it most often, but now, in the season, we mostly make fuži and risottos. We use only fresh ceps, thinly sliced. We put them on hot butter, fry them on onions in white wine, usually Chardonnay. The preparation of pasta and risotto differs in the addition of homemade sour cream into the pasta sauce. When the dish is almost ready, we add a fresh yolk that brings all the ingredients together and gives a creamy touch to the dish. The risottos and pastas are served in quite a simple manner, with an addition of parsley and some olive oil.

We find out how the professionals make the gourmand classic, cep soup, in Waves & denim bar restaurant in Zagreb. Restaurant manager, Mihaela Perković reveals us the secret recipe.

- We make two cep specialties in our restaurant, cep soup and cep paté or spread. The soup is prepared by frying onions together with sliced ceps that need to be blanched. Then we add carrots, sliced into tiny strips, potatoes, cut into small cubes, pressed garlic and different spices such as Vegeta condiment, pepper and Mediterranean mix. When the soup is almost ready, we add Krauthaker Graševina wine, which is the house wine, and when it all boils, we finish the soup with sour cream. We serve the soup with croutons, made from bread middle which is toasted and sprinkled with finely chopped parsley or basil. Our other specialty, the cep spread, doesn't take long to prepare and can be served for breakfast or as a canapé in the evening. First we cut the onions into rings and slice the ceps and then, for the sake of colour, we add purple onions, fresh red or yellow peppers and smoked bacon, sliced into tiny strips. We fry all this on butter and add laurel, salt and pepper, as necessary. When it's all cooked, we set the vegetables aside to cool off and then mix it all roughly together in a blender. The obtained mixture is then mixed with fresh cow-milk cheese, parsley and pepper, and the spread is ready to be served.


Comments