A Barcelona food blog
Along with cloudier skies, the nip in the evening air, the blustery wind and recent, at times torrential rain, the other way of knowing that autumn has arrived in Barcelona is the arrival of the bolets. Bolets is Catalan for ‘mushrooms’ and the markets are overflowing with wonderous varieties. I wandered round the Boquería as the stall holders were setting up for the day, crate upon crate of fungi were stacked up, some of them to be painstakingly trimmed and neatly laid out on display.
The selection is vast and to eyes that are so accustomed to seeing bland, button mushrooms shrink wrapped in a plastic tray, their arrival and the opportunity to sample them is an exciting prospect. Mushrooms are very important to Catalonia. The region’s location, northern and coastal yet also mountainous and forestal, provides the perfect environment for wild growth and cultivation and the area generally consumes more of them than other areas on the peninsula. It is a long standing tradition, which appears to be alive and well according to my students, for locals to go foraging for their own at weekends throughout the season which runs through until the new year.
The Saffron Milk Cap is the most popular variety and whole stalls are devoted to them, the care of the display seduces and entices you.
Enormous Queen Boletes, a type of cep lay quartered in the crate, even in pieces they are huge and how to cook these hunks is definitely something to research.
There are delicate chanterelles and their relation the yellow stemmed chanterelles . Again I want to research some recipes that do them justice and with all this choice some cooking is going to have to wait. Luckily I have a few months ahead of me for planning and salivating expectance.
I’d love to write about the earthy, woody smells being emitted from the stalls, that wafts of forest were stimulating my olfactory bulb. Unfortunately, despite the Boquería being possibly my favourite place in the city, it’s odour of disinfectant, jamons, fish and nearby drains is sometimes a bit of an assault on the nose. All said, you forget the aroma when there are marvellous, smooth, milky stemmed specimens of oyster mushrooms catching your attention.
I brought home some of the Saffron Milk Caps with another variety called St George’s mushroom (moixernó (cat), seta de primavera (cast)), which are very similar in appearance to the milk caps but without the blueish – green tinge. Slightly toasted bread, drizzled with a little olive oil, a brand called Oleaurum which is so moreish it takes a lot of restraint to stop pouring it on nearly everything I eat, and thick slices of some of each mushroom sautéd in some butter and a dribble of bog standard olive oil to stop the butter burning. I also threw in a whole garlic clove so it had a hint of the flavour but without overpowering the fungi but whipped it out before serving, seasoned with salt and pepper and then sprinkled some chopped parsley in at the end. Perfect, delicious quick food for someone like me who arrives home from work late and generally famished.Whilst the market doesn’t have the woodland aroma, the mushrooms certainly did. Wiping them with kitchen towel removed more dirt than pre-packed button mushrooms and there was a definite whiff of pine coming off them. Also unlike ‘regular’ mushrooms they didn’t ooze water during cooking so would’ve benefitted from being sliced a little thinner before going in the pan. Nevertheless, they were a juicy, ‘meaty’, substantial supper and an introduction to my forays into fungi.