In late summer and early autumn, keep your eyes open for giant puffballs, best picked when young and firm, and no bigger than 25cm (10in) or so in diameter. A puffball of this size will feed at least four people, so should you stumble across a few it’s unlikely you’ll need to pick them all. They’re not difficult to spot – they stand out like bright white footballs amid the green of the grass. I’ve always been really fond of this unusual fungus. As children we used to jump on the older, wrinkled ones, and they would explode in a magical puff of spores. Good times. For cooking, I treat them simply, peeling away the thin skin, cutting them into thick slices, then frying them in butter. Sometimes, I dip the rounds in beaten egg and porridge oats to give a wonderful, crisp coating. Here, I’m cooking the puffball in the same way I would a steak – on a griddle pan, with good bacon, and some garlic and parsley – the perfect forager’s breakfast.
- 2 large, thick slices of puffball
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 thick rashers streaky bacon
- 2–4 garlic cloves, bashed
- 3 or 4 thyme sprigs
- 1 knob of butter
- 1 small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked and chopped
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat a large heavy-based, ridged griddle pan over a high heat. While it’s getting hot, peel or cut the outer skin from the puffball slices – the skin is very thin, but can be a little tough to eat. Brush the puffball slices with the olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. When the griddle pan is nice and hot, place the prepared puffball slices in the pan. Add the bacon, the bashed garlic cloves and the thyme sprigs, and griddle for 3–4 minutes, until the undersides of the puffball slices have taken on some charring from the ridges of the grill pan. Flip the slices of puffball, and cook for a further 3–4 minutes to char the other sides. Turn the bacon 3 or 4 times throughout the cooking, until it is cooked through and nicely crisped. Take the pan off the heat and add the butter and chopped parsley. Turn the bacon and puffball through the butter as it melts. Divide the puffball and bacon slices equally between two plates and serve straight away.
Recipe taken from Gather by Gill Meller
Published by Quadrille