Each autumn and winter beautifully varied fungi are available in abundance in Barcelona. I see them in shops and at the fresh produce markets – Mercat de l’Abaceria Central, at Travessera de Gràcia 186, and La Boqueria Market downtown at Las Ramblas. Foraging for wild mushrooms is an age-old tradition in Catalonia. Once you taste them, you’ll never want to go back to boring little mass-grown hothouse white button mushrooms. The meaty texture and complex earthy flavours of Catalan mushrooms are simply unbeatable.
- Camagroc have thin yellow stems with a small umbrella top.
- Ceps (or porcini) are chubby mushrooms, shaped like a bread roll, with pale grey or yellow pores.
- Rovello is sometimes paired with white truffle and champagne.
One of my best childhood memories is foraging for mushrooms on a wet, autumn afternoon. It was also something my late mother loved to do. I’m keen to cook some rovello mushrooms I buy from a store on Verdi Street in the historic district of Gràcia where I’m staying.
My Airbnb host is mostly vegetarian, but fungi are not her thing. “Oh, mushrooms! I don’t eat them,” says Ana. “I’ll have to call my mother and ask her what to do.” So she calls her mother. It’s fairly simple. Good organic Spanish olive oil, lots of garlic, white wine, parsley, salt and pepper. Cleaning the mushrooms takes a while under cold running water. They’re robust in shape and texture but also delicate. The dirt has a way of penetrating every groove and it takes at least 30 minutes to clean them well. Ana slices them into large pieces, and adds them to olive oil she has heated in the frypan. After a few minutes she adds the garlic, salt and pepper and cooks them some more, stirring all the time. She sloshes in some wine.
Because these are large mushrooms, they take about 20-25 minutes to cook. Ana adds chopped parsley towards the ending of cooking.
And that’s it. Delicious!
Excellent quality oil in this dish is a must. I did a tasting of organic Spanish olive oils, at nearby Oli Sal, Travessera de Gràcia 170, and it was a revelation. My favourites: L’Oli Ferrer, a creamy oil with a slightly grassy flavour that develops on your tongue, and Cortjdo de Suerte Alta which is robust with peppery notes. Of course I bought some!
Setas Fritas Picantes
Spicy Fried Mushrooms
2 tblsp extra virgin Spanish olive oil
500g quality mushrooms, cleaned and sliced into thick pieces
4 cloves of garlic finely chopped
100g unsalted butter
1 small, fresh red chilli or 1 tsp dried chilli flakes
50g Iberian jamon or proscuitto, finely chopped
125ml sparkling white wine or Manzanilla sherry
2 tblsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
Sea salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
Lots of crusty fresh bread
Glass of chilled white wine for the cook. A glass of Vega Barcelona Brut Reserve NV would be excellent.
- Take a sip of wine and continue to do so at regular intervals throughout cooking. It’s hard work and you’re earning it
- Heat the oil and butter in a frying plan over medium to high heat
- Add the cleaned mushrooms and cook for about 8 minutes until tender
- Turn the heat down to simmer and add the garlic, chilli and jamon, salt and pepper
- Cook for a couple of minutes and then add the sherry or wine
- Simmer uncovered for another 2 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated
- Just before serving add the parsley
- Be generous with the bread and don’t forget glasses of wine and/or sherry for your guests!
Meanwhile, more about Ana…
This is Ana with one of her oldest friends, Jack. He owns Jack Born, at Carrer de Santa Maria 6, one of the most fashionable street wear boutiques in Barcelona. Ana used to own a boutique as well. In fact, she’s a walking shopping bible for Barcelona – but more about Ana in another post. Buen provecho!