Cep, parmesan and wild herbs

“Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify, simplify!” – Henry David Thoreau

Only pristine bouchon (ie. like a champagne cork) penny buns will do for this recipe

I would choose this as my last meal. It is simply perfect and perfect simplicity. You just need to ensure that your ceps are young, firm and crisp, with a texture almost like tender coconut. As less than about 1 in 30 of the ceps you come across will be in this condition, its worth treating them well – they are just too fine and rare for cooking ,and should be celebrated in all their glorious, raw simplicity. And don’t penny-pinch on the parmesan!

Cep and parmesan salad with wild herbs – as served on one of my fungi forays. I used slightly more mature ceps in this version – not quite so crisp, but still pristine and delicious!


  • As many perfect penny buns/bouchons (ie. like a champagne cork) ceps as you can muster (as per the pictures above)
  • Some really good parmesan. I’m afraid I have found no wild or even British substitute for this.
  • Wild herbs of your choosing – I can vouch for cow parsely, sorrel, ground elder, wood sorrel, wild thyme, sweet cicely, spignel. You can use tame herbs if you must!
  • Beechmast oil to keep things wild, or good quality, light olive oil
  • Crab apple verjuice or lemon juice
  • Seasoning. Hardcore wild foodies can use samphire salt and pepperwort

Slice the cep thinly and combine with parmesan shavings and the other ingredients to your taste. Share only with very good friends. The joy of this dish is it can be knocked up in seconds in the woods and eaten leaning against the very tree around the roots of which the mushroom’s mycelium is still entwined.

I am indebted to Simon Hopkinson’s impeccable taste and good fortune for providing me with the tame version of this recipe. In the excellent “Roast Chicken and other Recipes” he reminisces about sitting down on the verandah of an Italian Alpine restaurant and, without ordering, or even speaking to the staff, was simply presented with this dish! I love that.

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  • just detected your website – great!
    I am a veritable addict to Scotland and to wild plants (among other books I wrote “Wilde Genüsse” – it is an encyclopedia of edible wild plants). As a nutritionist I recommend wild stuff. Having to walk a bit and collect for a while to get your food plus the many beneficial contents of wild plants is just perfect for the prevention and treatment of the consequences of civilization like metabolic syndrome and other diseases.
    I wish you lots of ardent followers on your foraging tours and a lot of buyers of your products.
    Warm regards from Vienna

    • mark says:

      Hi Margot,
      Thanks for your nice comments, so glad you like Scotland! I had a look at your website – it looks lovely. And I really wish your book was published in English – it looks beautiful!
      Maybe we should talk about an exchange visit to learn about the distinct wild foods in each other’s regions? Email me if you’d like to talk about this.
      I think the connection and intimacy with nature that foraging provides is just as good for us mentally as the physical benefits of the plants. We are so lucky!
      Happy foraging,

  • Elaine Pushman says:

    Hi Mark

    I would love to dry my mushrooms which dehydrator do you use can you divulge the maker.

    Happy Christmas


    • mark says:

      Excalibur is the brand leader, and while they are the best build quality, it doesn’t justify, imo, the huge price tag. I got a 7 tray job with thermostat for about quarter the price of its excalibur equivalent. Does just the same job, just as well. Don’t pay loads extra for a built-in timer as a timer plug costs about £5! My dehydrator doesn’t have a brand marked on it. There are 2 ways to go: with sliding (removable) draws, or stackable. My friend uses a stackable system, which seems to be more energy efficient as you can leave out stacks. Shop around.

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