We are very lucky to have neighbours who share our passion and enjoyment for food. One is an excellent forager and enjoys nothing more than a harvest of wild mushrooms on toast or a supper of fungi served with wild game.
One totally extraordinary fungi that he has introduced us to is the puffball. I had never tasted a puffball, let alone cooked one before we met him, but it has become an annual dish that he cooks for us, served at the end of October when they seem to be plentiful in the fields around where we live.
His celebratory annual Langermannia Gigantea recipe is below.
1 giant puffball
A little diced bacon
2 Somerset cider apples - peeled, cored and diced
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 shallots, finely chopped
A big blob of unsalted butter with extra for coating the puffball
Handful of chopped parsley
A cup of breadcrumbs
A generous dessert spoon of Dijon mustard
A tumbler of Eldridge Pope's Thomas Hardy ale or similar
A pinch or two sage, black pepper & salt
Oven 220 C / 425 F / Gas mark 7
Gently clean the puffball and pat dry, and place on a chopping board. The puffball needs to sit firmly on the board so if you need to steady the bottom, trim its base slightly so it sits upright.
With a small sharp knife remove a circular section from the top of the puffball, about the size of a beer mat, and set this small section aside.
Delving within the luscious basidiomycete, scoop out the interior, as one might that of a nearly ripe watermelon, and dice. Set aside.
In a cast iron pan soften the bacon, Somerset cider apples, chopped garlic and shallots in a generous blob of butter and olive oil.
Add the diced puffball interior to a large mixing bowl along with a handful of parsley and the softened contents of the cast iron pan. Add the breadcrumbs, dijon mustard and ale. Break the egg on top and mix the contents thoroughly. (I recommend mixing with clean hands - very satisfying). Season with sage, salt and black pepper.
Refill the puffball with this mixture and seal with the circular section. Coat the whole puffball with melted butter, wrap it in foil and bake in the oven for an hour.