Porcini or ceps are considered the king of wild mushrooms. We take some recipe inspiration from the country where they are most revered
The porcini or cep, a name used for four members of the Boletus genus in the UK, is a royal find for foragers wherever they may be in the world. While the British may call the most well-known (Boletus edulis) the penny bun for its alluring, slightly glazed-looking caps, the Italians named them porcini — “piglets” — in recognition of their meatiness.
Apart from the penny bun (Boletus edulis), the summer bolete (Boletus reticularis), bronze bolete (Boletus aureus) and pine bolete (Boletus pinophilus) can all be described as “Porcini” or “Ceps”.
In Poland, where mushroom hunting is considered a national past time, these coveted boletes take centre stage for Christmas Eve (Wigilia) celebrations, with the majority of the country serving them minced up in pierogi (dumplings) suspended in rich, colourful beetroot soup (Borscht). The combination of earthy and sweet flavours makes a real showcase for these mushrooms, which are packed with umami flavour, particularly when dried. Their meaty texture also holds up very well as a filling.
Traditionally, no meat can be eaten on Christmas Eve in Poland, so on this night Uszka (meaning “little ears” in Polish due to their shape) with borscht is always vegetarian. We have also used a traditional recipe for the Pierogi dough that doesn’t involve eggs or butter, making this a fully vegan treat.