I'm a bit reluctant to let you in on a dirty little secret. Then again, as the first winter frost rapidly approaches in France, the season is nearly over, so most of you will have to wait another year before breaking down Comptoir Gascon's door.
Comptoir Gascon in Charterhouse Street, opposite Smithfield Meat Market, is the deli-like outpost of the Michelin starred Club Gascon, which is a bit further up the street. Not only has Comptoir Gascon blossomed into one of my favourite casual eateries in London - a must if you're into well priced, high quality foie gras and other rich French food -, but it's also my shroom supplier of choice.
Since spring of this year, Comptoir Gascon has been selling small quantities of mushrooms, imported from south west France, at well under London market prices. In spring I filled my boots with fresh morels - these strut, thrust and swagger well above ceps/porcini in my world of mushroom greatness - and as summer ended, I bought loads of tasty girolles. Over the last few days my head has been buried, like a pig in a trough, in a large paper bag of la trompette des morts - the trumpet of death.
French trumpets of death are related to girolles, but coal black instead of orange (those in the photo above have been split and wiped) and more prized for their heady aroma than their taste or texture. The aroma is a touch sweet, yet at the same time at the very pungent end of woodsy - imagine, if you can, the smell of sweaty socks skipping shoeless through a damp forest.
Righty-ho, sweaty forest socks are not for everyone. But I can't think of many better quick snacks than trumpets of death seared on a very hot pan with garlic and parsley, tossed on a slice of crusty bread with a grind of pepper.