My father has always been an avid mushroom gatherer, and I’ve inherited his love for wild mushrooms, despite the fact that he’s able to spot a cep a mile off and I usually see one when I almost tread on it… This hasn’t stopped me going out mushrooming with my parents while they were staying these past two weeks, though. The weather had been wonderful, sunny/warm days interspersed with some rain, just perfect for growing mushrooms. The last time we set off for a walk we found plenty of mushrooms, but none of them the kind that we would want to eat. There are many comestible mushrooms, but a lot of them don’t taste fantastic, so in the main we’ve been sticking to ceps.
A few years ago I organized a guided mushroom walk for a group of us, which turned out to be a fantastic experience. Benoit, our guide met us in Ferrals-les-Montagnes, and from there we drove a little way into the forest, where he gave us our orders: pick every mushroom you find, regardless of what it is! After an hour and a half of searching we pooled our loot and our guide explained the different types of mushroom and how to recognize them. He also sorted the safe ones from the poisonous ones, and we ended up with a nice pile of ceps, which were then turned into an omelette.
Whilst we’d been searching the forest, Benoit had been busy preparing for lunch: He’d brought along pate and ham for starters, eggs already beaten in bottles for the omelette, and he had thought of everything, to the point where he had brought real glasses for our wine!
Back to now: since we did not find any ceps ourselves on our last outing we made do with the mushrooms for sale in the market in St Chinian – and that was no great hardship!
Once cleaned my mother cooked the ceps with a cream sauce, and we had them with home-made bread dumplings, a Bavarian speciality – yummy!
Later in the week we all went to Narbonne – I’d heard about a great place for lunch in Les Halles of Narbonne, and decided we’d give it a go. We arrived at the halls around 11.30, in plenty of time to have a good look around and do some shopping. First though, we stopped off Chez Bebelle and asked to reserve for lunch.
The olives looked every bit as good as they tasted, and there was lots more – I just couldn’t keep up with pictures. After a good look at everything we headed back for lunch.
The main attraction at Chez Bebelle is the fact that you all sit around the bar and watch as your food is prepared – well almost, there are some tables next door, but I think it’s much more fun to sit up close to the action. Giles, the proprietor is a well known rugby player from Narbonne, and he has built up a great place to have lunch at. His sister did the cooking when we were there, and she was a model of calm. Giles had written our name on the place mats to reserve our seats, and when he came to take the order that name went on the docket. Then he got his megaphone and called our order across the aisle to the butcher stall.
The meat came neatly wrapped sailing across the aisle (yes, I kid you not – that man knows how to catch!), and then our name got written on it, and it queued up with the rest of the orders.
Right in front of us was the plate with tomato bread – did that look tempting!! By now there were people waiting for seats all over the place and the atmosphere was buzzing!
Soon enough our order was ready – yummy entrecote steaks and hamburgers (one topped with a fried egg) with home made fries! And the tomato bread tasted fantastic!
There was a good choice of desserts, and even though I should not have I did all the same!
There was quite a choice but we plumped for apple and pear crumble and moelleux aux chocolat. And the coffee was one of the best in a long time! I don’t think we’ve ever had this much fun at lunch anywhere. And I know I risk Chez Bebelle getting ever more busy by writing about it, but I think it’s a piece of “real” France that is too good not to share.
After all this food a walk around Narbonne was called for, and I’ll leave you with a few impressions of centre ville.