These tasty breaded fritters are our favourite way to eat giant puffballs. You can add all kinds of flavourings – ground spices in the flour or eggs, dried herbs or grated parmesan in the crumbs – but the suggested paprika and celery salt really seem to enhance the mushroom flavour. Because puffballs can vary so greatly in size it’s impossible to give quantities for any of the ingredients – so what follows is simply a guideline for the technique of schnitzel-making. We tend to work in batches, beating a couple of eggs to begin with, preparing a dish of about four tablespoons of seasoned flour and another with two or three handfuls of breadcrumbs, and making up more as required. Pre-cooking the slices of puffball brings our their flavour and gives them a melt-in-the-mouth texture. Serve the schnitzels hot and crisp from the pan with wedges of lemon, a handful of wild leaves and a bowl of mayonnaise for dipping.
- 1 giant puffball
- Olive oil for shallow frying (we find light olive oil gives the crispest result)
- Plain flour
- Sweet paprika (optional)
- Celery salt (optional)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Fresh white breadcrumbs or Panko
- Clean the surface of the puffball with a brush and dampened kitchen paper, paying particular attention to the bumps around the base, which can harbour mud and moss.
- Cut the puffball into manageable-sized chunks (if necessary), then into to 1–1.5cm thick steaks (don’t be tempted to try to make huge slices: they’re very tricky to coat with crumbs and are likely to break in the process). If the skin is thick and tough, or very damaged or dirty, trim it off and discard.
- Set a large frying pan over a low heat and add some olive oil. Gently fry the puffball slices until softened and lightly golden, for about a couple of minutes on each side. Lay the cooked puffball slices on kitchen paper to drain, and leave to cool.
- Put the flour into a shallow dish and season with salt, pepper and, if using, paprika and celery salt. Crack the eggs into another shallow dish, and season with salt and pepper (or celery salt, if using). Put the breadcrumbs into a third shallow dish.When the puffballs slices are cool, lay a sheet of kitchen paper on top of them and press them to flatten them slightly and remove any excess oil.
- Cover the base of the frying pan with olive oil and add a knob of butter. Set the pan over a medium heat. When the butter is melted and the oil is hot, dip a slice of fried puffball into the seasoned flour. Shake off any excess, then dip it into the beaten egg. Allow any excess to drain off, then dip the slice into the breadrumbs, turning it to ensure a good even coating. Shake off any loose crumbs and add to the hot oil in the pan. Repeat with further slices, cooking in batches and avoiding overcrowding the pan, frying the fritters for a couple of minutes on each side until golden and crisp. Drain on kitchen paper and serve hot.
Make sure that your puffball is pure white throughout before you cook it. The flesh turns yellow as the mushroom matures – if any yellowing is visible, the puffball should not be eaten.