Walnut orchards are one of the beauties of the Dordogne and Correze, and of many other parts of southern France such as the Dauphine. The rough grey-walled enclosures of green grass, the smooth silver-grey of the trunks, and the yellowing green of the leaves in autumn have a soothing quietness as one drives along the country lanes. Mostly the walnuts will be sold to French and foreign commercial bakers, like Fullers (the Dauphine includes Grenoble, Montelimar and Gap, which are all famous for their confectionery), and to housewives, but some will be turned into a black liqueur
, creme de noix
, or crushed for walnut oil. Once this was much used by painters, but I imagine that the price caused them to turn to cheaper substitutes long ago. Nowadays walnut oil is a luxury for the knowledgeable cook. Put it at the top of your list of things to bring back from France; it's expensive there, but in England the price seems to jump beyond contemplation. I found this recipe in a French periodical; its combination of walnuts, walnut oil and ceps is unusual and good." When preparing this dish, it is wise to cope with the walnuts well in advance. Choose a peaceful moment, when you can listen to the radio or talk to a friend. Pour boiling water over the shelled nuts, leave them for a few moments, then drain them and remove the fine skins. The fresher the walnuts, the easier this job is - this is really an autumn dish when ceps are in the woods, and the first walnuts arrive from France. I won't deny that this is a fiddly job, but it's worth the trouble because the skins can spoil dishes of this kind with their bitter flavour.