White Truffles - the season's just starting now, so it's the perfect time to invest in a few morsels as the ultimate gourmet gift.
Every foodie worth their pink Himalayan salt thinks not of chocolate when they hear the word “truffle”, but of prized, odd-looking - and bloody expensive - fungi.
Truffles, which grow underground in parts of France and Italy (before they are dug up by pigs or more usually dogs and sold on like rare jewels), certainly don’t get by on their looks: to the untrained eye they’re little more than misshapen earthy roots.
But to the foodie they’re manna from heaven. The white truffle, mostly found around Alba in Northern Italy, is the most special of all. The people across the region of Piedmont are so proud of their local treasure they devote the month of October to the International White Truffle Fair, where you can book your own truffle hunt or just sample some from the many food stalls.
The season’s just starting now, so it’s the perfect time to invest in a few morsels as the ultimate gourmet gift.
But what to do with these ugly suckers once you’ve got your hands on one? White truffles have a very delicate flavour, which is wasted if mixed with strong flavours, but at the same time it is pungent and unmistakeable. A tiny scraping will enrich a whole dish. Francesco Mazzei of Italian restaurant L’Anima calls them “a true indulgence because they are so expensive, but the perfect ingredient for a special occasion.”
If the expense puts you off– a single 1.5k white truffle sold for £165,000 in 2007 - at least the ease of cooking with truffle is encouraging. “The best way to cook white truffle is very simple – just add it to simple food,” says Mazzei. “It’s the perfect match for eggs – poached, fried, scrambled. And white truffles are the only vegetable you don’t need to cook to get the full flavour.”
Mazzei says it looks like we’re going to have a good season – he gets his from Umbria. The truffle market is so changeable, he adjusts his prices weekly or sometimes daily according to what he paid for the delicacy, but at the moment he is able to charge £30-£35 for a plate of truffle pasta instead of £60.
Get yours from Efoodies, from £90 for 15g, or Harrods at £185 for 25g .
Just don’t be tempted to skimp and go for the oil – Mazzei says oils are based on chemicals and no true truffle connoisseur would go near them.
Also worth your attention:
Taming the Truffle: The History, Lore, and Science of the Ultimate Mushroom
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