There is Truffle & there are Truffles!
October Looms & this year with such wet, humid hot summers my favourite month for two of the best food items in my world, have come early. The wet walnut scatters on the ground for ten days if we are lucky, before being hijacked by squirrels, or indeed whipped onto supermarket shelves at inflated prices, knowingly paid by people like me who wait 11 months of the year to indulge. If you have never tasted a wet walnut, you need to experience its subtle haunting flavour, but be warned, 11 months is a long time to wait. Once cracked its damp tan skin will just peel off and leave you with a pure white, sweet nut, with a flavour like no other. Nut burgers lead a whole different dimension in the flavour stakes, pesto becomes more than pesto and for the real enthusiasts, a wet walnut butter is a lot of hard work but so worth it. (recipes on my www.caaa.london site).
The second rather more luxurious addition to my larder is Truffle.
Not the round confectionary introduced to us by Louis Dufour, who I can personally hold responsible for my ever increasing love of chocolate, but the ones that are in fact pretty unattractive of sorts, hard to find, and variable in size, but always heavy on the wallet.
The Tuber Magnatum, otherwise known as the Alba white truffle. Its a species of fungus, that somehow has us truffle lovers hooked into forgiving it its unsightly visage and that as I said, its a fungus. It does bless us with 3 months of possibilities to explore the areas where Oaks, poplars, willows & lime trees which may be located in moist areas and normally elevated land, to find these balls of sublime loveliness, but its not easy. As a result we have trained a varying ensemble of dogs with special noses to seek them out for us, but I often wonder whether a body guard should follow as prices for these truffles extend into thousands of euros across the board. 2000 to 5000 a kilo to be exact and a good enough reason for Italian administration to issue a tax payable and permit issued, before any truffle hunting can take place, France found its first in 2011 and has yet to extend its permits, but the secrecy to locations are hard to find. Since the recipe for baguettes is still kept under license I m very sure this will soon follow.
The Alba s appearance is pretty bland. An unexciting creamy yellow with rough flaky skin. Easily pushed aside assumed as a rotting walnut! The irony.
On the inside, however, its white young meat changes to an intense pink as it matures, and the tenacious smell that comes with it. Its size can be between a walnut to that of an apple, all of which make the ever increasing popularity of truffle hunting more appealing against the price of the permit required. Of course, like all great things in tis world, its life is short. Not because its easy to consume a whole one in one sitting, but simply because that whoever blessed us with this underground fungus, gave it a very short shelf life. Paper towel and an air tight jar may help extend it for a few days more, but the reality is, a week is all you have to lovingly stare at your find and salivate at the thought of the next meal. Its subtle yet huge in flavour, it turns pizza into something special, risotto is a great friend and scrambled eggs at any truffle fair into one of the most profitable stalls standing.
A word of note - truffle oil is no comparison. Its rude, its strong aroma is a manufactured and, its repeating flavour is an embarrassment to the fabulous Tuber Magnatum.
Let the games begin........
(click on pictures to link you to recipe ideas)