Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The World of Truffles

For those of us with a normal sized wallet, some foods are totally out of reach, and others may be consumed in small quantities. However, they can always be called luxurious food. A glass of summer truffles (image) will cost you € 600 pr. kilo. That is however inexpensive compared to the price of black and white truffles.

The summer truffle is the less expensive of the varieties and widely available in grocery stores. But it is worth paying the price, as a little of it goes a very long way. The truffle has a wonderful ability to enhance the taste of every dish they are used. But the really great experiences trufflewise are those you get where truffles are only one of a very few ingredients.

I have used summertruffels in my cooking for some years. Still the star of the truffle world is the white truffel. Compared to the summer truffel it is so much more aromatic in taste - and so much more expensive. White truffles may be sold for up to € 5000 - 7000 a kilo. I have tasted a dish with white truffles only once.

In July 2000 I stayed a small in week in Florence and one evening I and my travel companion had a great meal. The nearest neighbour of our restaurant was the impressive Il Doumo, the Cathedral in Florence. And it was a wonderful warm italian evening. We were served a simple dish, raviolis with a basil and walnut filling in a creamed white truffle sauce. The experience will follow me to the day I die.

I also remember one episode with the famous english-italian cook Antonio Carluccio. As he visited the heal of Italy, Puglia, in quest of the white jewel, he prepared the most expensive pasta dish in the world for the trufflehunter and his wife. They were peasants that never had tasted this wonderful ingredient in spite of the fact that it grows outside their doorstep. She was highly skilled in the art of cleaning and preparing truffles for sale. Antonio Carluccio boiled some plain tagliatelle, and then prepared the sauce. Butter heated in a skillet, a little salt and pepper and a €750 white truffle. Some of it slighty warmed in the skillet and the rest mixed raw into pasta in thin slices. And to end it - some parmeggiano reggiano. And then she tasted truffles for the first time in her life.

Then we have the black truffles. I remember I bought 30 grs of the stuff, i.e. truffles from Perigord, at the Delhaize Supermarket in Ixelles in Brussels. I paid €60 for the small tin. That is €2000 pr. kilo. I served the contents in a wonderful rich chickenliver mousse. It was superb!

My favourite recipe is a pastadish where one of the summertruffles (there are usually two in a glass), is blended with basil, parmeggiano, walnuts, stock, marsalawine and cream. The sauce is heated, and allow to warm over a very gentle heat, and served with Nero de Spia black pasta - coloured with squid ink. A dramatic recipe.

So run out and buy some truffles wherever you live. Here are two useful links to the world of truffles, and some recipes.

The website of the Urbani family - one of the larges italian providers of truffles

The FAQ Cooking with truffles will provide you with some good recipes with truffles

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