In these difficult times it’s such a morale booster to spoil ourselves with the fresh local truffles that are now in season. In our household ,having hunted the truffles ( see my previous post ), there has been a lot of discussion on how best to serve them . We have been trying a number of alternatives and everyone seems to have their favourite. Here are some suggestions.
The French prize black truffles which come from the Perrigord region in the south west. They have famous and elaborate recipes that use them in patès and terrines or with poultry and meats.
Personally I think that truffles have such a delicate aroma and taste that they are best served in a way that their unique qualities can be savoured and not overwhelmed by other strong flavours. So I much prefer them grated over eggs, dishes of pasta, gnocchi , rice or polenta, or even on toast. In this way the truffles become the stars of the dish rather than the accompaniment to other flavours. The truffles are never cooked, but grating them over a warm base helps to release their full aromas.
We stored our local truffles, wrapped in absorbent paper to keep them dry, in an airtight glass jar. In the jar with the truffles we placed some of our own wonderful home-produced eggs. As eggshells are porous they absorb the truffle perfume and the whole egg takes on their aroma.
For our first dish we shaved truffles onto our truffle- infused eggs which were simply fried in butter. A little truffle salt ( finely cut truffle pieces mixed with Murray River salt ) was sprinkled on top. This dish can also be made with scrambled eggs if you prefer.
The best way to shave a truffle is with a special truffle shaver, but if, by some chance, you don’t own a truffle shaver, then use a mandolin .
For the second dish we used a base of mashed potatoes into which were placed raw egg yolks. The truffles were then shaved over the top. When you eat the dish the yolks mix with the potato mash and cook slightly giving a richness which goes brilliantly with the flavour of the truffles.
This dish is simplicity itself. A lightly- toasted slice of sourdough bread is topped with homemade butter ( see the recipe in last year’s Lockdown blog post ), shavings of truffle and a sprinkling of truffle salt.
A dish that was a great favourite with the family was ‘Gnocchi alla Romana’ (semolina gnocchi) with sage and truffles. The creaminess of the gnocchi and the delicate perfume of the black truffles make a heavenly marriage of texture and flavour.
For the gnocchi recipe search my blog for the short video where I make this version but also gnocchi flavoured with pumpkin or spinach.
Truffle season is in mid-winter so a hot soup with truffles can be very inviting. Stracciatella is a soup made with fresh chicken broth, one organic truffle-infused egg lightly beaten, some chopped Italian parsley and a few shavings of truffle over the top.
‘Risotto alla Milanese’ with truffles is a classic dish. In Italy it is served with the white Alba truffles which have quite a different flavour, but it is delicious with fresh black truffles as well .
All these truffle recipes use very simple ingredients that are quite easily prepared. Although the dishes are almost cucina povera (country cooking ) the truffles raise them to a whole new level of refinement and indulgence – just what we need to treat ourselves when the world closes in. Let’s hope that the end of the fresh truffle season, which lasts another month or so, will signal the end of restrictions as well. Then we can remember the fresh black truffles as a burst of culinary sunshine that comes every year when the days are cold and short.