Advice for buying and preparing truffles
It is a common perception that the truffle only grows in the Perigord but in fact the black truffle is also cultivated in Provence and the Languedoc.
Truffles are sold in season at markets in Bagnols-sur-Ceze, Anduze, Uzes, Clermont l’Herault and Villeneuve-Minervois. According to the statistics of the CTIFL the Gard produced 15% of national production in the 80s, more than the Drome, Vaucluse and Dordogne.
The largest truffle ever found in France was a 10kg specimen found in the Alpes de Haute Provence in 1860.
The black truffle is also known as the ‘black pearl’ or ‘black diamond’ of the kitchen. This name is given not because of its price but due to the shape of the spores in the mushroom. It takes a lot of patience and loving care to cultivate truffles. They are very sensitive to frost and extreme heat.
All truffles are white when they first appear in May or June but they turn grey and then brownish black. The black truffles are the juiciest and are harvested from November to February. It is possible to discover where they are growing – if there is a bare patch under a tree or if there are tiny swarms of the particular type of fly that feeds near them.
They can also be found by using specially trained dogs or pigs, as you can see demonstrated at one of the truffle fairs in the region … it is said that the animals become intoxicated by the odour of the truffle to the point of addiction!
If you have the opportunity to buy truffles at one of the specialised markets in the region, ensure that they are clean. This will help you ascertain their quality – they should be firm, smell strongly with a marbled flesh, and be black or dark brown. They should be eaten within 10 days of purchasing.
The Gardois people prepare truffles using olive oil. Fresh truffles can be grated over salads or in pasta. They can also be used in omelettes. The oil or juice of truffles can be used to add flavour to just about anything, including oil and vinegar.
Recipes and ideas
For those who want easy truffles recipes here are some simple ideas for using truffles:
1. Cut a French baguette into thin slices, and cut very thin, raw slices of truffle. Toast the bread lightly for 30 seconds. Grate a small amount of garlic onto the bread, dribble with olive oil, and spread the truffle slices on the toast, sprinkled with a little sea salt and ground pepper. Drink with a strong red Cahors wine.
2. Grated in an omelette, in a green salad or with pasta.
3. With fish, by adding some thin slices of truffle over the fried fish just before serving.
4. With potatoes: peel two potatoes, rinse them and cook for 1h 15min in the oven at 180°C in silver foil with a spot of butter. Heat 250cl of cream with 50g of truffles, washed and brushed. Season and put aside. Cut the potatoes into halves. In each plate, place two halves of potato and a teaspoon of the truffle cream. Cut the truffle into fine slices and place them on top of the potatoes. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
Omelette (for four people)
- 30g tiny pieces of truffle, preserved in juice
- 8 eggsMethod:
- Slice the truffles thinly, mix with the eggs.
- Add the juice from the can/jar.
- Leave the mixture to marinade for 1 – 24 hours.
- Beat and cook, adding seasoning.
- When serving, decorate with two or three slices of truffle. Delicious!
Photo by Kimon Berlin via Flickr