Well, it seems everyone is interested in the roadside truffles we bought on a whim as we whizzed through Slovenia on our way to the mountains. A tiny knob of white truffle, it stank out our car all the way through Italy, over the Simplon Pass and into the Valais. Truffles to me seem to walk that fine line between smelly socks and gloriousity. A whiff is heady but prolonged exposure can be fatal, especially in close confines. But the earthy, rich smell and taste is beautiful in small amounts.
I have to admit, my experience with truffles is limited. I had a fantastic truffle pasta in Berlin last year - freshly cooked, home-made linguine was bought to the table, heaped onto a giant split-open wheel of parmigiano and twirled and tossed on the open surface to coat every strand in a cheesy sauce. Then it was piled onto my plate and black truffles shaved onto it. Heavenly, i tell you! With a glass of red wine - bliss. At the beginning of our Croatian adventure we went to eat at a small konoba (small family-run restaurant) in Medveja and I had a perfectly-cooked grilled organic steak with truffle sauce (pictures and so forth to come in a separate post), which was absolutely delicious. Other than that, I've never cooked with truffles. I wanted to do something special with it, but we arrived on a Sunday and the shops were closed and we didn't have much foodstuffs with us by then (having eaten our way through my carefully prepared stash of deserted island goodies). So we arrived, starving and grumpy, and I ended up making a variation on the linguine I ate in Berlin. Ok, the pasta wasn't handmade, and I didn't have a wheel of parmegiano to toss it on, but it tasted pretty great anyway. No pictures unfortunately, we were too hungry to wait! Even Max enjoyed the truffle pasta (Lola stuck to butter and parmegiano, we were too tired to argue).
We had a small piece of truffle leftover, which I enclosed in a container with 4 eggs. The truffle aroma and flavour permeates through the shell to the egg, leaving the eggs beautifully truffle-scented. I scrambled the eggs the next morning, and grated the remaining piece of truffle over the top, with hot buttered toast. Actually, it was surprising how strongly the truffle smell and taste came through in the eggs before the truffle shavings, after just one night of permeating.
I wish we had bought more truffles now that it's gone! But we had only a few Croatian kunas left and either a 5 euro note or a 50 euro note. We weren't about to spend 50 euros on truffles! So we bought just a tiny knob. But that tiny knob stretched out to two meals, turning those simple meals into something quite special and luxurious. Bruno and I were out to dinner on Friday night and a waiter brushed past me bearing a truffled pasta...the merest whiff was enough to turn my head. Once you know the smell it is instantly recognisable, very distinctive. So maybe I shall have to hunt down more truffles this season, for just one more truffle hit...
Store cupboard white truffle pasta
- knob of white truffle
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- a little olive oil
Cook the linguine in plenty of boiling salted water until al dente, the drain. While the pasta is draining, throw a good generous sized chunk of butter into the pot and a little olive oil. Tip the steaming hot pasta into the pot, then grate a goodly amount of parmigiano into it all, stirring and mixing all the while until each strand is coated in a scrumptious buttery, cheesy sauce. if you have a big truffle, shave some into the pasta now, and then more once the pasta is plated. If you have just a teensy ball like we did, wait until you have put the pasta in the plates before you shave the truffle onto the pasta. Mix a little so that the truffle flakes are warmed, to release the flavour and aroma. Inhale the good smell! Add more parmigiano and salt/pepper to taste. A glass of hearty red wine is obligatory. Enjoy!
Morning truffled eggs
- a small piece of truffle
- good bread
- salt and freshly ground pepper
Store a piece of truffle with some eggs for a night, or day, on the benchtop (not too long, as the truffle loses its perfume quite quickly, and the eggs will go stale). Crack the eggs into a bowl and whisk with a fork. Season. Melt a knob of butter into a heavy-based pan. When the butter foams, tip the eggs into the pan, turn the heat down a little, and move them around so that they cook in lovely luxurious waves or curds (not tight scrambled little lumps). Take the pan off the heat just before they are done - the eggs should still be quite wet, but will continue to cook in the pan while you dish up. Once the eggs are plated, shave your truffle piece over them. Serve with hot buttered toast. Very delicious. Quite surprisingly truffley. With coffee, of course. Or maybe prosecco for an added element of luxury :) For some reason I really felt like eating mine with halved cherry tomatoes, but we didn't have any as I'd eaten them all as we drove through Italy :(