Soil. mushrooms. Black olives. Ripe fruit. Dried plums. Honey. Musk. sperm. Dried meat. In truffle love, a Dutch documentary about the French truffle hunting that premiered last week, a lot of words are used to describe the taste and smell of the Tuber Melanosporum. The most imaginative description comes from poet Gustaf Sobin, from his novel The Truffle Lover: “More animal, fleshier, more game-like than anything vegetable.”
truffle love is a poetic and aphrodisiac film. After seeing it, you’ll want to go straight to Provence to eat truffles from one of the three star chefs who are followed by the camera. Or to go hunting with truffle poacher Serge Neri. What he’s doing—hunting for truffles on land he doesn’t own—is illegal. But Neri defends his theft very sympathetically: „Call me an anarchist, but the truffle belongs to everyone who finds it. It is a gift from nature. That’s why I never sell them, but I share them.”
The trailer for ‘Truffle Love’.
We see the poacher at the table with family and friends, gathered around a plump omelette laced with black speckles. Later we see him stuff a soft white cheese in a box with shaved truffle. The box goes in the oven and a little later everyone dips their bread in the melted truffle cheese. Well, such a movie. Delicious. But he does not give a lot of practical information about truffles. That’s why I’m doing it here today. So that you know the hat and the brim when you walk out of the cinema with an uncontrollable truffle craving.
Two hundred truffle varieties
Botanically speaking, truffles belong to the fungi. They grow underground, where they form a symbiosis with the roots of trees. There are about two hundred truffle varieties worldwide, of which the black winter truffle (Tuber Melanosporum) and the white autumn truffle (Tuber Magnatum Pico) are the most interesting from a culinary point of view.
Black winter truffles cost between 400 and 1,500 euros per kilo. That sounds like a power, but you don’t need a lot of it to flavor a dish. When purchasing, note that the truffle is deep black with white veining. The browner the truffle and the grayer the veins, the less the quality.
A fresh truffle, wrapped in kitchen paper and refrigerated, can be kept for ten days. According to some, it can also be frozen without loss of quality, but I have no experience with that. What I do do: keep the truffle for one or two days in a closed box with either a few eggs or risotto rice. Both absorb so much scent from the truffle that you can make a delicious omelette or risotto with them without needing the truffle itself.
Where white truffle should be eaten raw, black truffles can be prepared both hot and cold. They come into their own in combination with protein-rich products: eggs, fish, meat, but also legumes, pasta and rice. A little fat – cream, butter or olive oil – helps to bring out the flavors and ingredients like anchovies, Parmesan cheese and dried mushrooms act as a flavor enhancer.
Other than that I can only advise: keep it simple. The simpler, the more you taste of that animal, meaty, game-like Sobin is talking about.