Truffles mix of potency and scarcity makes them an extraordinary, rare ingredient — but it's one worth seeking out.
There’s simply nothing like truffle. ‘It’s a smell that is at once earthy and divine, damp soil and heavenly choirs,’ wrote Tom Parker Bowles in last week’s Country Life.
‘Sensuous and debased, too, where careless whispers meet illicit delight. For some, it is simply too much, an overwhelming odour that flattens all in its path.
‘For me, however, they err on the divine, a miraculous tuber that can transform the most everyday of dishes into rapturous expressions of gastronomic glee.’
Heady words, and if you need a few minutes to sit down after reading that, we’ll understand. You’ll also be wanting a recipe (see below for that) and a supplier — companies such as First Choice Produce can supply and deliver truffles with grocery orders. They’ve been supplying the restaurants of London for two decades, but in 2020 have started selling direct to the public via their website at www.firstchoiceproduce.com.
Ron Maxfield, a former Michelin-starred chef who is now head buyer for First Choice Produce, is a huge fan of truffles.
‘Truffles are an indulgent way to spoil your family this Christmas,’ he says, adding that they’re such a superb ingredient that simple recipes let them shine.
‘The truffles do the talking,’ continues Ron. ‘We love ours over a rich, indulgent buttery mash, or shaved over a white risotto — the perfect starter that will wow any guest.’
Ron’s other tips? Keep truffles stored in brown paper and in an airtight jar; you can also keep them sealed in with your uncooked rice or eggs, and the taste will work its way through during storage.
Secondly, always use them raw — they’re at their most fragrant when uncooked, so don’t even stir them in to food. Instead, shave them on top of a freshly-prepared dish in front of your guests.
Below is a white truffle risotto recipe beloved of Tom Parker Bowles, taken from Giorgio Locatelli’s classic cookbook Made In Italy.
How to make Giorgio Locatelli’s white truffle risotto, aka risotto alla lodigianna
- White Alba truffle
- 2 litres good chicken stock, prepared and on a low boil
- 250g grated Parmesan
- 250g unsalted butter (cut into even-sized pieces and kept very cold)
- 1 onion, chopped very, very finely
- 400g superfine carnaroli rice
- 300ml dry white wine
- Salt and pepper
Melt 50g of the butter in a big pan, add the onion and cook gently until translucent. Add the rice, stir and cook until well coated, then add the wine. Reduce, then start to add the boiling stock a ladle at a time.
Stir all the time until the rice absorbs the stock, then add another ladle of stock, and repeat. After about 15 minutes, the rice should have a soupy consistency, but the individual grains should still have a bite. Allow the risotto to rest for a minute.
Quickly beat in the remaining cold butter, then beat in the cheese, getting your whole body behind it, moving your beating hand as fast as you can, and shaking the pan with the other. You should hear a satisfying thwock, thwock sound as you work the ingredients in. The result should be a risotto that is creamy, rich and emulsified.
At this point, taste for seasoning and, if you like, add a grind of salt and pepper. Remember, however, that if your stock is strongly flavoured — and once you have added the salty cheese — the risotto may not need any seasoning at all. Then, with a truffle shaver, sprinkle wafer-thin slices of truffle over the rice. You’ll need about 10g per person.
Serve the risotto as quickly as you can, as it will carry on cooking for a few minutes. If you’ve achieved the perfect consistency (all’onda), when you tilt the bowls, the risotto should ripple like the waves of the sea.
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