Three years ago I bought my very first black truffle. The occasion was the truffle fair at Moussoulens, which is held each year on the third Sunday of January and the event was documented on my then blog
A short fifteen minute drive from Carcassonne, Moussoulens is a nondescript village that I wouldn’t bother stopping in usually but then I wouldn’t miss the truffle fair - it is the village’s moment of glory.
Whilst the Januarys of my former life were always long and grey and wet and dreary and exceptionally grim in nature, January in the Languedoc is invariably dry and bright and joyful because everything doesn’t just come to a halt - there is a festival of some sort every month of the year and January belongs to the black truffle - and as ever, the sun shone, even if the air was cold, and the snow sparkled on the Pyrennean peaks.
There was wine to be tasted (of which Dom. Guilhem Barre stood out - but more of that another time), sausages to be squeezed and sniffed, bands playing the local drinking songs and donkey rides for the children.
The main event was of course the truffle market. I read that last year 120kg was sold at a fixed market price of €1000 a kilo - that is a lot of cash changing hands (it is all in cash) and whilst the market is official and regulated you just can’t help wondering how much of that finds it’s way back to Paris. I hope someone enjoys my €45.
Three years ago after buying my first truffle I posed the question at the end of my blog “What do I do with it now?”. Three years on and I know exactly what to do with it.
Some people say that the aroma is strong and overpowering for other food - you can put it in an eggbox and the eggs will take on it’s aroma, that is indeed true - but I think it has a perfume that is unique and I use the word perfume deliberately - like Chanel No 5 or Chateau Ausone the aroma is heady and multilayered and instantly recognisable.
So, my advice is not to drown it, confuse it or contradict it with any other flavours. A simple creamy risotto blanc with shaved truffle stirred in at the last moment, a plate of farm fresh scrambled eggs and truffle or a soup of creamy celeriac topped with truffle shavings and finely chopped celery leaves. The blandness, if that is the right word for those delicious base ingredients, lets the truffle shine - it’s flavour speaks most eloquently with the creamy texture of each of those dishes.
One truffle can go a long way, or not - it all depends on whether you grate it or shave it on a peeler and how much you add to your dishes. Personally, I like to taste it and truffle season is just that - it is here and now and that is where it belongs.
I am already looking forward to next January.