Archive for June 26th, 2007

An Italian approach to food, it’s in the details…

So if you’ve seen my Flickr you’ll know I recently came back from La Marche. Now you don’t need telling that the produce over there was fantastic, that’s a given, so I won’t bang on about that. But I’d like to share this little story that sort of sums up the difference in attitude.

So I’m in Ancona airport post security check in one of the two duty free shops, which are more like booths really as the airport is so tiny. I’m looking around for something to spend my last 20 euro’s on. There’s a classically slim, mid 40s, lots-of-make-up Italian lady who’s running the smaller shop, I ask

“Have you got any Truffle oil?” Thinking that’d be a nice little present to myself.

“No, I don’t sell truffle oil, when a they make the truffle oil, they use a extract – a chemical – because truffles don’t last, I recommend this…” She guides me to a small jar of small truffle pieces, carpaccio bianchetto – made by T&C just up the road.

“When you want truffle oil for pasta, take a few pieces out and soak in Extra Virgin olive oil for four days before you need it” She pinched her fingers and thumb together in the foodie way, and finished with the killer line…

“Truffles don’t want to be in oil, they just want to be.”  Brilliant! Sold, I was totally sold on that line, on the story, on the way she saw them as a thing, as something alive, something that just wants to be. What a poetic way to describe a fungus.

And it’s true, back in CP Sainsbury’s tiny end of isle ‘posh food’ stand, I see a small bottle, costing twice as much as I paid for the truffle shards. Ingredients: Olive oil, truffle extract.

From must-be-true!opediaTruffle Oil – It is an important distinction that truffle oil, with the exception of a few very small producers, does not contain any truffles. Most truffle oil is olive oil with chemical compounds added. For the purposes of flavoring some things, the oil, which is, relatively speaking, very inexpensive, is a decent substitute.’

More on La Marche truffles here and truffles in food here. On the plane back I tried to imagine a UK equivalent.. or someone at Gatwick Duty Free trying to explain the differences between loose leaf tea and tea bags or something. But wait, Truffles are native to the UK too! So much so that there’s Truffle UK, a company that specialise in dealing ‘truffle infected’ trees. They also sell truffle products, there’s lots on the press cutting page, including a box out from Country Life on how to train your hound to be a truffle hunter.

Anyway, to the kitchen. So I took her advice, and made a few dishes with my holiday spoils. Here’s the ingredients. Tasted fantastic, tasted of the earth.

Message to Wayne Hemingway…

.. it’s just pronouced ‘flicker’ not ‘Flickcaaaaaaaaarh‘ as you said on BBC Breakfast this morning!

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These are my personal views and not those of Channel 4 or the BBC
June 2007