It’s truffle season: what’s the truth behind luxury?


ruffles became what the Michael Kors tote bag was until 2013: expensive, luxurious and much sought after, but also sort of seemingly absolutely everywhere. Present on the menus of the capital all year round, the famous rarefied mushroom is in great demand. So how is it possible that we can roll into hundreds of restaurants and shops and order a dish of pasta or truffle crisps or a bag of crisps for under £ 10 when the current cost of the ingredient is is tearing at £ 6 per gram?

According to Jacob Kenedy, restaurateur of Bocca di Lupo and lover of truffles, it is because more often than not, we are sold a lie. The oil that gives these dishes their truffle flavor probably contains little or no truffle at all. “Real truffles are mainly used when they are worth the most, which is when they are fresh,” he says. “They’re good for at least a week, maybe two, if you keep them in the fridge. The oil comes first from putting gnarled or not-excellent linings in the oil to get some value out of it. It is now a cottage industry where small amounts are produced because a few decades ago someone found out how to synthesize the chemicals that make truffles taste mostly truffle, and therefore virtually any oil you get. buy will be fully synthetic flavored or have flavor and just enough real truffle to say it is real truffle. ‘

And don’t be fooled, either, if you spot a few chips on the top, he continues. “Some places can flavor a dish with truffle oil, then put a little summer truffle or black truffle on top, which has almost no taste, to give the impression that there is real truffle on it. Seems a bit misleading to me, but on the other hand, there is nothing wrong with it as it has truffle on it and it tastes like truffle, although it is something that it is. must be aware.

Meera Cortesi, a truffle merchant who supplies Fortnum & Mason, Panzer’s, and Angela Hartnett, says that aside from the obvious price differences, the main way to tell if this earthy, garlicky, musky conundrum is the real deal is to invest. in the formation of its taste. buds. “The more you eat, the more you know,” she said, “because there are some very talented chefs who will put even a little drop of truffle oil in it.” Another way to make sure you’re getting the genuine item is to do your homework on the chef, she continues. “There are chefs who, in principle, do not touch any truffle product – The River Café, Angela Hartnett, Alain Ducasse – who never use anything other than a truffle.

Kenedy also believes that the best way to know if a product marketed as a truffle is real or not is to know your seasons. “The white truffle season is very short, it goes from the end of October, normally until December and there may be a few in January. White truffles are not that easy to adulterate because they look quite distinctive. Black truffles of different shapes are available much of the year. There is a spring truffle and a summer, an autumn truffle that tastes like something, then there is a winter truffle which is very, very intense and expensive, almost as expensive as the white truffle. . If you have a truffle dish outside of winter and it has a strong flavor, someone probably added something synthetic. ‘ While that’s not always the case, he adds, so it’s essential to check where they’re coming from. “Australian winter truffles are excellent and they are available in the summer here. ”

“If you have a truffle dish outside of winter and it has a strong scent, someone has probably added something synthetic”

Funding a truffle education doesn’t always have to be expensive, says Cortesi. ‘I know a lot of chefs and restaurateurs like Stevie Parle [of restaurants Joy and Pastaio] who always try to sell a truffle at cost because they feel they need to have access to it and it shouldn’t be just the people who have a lot of money. And Kenedy, who also believes in the same principle, allows customers to bring their own truffles – or the ones he sells in his Gelupo ice cream shop across the road – to Bocca di Lupo so that customers can sprinkle the more economical version on what they like. . “Then people can have a really authentic experience like you would in Piedmont, where you would buy a truffle, put it on the table and shave it on the dish you want to eat it on. You can then use a lot of it at a lower price.

With that, let’s go truffle hunting.