Today’s culinary postcard comes from the hills above Manosque in beautiful Provence. Our mission: to find out about truffles. Under a perfect winter sky we’re welcomed on Dominique and Franck’s truffle farm by several of their specially trained dogs. After a few firm handshakes and a quick discussion with their owners, Cheyenne and Jkouette lead the way to a field of truffle oaks where they get to work simply by following their master’s voice and gestures. “We don’t use a leach to train them,” Franck explains, “it takes about a year longer, but I feel the dog is happier and a happy dog is a better worker.” Cheyenne soon starts scratching at the earth around one of the trees. She’s found one! Franck invites our three kids to help dig it up. “Watch your step!” Apparently, truffles don’t like you to step on their heads, so walking around a truffle oak orchard is a lot like avoiding landmines. Franck explains that truffles “scorch” the earth around a tree, leaving it bare in a circular pattern that extends a little bit more every year. As long as we walk on the grassy bits, we’re safe and so are the truffles.
We dig like this for a good hour before going back to Dominique’s warm kitchen to weigh our treasure: 890g! We wash a few tubers under running water with a little brush. “You only do that if you eat them straight away. Water makes them lose their aroma. Usually, Dominique dry-brushes them. It takes forever!” The good news in that announcement is that we are going to get to eat some then and there. Truffles are best eaten raw and with as little fuss as possible, so we simply make a mountain of fresh pasta over which we pour some cream seasoned with pepper from the mill and fleur de sel from the salt marches in the Camargue. Last, Franck grates fresh truffles over the top of the pot with a very fine grater. “Make sure you get a good lot of the black bits,” Dominique recommends. Don’t worry… I will! Bon appétit!
Wish you were here!