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Truffle Hunting in the Dordogne

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Truffle Hunting in the Dordogne

December through February is renowned in the Dordogne region of France as Truffle season. Referred to as the ‘diamonds of the culinary world’ you can begin to get a sense of the rare luxury this food provides. This mysterious delicacy is grown underground in symbiosis with the roots of certain trees, ripening over months in the soft soil then sought out by dogs or pigs. Cleaned and readied they are then brought to one of the many markets with the best being in Exicideuil, Sorges and Riberac. Restaurant owners and suppliers come from all over France and Italy to take place in the bartering of such a rare product with prices fetching up to £350 for a pound.

Buying a Truffle requires some precautions, like any spice or a great fragrance, the highest quality are rare, expensive and will leave you wanting more. The Dordogne is strewn with Truffle farms, branching out from commercial settlements to little known corners of the region where select farmers nurture their plots of soil and take utmost pride in their harvest. However large or small they all congregate to sell their wares in the quaint and bustling historic markets, where you can really get a sense of the delight this good brings. Yet they also come with a side note of caution, experts and specialists in these markets give lessons on how to spot the most flavoursome truffle, how they should be kept – never in oil! – and what to cook them with.

Truffle Hunting in the Dordogne  

A thirty minutes’ drive north of Périgueux, the town of Sorges hosts the Truffle Museum; rich in the history of the discovery of this delicacy. In this museum you also learn some little known facts, for instance it is common for women in the South-West of France to be missing a few fingers; according to an age old legend, pigs used to seek out the truffles and are extremely unwilling to give them up, so will defend their prize, unafraid to bite off a few fingers in the process!
You can also buy freshly harvested truffles along with other such locally sourced condiments like pear and truffle jam or green tomato and truffle chutney. Ending the excursion with a walk along the Sentier des Truffières, a 1.8-mile, truffle-rich trail that winds through vineyards, walnut plantations and meadows encapsulates the ambiance of the Dordogne.

Truffle Hunting in the Dordogne

One recipe we found to be particularly delicious is freshly cut black truffle cooked into fresh Italian pasta with shavings of truffle and a sprinkling of ground pepper, the dish is a mouthwatering and satisfying meal as a starter or main.

INGREDIENTS

  • Kosher salt
  • 2 ounces fresh black winter truffles
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/4 stick)
  • 5 anchovy fillets, patted dry and finely chopped
  • 5 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
  • 1 pound fresh fettuccine or tagliatelle pasta
  • 2/3 cup finely grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese (about 2 ounces)

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil over high heat.
  • Finely chop half of the truffles; set aside.
  • Heat the oil and butter in a large frying pan over medium heat until the butter foams. Add the chopped truffles, anchovies, garlic, red pepper flakes, and measured black pepper and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat and set it aside.
  • Drop the pasta into the boiling water and cook until it’s al dente, about 2 minutes. Using tongs, transfer the pasta directly to the reserved frying pan. Set it over medium heat, add 1 cup of the pasta cooking water, and toss until the sauce thickens slightly and the pasta is coated, adding more pasta water by the tablespoon to reach the desired sauce consistency.
  • Remove the pan from the heat, add the cheese, and toss until the pasta is well coated. Taste and season with additional salt and black pepper as needed. Divide the pasta among 4 or 6 serving bowls and thinly shave or slice the remaining truffles over the pasta. Serve immediately.
Truffle hunting is an experience few have had the opportunity to enjoy, yet with the industry growing there is no better time to take a relaxing few days to explore the beautiful rolling countryside and relish in the sumptuous delights Truffles can create.

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