Addicted to truffles
New Zealand’s truffle season begins this month, with one taste leaving this foodie keen for more.
Dark, knobbly, smelly and addictive, New Zealand truffles arrived in Auckland this lunch time.
For the second year running, The Langham Hotel has been the first to secure a supply of these rare and precious black funghi.
Head chef Ofir Yudilevich has created a four-course menu for truffle lovers to indulge their senses in, from which diners can choose just one course or the entire menu.
His crayfish tortellini, wild mushroom risotto, tournedos Rossini and Brie a la Trusse (a French brie; the only non-New Zealand item on the menu) are all truffle-infused – and delicious.
It’s not all plain sailing for this head chef, though.
“Ever since people heard that we were going to be using New Zealand truffles on our menu, keen ‘truffle hunters’ have been bringing in some rather interesting looking black smelly things for us to consider for the menu,” Yudilevich says, with a bit of a laugh.
The worst culprit resembled something that Yudilevich says was most likely “left by a cat in the garden”.
“When they first started coming into the office I went to examine all of the offerings, but then we decided to stick to our supplier, which has been utterly reliable and is supplying us with fantastic truffles,” he says.
Like most chefs with a reliable truffle supply, Yudilevich is closely guarding the finer details of the arrangement.
Truffles have an intense aroma that can most accurately be likened to mushrooms. This year they cost NZ$3500 per kilogram and taste utterly addictive to food lovers – sans the actual problem of being addictive.
There are currently more than 100 truffieres in New Zealand but only nine are expected to produce truffles this year, since truffles are highly sensitive to weather changes, especially dampness.
The New Zealand truffles at the Langham for the next eight to 12 weeks are all of the French Périgord variety. In France, Perigord black truffle production is estimated to total less than 100 tonnes, with this scarcity driving up prices worldwide.
The truffle (Tuber melanosporum) is a fungus that produces its fruiting bodies under the surface of the soil growing on and around the roots of Hazelnut, English Oak, and Holly Oak trees.
Truffles have a black outer with a purple black flesh that is finely veined. Unlike mushrooms that grow above ground and spread spores in the wind, truffles produce a smell that entices animals (particularly pigs and dogs) to dig them up.
They tend to thrive in limestone-rich alkaline soils, in climates similar to France’s Massif Central and northern Italy.