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Hunting for the truffle, that dark object of desire

Well sheltered, equipped with backpack, stick and dog, we have traveled the north of Huesca in search of truffles, those mysterious mushrooms that hide underground and are paid at 800 euros a kilo. On the way we have met, delicious sweets, great sausages, breathtaking landscapes and a few Romanesque churches. That not everything is eating in this life!

Black, amorphous and, at first glance, unappealing: the truffle is a dark object of desire that has populated the fantasies of gourmets since Brillant Savarin (French gourmet) said that so cheesy that it was “the black diamond in the kitchen " If we did a survey more than one would not know what they are, and probably confuse them with their replicas in chocolate, much more popular.

In Spain the Tuber melanosporum Traditionally it has not been consumed, even in the producing areas (Huesca, Osona, Teruel and Soria). It was with the economic boom when they began to become fashionable, especially in large cities. Until then, the ones that were collected, which were many, were sent (and still sent) to France. The black truffles of the Perigord happen to be the best in the world, but professionals know that a good percentage reaches there from the other side of the Pyrenees.

The truffle business has always been surrounded by mystery. It is a clandestine world, of opaque transactions and handshakes at dusk in the open fields, in which no one likes to talk about quantities, so that the money that moves around this hypogeal fungus that grows on stony soils under oaks, holm oaks and hazelnuts cannot be calculated.

Climate change is the enemy of the truffle. The few rains of the autumns, the mild winters, the absence of hail at the end of August, are getting the figures go down alarmingly. That is to add the stealth (a plague that sweeps everything) and wild boars, which are true gourmets and do not leave buried truffle.

Hope is called truffle. The cultivated truffles (inoculated in the roots of trees with those living in symbiosis) of identical quality to the wild, have become an engine of social and agricultural development that begins to thrive in almost unpopulated areas such as Sobrarbe and Ribagorza. Trufa-Te is an itinerant fair with demonstrations in the different municipalities of the upper Huesca. This year the truffle party will be held on February 23 in Sabiñánigo, where 5,000 portions of truffle will be distributed accompanied by Somontano wines. In Graus there is a truffle market since 1947: now on Saturday afternoons between December 15 and March 15, trufflers put their merchandise (and their knowledge) within everyone's reach. In parallel, the bars make tapas and truffle dishes.

This pint has the truffles © Julia Pérez

Among the many myths surrounding this product is its price. José Luis Aragüe, a truffle maker, disputes it: “Saffron is also expensive, but you don't need a kilo to make a rice, so it's affordable. The same goes for the truffle: with one of 20 euros, well cut, the whole family eats ”.

The truffle brings flavor and smell. Its unmistakable forest aroma is the natural perfume of the earth. It combines wonder with mushrooms, eggs, rice, pasta, etc. "A toast with oil and truffle, like those sold on market days, does not cost more than three euros, just as if you put Iberian ham," explains Carmelo Bosque, chef of the best restaurant in Huesca, Lillas Pastia.

There is no more palatable breakfast in this region than some fried eggs with grated black truffle on top, and that is precisely what can be ordered at the Palacio del Obispo hotel. After a walk around the unique main square, buy truffle hen and pumpkin pasture (sensational!) You can follow the “truffle route” on foot. A path of Nordic walking It takes us to the truffle research center, where we study how to improve the crop and truffles are genetically certified. This is the only way to fight fraud and avoid getting a "Chinese truffle" (Tuber indicum) Very cheap, tasteless and odorless Tuber melanosporum, fragrant, tasty, and more sought after.

If you are lucky, it is possible that some truffle consents to be accompanied by hunting, a verb with which they refer to the fact of looking for truffles. About 1,000 hectares of cultivation are spread throughout the region, plus areas where truffles grow spontaneously. In total, more than 60% of the production comes from Aragon.

On the way to Sabiñánigo, beautiful valleys are traversed, such as Isábena or Fueva, swamps that mark the course of the Cinca, monasteries built in Lombard Romanesque or churches like that of Santa Maria that hardly resist the passage of time. Also truffles, always fenced to protect themselves from wild boars, with holm oaks arranged in rows: 4 hectares, 100 trees, about 100 kilos of truffles per season. And almost forgotten villages: El Grado, Pano, Panizo, Trocedo ... Abizanda, with only 47 inhabitants, greets us with its fortified tower and a unique hotel like few, La Demba. It is worth spending the night and enjoying its story rooms, each decorated by an Aragonese artist, and its kitchen. Alejandro Casado moves the landscape to the plate, proposing a menu with Cinca trout, blue duck, native mushrooms, tenderness and of course, truffle.

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The La Demba Hotel © La Demba

Video: Art Cooking PICASSO (March 2020).

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