I was enjoying a coffee in a local bar when Nino (not his real name) approached me; in a hushed tone, careful that we would not be overheard, he asked me if I was free later that day and interested in going truffle hunting with him.
Nino, like others who search for the truffles, are obsessively secretive about where they go, to the point where they don’t even want others to know when they are going. They might be followed! I was touched that he had enough confidence in me to take me with him and readily agreed to go.
We met later in the day and set off in his 4x4 with his two dogs in a cage in the back: one an experienced truffle dog, the other, as Nino explained to me, in training.
This is the season for white truffles and properly registered (which Nino tells me he is) you can hunt the white truffle between October and January. The white truffle is the Holy Grail, with prices at ridiculous levels. Somewhat to my surprise Nino told me that he never sells his truffles but he did say that anything we found today would be mine. I was excited!
As it happened we failed to find a white truffle. There was just too much wind and the scents, carried in the air, were confusing the dogs. But we did find four medium sized black truffles and, true to his word, he gave them to me when we parted.
I ate them the way he suggested. Fresh eggs cooked in butter with the flakes of truffle added whilst the eggs were still raw and translucent and then cooked until the yolks were still runny. Delicious.
Two days later I was invited to the house of another friend. It was supposed to be for a quick aperitivo. But he had been out truffle hunting that morning and had returned with several white truffles. We had a feast. Truffles with ravioli made that morning by his mother was the highlight.
And now I hear that truffles are being grown successfully in Monmouthshire……