Spring truffles & the perfect fried egg
It’s not easy saying goodbye after a wonderful month amongst friends, family and good food in Tuscany, especially when time has flown so quickly and it seems we only just got here. Even though I’m a self-confessed autumn girl, it was particularly nice being back at this time of the year, spring, to indulge in plenty of those food cravings that I have for things that just aren’t the same in Australia. Artichokes, for one. Yes, we have them, but only those large, round mammole kind, not the wonderful, purple and pointy morellini that I love and are so good raw, in salads with chunks of Parmesan cheese. Fava beans by the crateful. Again, we have them, but Australians cook them, not simply eat them raw, snapped right out of their pods, accompanied by a salty piece of pecorino or a silky slice of prosciutto or spalla. Tuscan fava beans are lovely and small, not as bitter and hard as their Australian counterparts who are better off cooked to be palatable (note to self: plant fava beans in the new veggie patch for next spring).
And seeing as my husband is from white truffle land, San Miniato, a particular, peculiar spot between Florence and Pisa where cypress-dotted and forest-covered hills hide this famous and mysterious truffle, we could not leave without indulging in a truffle or three. After a walk around town, taking in the hilltop views, I love making a stop at the excellent butcher, Sergio Falaschi, in the centre of San Miniato, to pick up their unique spuma di gota (a creamy paste of pork cheek), some freshly made sausages and other goodies they have in the shop like whole, lovely, dirty truffles.
White truffles are one of the reasons autumn is my favourite season in Tuscany; November, to be precise, is the ideal moment to be here in San Miniato for that (the white truffle festival is not to be missed). But from around February to April, you can also find spring’s version of the precious white truffle. It’s known in Italian as a tartufo marzolino or marzuolo or tartufo bianchetto (officially, it’s scientific name is tuber borchii vitt). They look very similar to white truffles (tuber magnatum), bearing the same lumpy but smooth exterior (like tiny, nobbly potatoes, freshly dug out of the ground) and a dirty-white interior, but are smaller and with a slightly different earthy aroma – no less aromatic, but perhaps a little less elegant than the white truffle. Still, they make the simplest of meals a suddenly indulgent one.
The nicest way to appreciate a truffle? The simplicity of a fried egg with freshly grated truffle is unbeatable if you ask me.
Uova al tegamino con tartufo bianchetto
Fried egg with bianchetto truffle
Fry an egg to your liking. It goes without saying that a soft, runny yolk is best here as it becomes the perfect vehicle for the grated truffle, which needs something fatty and creamy to bring out its best features. I won’t describe how you should fry an egg simply because there are so many good ways to do it and this topic of the perfect fried egg is covered excellently on Food52. Some fresh sage leaves, infused in the pan fats is optional.
Right before serving and after seasoning with plenty of salt, grate the fresh truffle (for cleaning tips, see this post) over the top of the hot egg and serve with fingers of toasted bread to collect and wipe up that runny, truffly yolk.