Navarre’s black diamonds
In Navarre there are diamonds. They are rugged, not too big and dark. They hide underground, about a foot below the ground. They grow naturally in the Sierra de Lokiz with the scientific name of Tuber melanosporum and you get to pay up to 1,000 Euros a kilo. No wonder it is considered a jewel of Spanish cuisine. If you do not know what we mean, ask someone who enjoys good food and read on.
To enjoy it you have to know it, know that it is an unbeatable condiment, but not necessarily an unaffordable luxury, that its presence enriches all kinds of recipes, from haute cuisine to homemade, but that is not consistent with any ingredient. We are talking about black truffles.
This good for the palate even has a museum, the Truffle Museum or Metauten Interpretation Centre, situated within walking distance of the ground that gives this precious fruit and surrounded by houses. It is the only museum of its kind in the country. It not only allows visitors to examine every detail of this product (even with microscopes), it also presents its entire life cycle, from harvesting to the desired moment of tasting.
Around the truffle cult are the specialist Serafin Nieva and restaurateur Koldo Rodero, who illustrate and advise on this delicacy from the centre’s audiovisual room. They explain, for example, that its peak harvesting is between the months of December and March and the summer speciality, the Tuber aestivum, is somewhat easier to find in the markets between June and September, at a much more affordable price.
The favourite time for those seeing the process in the Truffle Museum is undoubtedly finding out how animals smell the truffle, picking the treasure in the form of a mushroom and taking it to the centre's kitchen. This completes an experience that not only pleases the stomach, for it is the aroma and not the taste which is key and actually enhances its companion on the plate.
Maria Martinez Etxeberria, the directress of the Navarran centre, gives the keys to what is considered one of the most recurrent and simple recipes related to black diamond, the truffled fried egg. This requires putting a truffle and about six eggs in a sealed container for five days. In this time the shell will absorb the aroma through its pores and the eggs, ready for frying, will have a special flavour.
Pictures: Museo de la Trufa
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