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Hunting truffles

Tuberibus conspersit - In the olden days of the Greeks and Romans, truffles were ­considered an aphrodisiac, not least of all owing to their ­irresistible aroma. Stefan Heilemann is a chef who enjoys working with luxury products. Mixing classical French cuisine with elements of the modern kitchen is the formula favoured by the 18-point chef who joined the kitchen of the Widder Restaurant in ­Zurich.

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His rule is simple: only the best is good enough. ´The quality of truffles can be recognised by their smell, texture, and level of maturity. While their ­texture should be firm, the level of Périgord truffles’ maturity can be recognised by their full-bodied deep-black colour and that of Alba truffles by their light brown hue.´
For storage, it is ­recommended to roll the truffles in a paper towel and keep them as airtight as ­possible in a preserving jar or a plastic container in the refrigerator. This way, truffles can be stored for up to five days, although they do lose some of their flavour every day.
Except for the fact that they are both ­truffles, white and black truffles share very few similarities. Their taste is different, and they have different uses in the kitchen. While white truffles are shaved over a dish, because their aroma is very volatile, black truffles develop additional aroma when heated, for instance, briefly in butter. ­Truffles from the region of Alba in Piedmont are clearly the most expensive.

Truffles are sold by weight: white truffles start at 1,000 Swiss francs per kilogram and black truffles at 3,000 francs. Depending on size and quality as well as supply and demand, their price may be considerably higher.
In principle, fat is essential in a truffle dish. White ­truffles do not like acidity as it destroys their flavour, and one has to be very careful to avoid it. ­Personally, I consider eggs to be the best combination with ­truffles. For winter, we are planning a dish consisting of ­egg-yolk ravioli accompanied by spinach, Parmesan cheese and white truffles.
The aroma of white ­truffles is distinctive and difficult to define.While their traditional harvesting season is mid-­October to end December, today, the first white truffles are harvested as early as September, and Péri-gord truffles from the beginning of December to the end March. Meanwhile, winter truffles from Australia can be enjoyed in the European summer, and their quality is in no way inferior to that of truffles from France.

Widder Restaurant
Rennweg 4, Zurich
+41 044 224 25 26
widderhotel.com

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