Tuesday, October 30, 2007


On a recent visit to London to see my lovely brother and his lovely wife, we had lunch at Carluccio's on Putney riverfront. After platters of olives, peppers, Italian-style greens and aubergine caponata, we were distracted by the shop. Okay... it was me. I was distracted by the shop. I managed to avoid the temptations of the fresh and bakery counter, since we still had to travel home. But the array of cupboard goodies was too much to resist... and I picked up a few things that I knew I'd seen in recipes somewhere... or that I knew I could make something delicious from... so, rose-scented chocolate... Italian Limoncello... and white truffle oil. Well, a few months later, we happened to be served a white bean and truffle soup in a local restaurant. It was one of those mini-courses, you know, they arrive between starter and mains, and they're almost always way too small and leave you wishing you'd ordered a whole dish and nothing else. (Actually, this day, our mains were even better than the tiny espresso-cup of white soup, so we left happy.)

So I finally had an excuse to pop open the truffle oil. I licked a bit that dribbled out as I poured, and it knocked my socks off. This is one of those ingredients that just takes over any dish, I think. It's a luscious flavour of mushroomy, earthy, garlicky, richness, for simple dishes, and you only need a drop - maybe a tablespoon for a four-person soup (in proper bowls). I added a bit at the beginning but all it needed was a splash at the end. Now I'm off to hunt for more truffle recipes to try out,... I have my eye on a brie and truffle tarlet...

1 slender leek, finely sliced (discard the green)
1tbsp butter
3 cups cooked butter beans, shelled
1-2 cups Marigold vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
1tbsp white truffle oil
Snipped chives, to garnish

Soften the leek in the butter ever so gently, with a lid on, for at least ten minutes. Stir in the butter beans to coat and turn up the heat, then add the stock and bay leaf, and bring to a gentle simmer. Simmer for 15 minutes, then cool. Season generously before liquidising, making sure the soup is nice and smooth (and not too thick) before adding the truffle oil and whizzing briefly to combine. Serve topped with the chives and if you like, hand around the oil to drizzle.