'Our attitude to truffles is changing. Now, they are all around us – in upmarket grocery shops, at weddings, parties, restaurants. But they’ll always be a luxury. One measure of how quickly India is changing – in food and wine terms, at least – is our attitude to truffles. When I first
wrote about truffles, most readers of Rude Food knew very little about them. They associated the term ‘truffle’ with those round chocolates and were not sure how it was pronounced. Was it ‘troofle’ or ‘truffle’? (It is, of course, the latter.)
Now, just five or six years later, truffles are all around us. Upmarket grocery shops in our metropolitan cities sell bottled truffles and truffle sauces. Chefs reach for their bottles of truffle oil at the slightest provocation. Truffles are served at top weddings and parties. And restaurants import white truffles every autumn when the season begins in Italy.
I’ve always been something of a truffle devotee. So, five years ago, I would go to Italian restaurants carrying my own truffles (and usually, a truffle slicer) so that I could grate them over eggs, pasta or risotto.
Strictly speaking, the chefs would have been within their rights to refuse to let me eat my own truffles. But, in reality, most were so thrilled to see fresh white truffles, that nobody ever refused. (If I had asked to be able to use my own Kraft cheese, on the other hand, I’m sure they would have thrown me out.)
But these days, you don’t need to take your own truffles. Let’s take the example of Travertino, the swish Italian restaurant at the Delhi Oberoi.
Many years ago, when I first took a white truffle to the restaurant, the Italian chef was so delighted that he tried to devise a special truffle menu while the Indian chefs all lined up to smell and feel the truffle because they’d only read about fresh white truffles but had never actually seen them.
Two weeks ago, the same Travertino was serving an elaborate truffle feast, supervised by a Michelin-starred chef from Italy, and the hotel’s own Soumya Goswami. The Oberoi chefs were shaving fresh white truffles on to thin, crispy pizzas at Threesixty, the all-day dining restaurant located next door to Travertino. Nobody thought of truffles as being such a big deal any longer.
In fact, I think I’ve probably eaten more truffles in Delhi this season than I’ve ever eaten in my life. The Princess’s two parties for her husband’s birthday turned into truffle fests as guests ate alarming quantities of the finest Piedmont truffles with pizza bianca, risotto, tagliolini or simply grated over fried eggs.
The Princess was being extraordinarily generous. But even those of us who did not benefit from her largesse had many opportunities to eat truffles elsewhere.
At Sevilla, the Mediterranean restaurant at Delhi’s Claridges (now back on the gastronomic map), I had a truffle dinner with the hotel’s general manager, Oliver Martin: baked eggs with white truffle, pasta with truffle and then finally, truffles freshly grated on Japanese wagyu. Nor was this a special treat for me: the truffles were on the Sevilla menu.'
Delhi is changing and the rest of India is too. 20 years ago Claridges had a Dhabba restaurant, a very good one, now it has an upmarket Italian one as well. More shockingly, what is a restaurant in Hindu Delhi doing serving wagyu beef, that is something that I never thought I'd see on a Delhi menu. I know cows are not, as many people mistakenly think, sacred to Hindus but no Hindus that I know would ever eat beef, it is taboo. I on the other hand love a nice, juicy, rare steak.