Confession time: I’ve never really been a fan of mushrooms. I just find the taste a bit too ‘earthy’ (I typically describe them as tasting like mushy dirt). I can’t honestly tell you why either. In small quantities (e.g. mini pieces on a pizza), I can just about handle them but when you serve up a huge piece (like say, a portobello mushroom), this is where I draw the line.
Needless to say, when asked about truffles (especially with them being in the mushroom family), I typically decline. It also kinda helps that they’re expensive so I never really went out of my way to eat something I didn’t really like.
Our trip to the Dordogne Valley changed that quite a bit (for truffles only – I still don’t like mushrooms) in general. Truffles don’t taste quite like regular mushrooms for starters… and, you’ve never unlike to eat huge quantities of proper truffles in one sitting so you probably won’t ever get ‘overwhelmed’ by the taste. They also smell absolutely amazing and so, slowly but surely, over the course of the day, they finally won me over.
Truffle-loving asides, one thing we got up to when we were in the Dordogne Valley was truffle hunting (you can also go truffle hunting in the UK by the way, see more here).
It was the wrong time of year for them but we still got something of an education in how they are found, how the truffles release a gas that kills vegetation around the oak trees they grown on (hence the circular ‘bald patch’ around the oak trees – also a key way to tell if there might be truffles to be found on the tree roots) but most interestingly (at least to me), how expensive truffle dogs are…etc
At this point, I know I’m going on far too much about truffles but please bear with :-).
In the past, people used truffle pigs to find truffles (probably comes as no surprise) but what I didn’t know was that the pigs would then go ahead and attempt to eat the truffles. A single good truffle can start at like £5000 (it goes a lot higher) so you can imagine what kinda horror this caused for truffle hunters (especially as it can take up to 30 years for them to grow properly). The truffle hunters soon learned to train dogs to do the truffle hunting, the dogs didn’t care much for truffle so it was win-win all round (surprisingly though, the dogs get fed cheese as a reward – I always thought dogs couldn’t have cheese?).
This, truffling training, in turn means that a well-trained truffle dog costs A LOT of money and the farmer here said her dog was stolen, dyed black and it tooks 6 months before they found it (apparently a stranger saw it wandering somewhere and took it to the police who identified it with the doggy chip). She’s had the dog back for over 6 months now and the black dye is still on the dog (most of it has come off though).
It’s not the right time of year to do proper truffle hunting (that’s usually in winter – say around January) so we got a bit of a live-demo which was quite interesting to watch the dogs work. Plus, it makes for a decent excuse to return to the Dordogne Valley in winter I reckon.
After ‘finding the truffles’ we set about exploring more of the farm and tasting the truffle goodies including the oils and butter.
Okay, enough truffle-geekery – time for proper food!
Dinner and our home for the evening would be in the stately Manoir de Malagorse, run by a French and British couple (with their kids) where we had wine tasting all set up and waiting for us, accompanied with a veritable selection of cheeses!
First things first though, check-in and chucking our luggage into the rooms…
Fancy, a little nosey around the room? Well then, come with…
Oh and the one thing you can’t tell from the pictures is how absolutely fragrant the room was. The room is just above the kitchen and they’d been baking all days so the room smelt like freshly baked cookies. It was so perfect, it felt almost unreal, like one of those stories you might read in some old novel somewhere… (Or was that just my hunger?) 🙂
There’s just something about old French homes isn’t there?
I had a quick sneak peak as well into the kitchen where dinner prep was afoot…
…before heading back out to join the other for a well earned tipple and education in wine. To be honest, I did more of the former and very little of the latter but that’s what the French countryside is there for, am I right? 😉
I maaaaaaay also have wandered off, part way, to explore more of Manoir de Malagorse…
Wine tasting done, we headed back in to relax, perhaps even go for a stroll across the greens and get ready for dinner.
Dinner started off with plates of thinly sliced cured meats served with lightly steamed vegetables…
…swiftly followed by fish on a bed of creamy mash potatoes (can’t remember what kind of fish now that I think of it – blame wine).
Dessert, which is always my favourite, was a melted French caramel candy (its apparently a popular childhood favourite) with crumble, ice cream and strawberries! So soooooo good!
Best part – all I had to do was stumble up one flight of stairs to end up in bed!
Now this is the way all evening in rural France should be spent!