Burgundy comes to Waipara

HillsFirstBurgundy 2web

I nearly tripped over it. I’d just dug up a rotten truffle from the middle of our little patch of oaks and hazels infected with Tuber aestivum syn uncinatum, the Burgundy truffle, and was pretty excited. It was our first Burgundy truffle and it was rotten and I couldn’t eat it, but that didn’t matter. The twelve year old plantation was finally producing truffles. Another long wait was over. And then Rosie pulled me off to another spot a couple of metres away and there was a truffle sitting in a little depression in the soil surface. 53 grammes of fungal goodness — not ripe yet, perhaps not quite fully grown — but I dug it up anyway. Call me impatient.

Ours was one of the first trial plantings of aestivum infected trees in New Zealand — oaks infected with truffle inoculum from Gerard Chevalier in France went into the ground in 2000 ((There’s a picture of Gerard with one of our seedling oaks in The Truffle Book, p131)), followed a couple years later by hazels infected with aestivum supplied by Christina Weden from Sweden. Both this week’s truffles were found close to hazels. Skol, Christina!

These are not the first Burgundy truffles produced in New Zealand. That honour goes to a trial plantation in South Canterbury, where a rotten truffle was found several years ago. But this is our first Burgundy truffle, and even though it may not be ripe we will eat it, and enjoy it for what it is — proof that a little vision goes a very long way, even if it does take a long time…

Listen here

Here’s the link [2010: now broken] for the Radio New Zealand archive of Saturday’s Kim Hill show. It seemed to go well. If you wonder why there’s a brief diversion into Welsh vocabulary in the middle, it’s because one of her earlier guests (physicist Paul Callaghan) was discussing colour, and opined that the Welsh had no word for green. He was wrong. The stream will be available for four weeks (Windows Media Player required).

On the radio

I‘m being interviewed by Kim Hill — New Zealand’s finest radio host — on her Saturday morning show on National Radio this week. Unless the schedule changes at the last minute, I’m due on at about 11-20am, after the regular food spot. You can listen to a live stream from the RNZ site (go to one of the links above and click on the Audio box in the top left of the page header), and the interview should be hosted on the RNZ site for four weeks afterwards. I’ll post a link when I have one.

Give me your money

After much huffing and puffing, the new Limestone Hills web site is live, and quite probably kicking. It’s built with Freeway Pro, and uses some “actions” (a kind of plug-in that add functionality in the Freeway universe) to hook up to Mal’s e-commerce (free, and highly recommended by Freeway people). It looks as I think it should when viewed with Safari (the Mac OS browser), but is now reasonable in most browsers on most platforms that I’ve tried (which is not all that many).

So what’s new? Well, I think it looks a lot better – new header, new layout and organisation, and buttons to press and videos to view. And I can now accept credit card purchases of the book. Will anyone buy it? I need a few sales a month just to cover the bank charges…

New editions of The Truffle Book now available

Limestone Hills Publishing is pleased to announce the new limited edition hardback version of The Truffle Book, and for those who like to read on-screen, the brand new PDF edition. The hardback edition is strictly limited to 150 copies, reasonably priced at NZ$69.95, each hand-numbered and signed by the author. The PDF edition is priced at $NZ15 (roughly US$10, GB£5.70, E8.20) and I’ll sell as many as people want, but PDF purchasers who want the full book experience (more bandwidth, fully portable, no batteries required) will be able to buy either paper-based edition with a NZ$10 discount.

I’m now toying with ideas for the audiobook version. I need a cheap studio in Christchurch to record the basic audio tracks, and then I can do all the editing in Garageband. Anyone fancy a truffle podcast?

In cyberspace, no one can see you blush

Two more reviews: one formal, one informal and unattributable. The first, from the Rotorua Daily Post/Weekender, by Judith Moore:

His book is a revelation — everything you want to know about truffles — the international scene, how to fondle and sniff a truffle, recipes, history, dog training. Most important of all, he gives instructions on how to grow your own truffle. With deft touch, entertaining text and good photographs, Renowden skips over the difficulties — alkaline soil, 10-year wait, porcine poachers — and waxes lyrical over the end results.

The informal review is a little more effusive. In it, a senior member of the British royal family (his name begins with C and he lives in Gloucestershire) thanks a friend for his Christmas present:

Bless you for sending me that absolutely rivetting book on truffles! It is un-put-downable!

In a further sign of royal approbation, the writer’s father has ordered extra copies for the Palace library. Unfortunately, royal etiquette means I can’t use the quote on the cover, but I am chuffed. As is my mum.

A strange thing to do with a chicken

There is a traditional French truffled chicken dish called Poularde en demi-deuil, or chicken in half-mourning, in which a chicken has slices of black truffle inserted under its skin. You then leave the chicken for a few hours to infuse with the truffle flavour, and then poach it in a stock. When it comes out, the black slices shine through the white skin. There is a picture of a chicken roasted in half mourning in The Truffle Book

In the Spanish Pyrenees, however, a few hours infusing is not enough. This thread on eGullet (wonderful name!) describes — with graphic and sometimes beautiful pictures — the preparation of a traditional Christmas dish. Chickens are stuffed (with foie gras, milk, breadcrumbs and black truffle) then wrapped in linen and buried in the ground for up to two weeks. The precise time depends on how cold the ground is — at that time of year it’s close to freezing, which it would have to be to stop the chickens rotting. When nicely done, the chickens are slow roasted, and almost certainly delicious. I’d like to conduct some confirming research, of course… [Link via Boing Boing]

The Book has landed

Here’s the big news: I have copies of The Truffle Book. Four pallets each laden with 40 brown boxes stuffed with lovely little books, the fruits of a very long labour. Copies will go out to everyone who helped me in the next day or so, and review copies shortly thereafter. The NZ distributor (Nationwide) starts the sell-in next week. Copies should be in NZ bookstores soon after. The big promotion push won’t happen until late summer (Feb/March) because we’re getting too close to Christmas (and it pains me to say that – it’s still months away), and I’m still waiting to hear from Australia, but I’ll have copies for sale on the Limestone Hills site very soon. In the meantime, don’t forget you can download a pdf sample here. Time for a drink… Muddy Water 2001 Syrah when I get home.