Great white truffles

Food stuff

A taste described by the TV chef Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall as "somewhere between sex and socks" may not seem that enticing but demand for this season's Italian white truffles is so high that restaurants are paying more than pounds 1,000 a kilo for them. No, that's not a misprint, truffles do cost a small fortune. You can spend as much on one truffle as you'd spend on a three-course meal - but it doesn't seem to be putting people off. Last Saturday more than 90 people packed into the exclusive Le Gavroche in Mayfair for a White Truffle Evening, paying pounds 150 a head for the experience (although the price included 6 courses and 10 wines). The cost in truffles alone was over pounds 3,000.

You can have the truffle experience without the expense by using oil infused with truffles. According to Le Gavroche's chef de cuisine, Michel Roux Jnr, just a few drops of truffle oil (found in most delicatessens) can give a simple dish such as scrambled eggs, a risotto or a salad a very powerful aroma, although he points out that the oil should only be used at the last minute for maximum effect.

Nikki Spencer

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