A slightly sniffy email yesterday from our friend David Barchard, in the heart of Cappadocia. ‘One stall was selling a box of little things that looked a bit like small potatoes in the market today,’ he writes. ‘I asked what they were and was told they were called ‘keme’. It was a word I did not know. Turns out they were truffles – and I just walked by. I have never heard of truffles before in Turkey. Probably I never will again. The idea that they might be truffles was at the back of my mind, but somehow I did not galvanise myself into action. They did not look very appetising and I do not like root vegetables. Oh well, I expect they were sour.’
Had he reached for his copy of Cornucopia 31 he would have known all about Turkish truffles. As Berrin Torolsan writes in ‘Black Diamonds: truffles, the cook’s best friend’, ‘Turkey has more than her fair share of truffles, of which the most sought-after is the keme (Terfezia boudieri), which grows in the east and south of Anatolia. Related to the desert truffle, it is coal-black, bitter-chocolate or ochre in colour and is collected in spring, after the April rains. Around the towns of Malatya, Urfa, Mardin and Elazığ, it is dug up in the wild by villagers and consumed locally or sold in seasonal markets. The nearby city of Gaziantep is rightly famed for its wealth of dishes prepared with keme.’
Something to take home perhaps? Well maybe. Berrin concludes by quoting a contemporary of Plutarch’s: ‘It’s one thing to send a gift of gold or silver, a toga or a cloak; but sending fungi is quite another matter.’
Excerpts from the article are online, along with recipes for pilav with truffles and the quickest dish of all, scrambled eggs with truffles (or Dombalan Kavurması, a favourite in Kirkuk in the happy old days).