Now we’re in possession of four of these nuggets, which my plant book tells me are loaded with fat, protein, fibre and B vitamins. Our source – who, in the best European tradition, shall be nameless – had a small pile of them, his own private stash. He keeps them buried in the sand so they remain cool, damp and fresh.
Amazingly, though the surface of the sand is as dry as a bone, you don’t have to dig far to find the dampness that sustains the truffles, known locally as n’abbas. ‘There was a big hail storm three weeks ago and that was very good,’ our Truffle Man tells us. ‘They’re hard to find if you don’t know what to look for, but easy enough when you do.’ And that’s where the conversation stops. Like any self-respecting French or Italian truffle hunter, he’s not going to give away his secrets.
He does suggest how we should cook them, though.
Scrub all the sand off and then boil them whole or slice them and fry in butter. Knowing how bland boiled food can be, we decide to do a fry-up in butter instead, adding a dash of freshly ground black pepper.
And suddenly we know what all the fuss is about. They’re delicious; in texture and taste, a cross between a firm mushroom and a flavoursome potato, but somehow transcending both. Perhaps it’s because they’re so quintessentially ‘Kalahari’ that they seem so special, perhaps they really are in a class of their own...
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