Truffles - not that attractive to look at, delicious to eat and the most expensive food in the world.

Becoming harder and harder to find, this much revered mushroom that grows underground is the holy grail for chefs. As much as £165,000/203 000€ has been paid for a white truffle weighing 1.5kg.

They grow 5-20cm beneath the surface attached to the roots of a host tree (usually oak, but also hazel, lime, chestnut, pine, cedar etc) and look like small, shrunken potatoes when they're dug out of the earth. White truffles, or white gold, are the most prized, while black truffles are the most popular, picked in late autumn and winter.

Truffle hunters use specially trained dogs to find and dig up the mushrooms (female pigs are still used but they have a tendency to eat the precious finds). Just a couple of shavings of black truffles from France - known as black diamonds - can cost hundreds of Euros in a restaurant in Paris, causing the truffle trade to create a black market and leading to theft of both truffles as well as the highly valued truffle-sniffing dogs.

As we are now in truffle season there numerous fêtes and markets around the region in January and February celebrating this fabulous fungus. Please click here for a list.

Symbolic of luxury and French gastronomy, the truffle appears on the menus of all top chefs as soon as it comes into season between December and March. Chefs will caution you not to cover it with your food. The trick is to serve it with something that matches and enhances it. Their unmistakable taste and aroma is often complimented best by a simple egg or a risotto. Here are two easy recipes, so take your pick once you have selected your incongruous little fungus…

Truffle Omelette

Truffle Risotto