A puppy's fungal find in the Hertfordshire countryside has left his celebrity chef owner with a winning feeling.
Jean-Christophe Novelli was astonished by his puppy's find
Jean-Christophe Novelli said it was like scooping the Lottery jackpot when his Pointer puppy, Missy, unearthed a rare and expensive black truffle.
Mr Novelli was out with Missy looking for mushrooms during a walk around Brocket Hall, near Welwyn Garden City.
When he noticed the eight-month-old puppy surface with something in her mouth after sniffing and digging, he thought she had picked up a stone.
"At first I thought it was a stone covered in earth, but when I took it from her and dusted it down I realised to my astonishment it was a truffle," said Mr Novelli.
"As a chef, you can imagine I felt like I had won the Lottery."
Missy did not eat the truffle, and Mr Novelli has preserved the specimen to display in his restaurant, the Auberge du Lac.
He insists he will never eat the find, which was rare because it had grown naturally and was not farmed.
"The summer was fantastic and hot. The winter was so wet. The conditions are perfect for truffles," he said.
"It's only the size of a marble but, for what it is and where it is, it's superb.
"I believe we can get champagne in England if global warming goes the way it is going.
Most expensive natural food
"People underestimate this country and its diversity. Maybe people will start looking for truffles now and we'll discover they are everywhere."
Hertfordshire is also home to Britain's only truffle farm, Truffle UK.
Truffles, which have been found in Europe, Asia, North Africa and North America, grow underground, close to the roots of specific trees.
They are among the most expensive natural food in the world, costing on average between £137 to £247 for 500 grams and are harvested with the help of a pig or dog to sniff them out.
The inhabitants of ancient Greece and Rome are said to have used truffles as an aphrodisiac, and poet Lord Byron kept one on his desk for inspiration.