Truffles

Written on 29th June 2011
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“Whosoever says truffle, utters a grand word, which awakens erotic and gastronomic ideas….” Jean Antheleme Brillat-Savarin, The Physiology of Taste

Most chefs will tell you that there is no more highly prized ingredient in the kitchen than truffles (ok, so caviar and foie gras are right up there as well).. We’re not talking about the chocolate variety that you have at with your coffee at the end of the meal here – we’re talking about the kind that grow underground which have the most alluring, pervasive aroma that you will ever encounter. We received our first batch of truffles here at Rockpool last week from Perigord Truffles of Tasmania – and they smell incredible! Currently at $1800 per kilo they certainly come at a premium, but are well worth every cent.

Truffles are a kind of subterranean fungus (sounds delicious, right?!) that grow at the base of certain trees – oak, chestnut, hazel, and others. Native to Europe, these little gems have recently been successfully grown in Australia in WA, Tasmania, Victoria and parts of NSW. Which is great news for everyone!

How do they harvest truffles? For centuries pigs were used to sniff out truffles from around the bases of these trees… the only drawback being that the pigs are inclined to eat the truffles when they find them, which I can’t really blame them for trying. Nowadays dogs are more commonly used to sniff out the truffles – they have to be trained but they are easier to handle than a 100kg+ pig.

Truffles really lend themselves to dishes such as omelettes, risotto, polenta… when the truffles are stored in airtight containers with these ingredients the aroma permeates into them. They also are great in pasta (which we’re doing right now here at Rockpool Syd) with loads of cream and butter, or even more decadent – shaved and layered between a whole triple cream cheese… To prepare a truffle, you gently peel back the outer layer with a paring knife (which can then be chopped to make truffle butter, or used in soups, or to infuse – basically anything but throw it out!) and using a very sharp slicer or mandoline, you shave the truffle over whatever you’re serving it with.

Just as a side note – there is no comparison between the flavour and aroma of a fresh truffle and that of truffle oil – personally I can’t stand the flavour and aroma of truffle oil! Most truffle oils are synthetically made, and are a poor substitute.

My fondest truffle memory is of the truffle omelette we used to do here at Rockpool – a simple omelette made from truffled eggs, salted french butter and parmesan cheese; a truffle butter emulsion sauce, and shaved truffles over the top… incredible. Let us know in the comments if you have a an amazing truffle memory.. and enjoy them while they’re in season.