Don’t let their looks deceive you, truffles are one of the rock stars of the culinary world. Here’s everything you need to know about these subterranean delicacies.
Winter means truffle season in Australia and given the short season of these earthy delights, the best time to try truffles is now.
What is a truffle?
Not to be mistaken for the creamy, petite chocolates that share the same name, savoury truffles are a type of edible fungi that grows on the roots of particular oak and hazelnut trees. What they lack in good looks (they resemble small, lumpy, marbled potatoes), they make up for in taste. These prized fungi are worth their weight in gold in culinary circles and foodies in the know eagerly await truffle season each year.
Where and how do truffles grow in Australia?
Truffles grow best in regions that have hot summers and cold winters. Manjimup in Western Australia is the largest producer of black truffles in the southern hemisphere, harvesting almost 90 per cent of Australia’s black truffles. The warm summer months are when truffles form, then they grow throughout autumn and are harvested between June and August.
Traditionally pigs were used to sniff out and locate truffles, but they soon developed a taste for the aromatic morsels (and who can blame them?), so these days, expertly trained dogs are a truffle hunter’s best friend.
Why are truffles expensive?
Like most delicacies, truffles can be pricey. They’re hard to grow, hard to find and the season is blink-and-you’ll-miss-it short. These factors, together with their intoxicating flavour means they’re in high demand.
What do truffles taste like?
Truffles have a rich and heady flavour that is deeply earthy, woody and musky. The beauty of truffles is the way they elevate humble dishes (like eggs and pasta) into gourmet creations and build layer upon layer of luxurious flavour into almost every dish they touch.
Try it now: For the truffle season this year, Garden Kitchen & Bar at The Star Gold Coast is offering truffles added-on by the gram with the dishes of your choice. Make it a brekkie to remember by having fresh truffles sliced over your scrambled eggs.
How to cook with truffle
A little goes a long way with truffles, so even if you’re on a budget, you can still indulge. You don’t always need a specific truffle recipe to get the best out of them either – just half a teaspoon of minced truffle mixed into silky scrambled eggs will rapidly become a new household favourite. Or toss hot pasta (such as pappardelle or tagliatelle) in butter, generously grate over some parmesan cheese before topping with several wafer-thin shavings of truffle.
Try it now: Truffle and luxe ingredients elevate pasta to sublime territory. Visit Flying Fish at The Star Sydney this winter to try a very special spaghetti featuring Tasmanian short spike sea urchin with black truffle, or find fresh truffle with a duck and ricotta tortelli at Cucina Porto around the corner.
Because truffle is umami rich, it also pairs beautifully with red meat such as steak. Classic accompaniments are a truffled mushroom sauce or miso-truffle butter. Or you can bring the bling to simple dishes – truffle-spiked mayonnaise on a burger is the ultimate in luxe street food and once you’ve tried truffle salt or truffle oil drizzled over risotto, you won’t go back.
Try it now: In July, Black Hide by Gambaro will be offering a tender slab of Stanbroke Wagyu Sirloin with a rich truffle butter, paired with a decadent speck mac and cheese for the ultimate in fine dining comfort food.
What to drink with truffles
If you’re looking to match wine with your truffles, a general rule of thumb is to choose one that isn’t too full-bodied. Select earthy, nutty or textured wines such as a Nebbiolo or Pinot Noir.
Why you need to try truffles, stat
Nothing quite encapsulates the taste of winter like truffles. From their pungent earthy flavour to the sheer decadence of eating a dish liberally sprinkled with truffle shavings, eating truffles is something for your epicurean bucket list.
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