Tuesday, 29 July 2008

A Month of Truffle






As you may have seen on this site we will be opening for lunch on Saturdays as well as Sundays from September 7th and classes will be on Mondays only.
Saturday lunch should help with the pressure for tables on Sundays and the new series of classes is starting to take shape. Any requests for topics and guest presenters would be greatly appreciated.
A very busy month. So many old and new visitors to catch up with and then the Great Otway Truffle discovery has had me away from the blog for far too long.
For those that missed the Age story click here. http://www.scribd.com/doc/4227182/Otway-Truffle
Watch out for Mademoiselle’s [pictured] small screen debut on the last episode of Talk To The Animals in about 3 weeks time.
The local truffle harvest has been such an education. We, and our diners have been spoiled beyond belief. Now the withdrawal symptoms have started. Though I did make a bit of confit [duck] for the anticipated cold turkey.
I have received 50 evergreen oak trees inoculated with Tuber Melanosporum so with a bit of luck it’s only another 7 years to wait for our own.

I have just re-read Elizabeth Luard’s 2006 book Truffles [highly recommended] and have to agree with both her and Paul Levy that the most extraordinary effect that they produce happens when they are raw. Very simple dishes also create powerful reactions. I have also found that you can overdose quite easily on them. After driving to Melbourne with about a kilo of prime examples in a big jar of rice I had to curb my enthusiasm for fear of seeming to be utterly intoxicated on arrival. First reactions to the aroma are also quite illuminating, so spontaneous and for the most part ecstatic.
I have tried the Tasmanian, the ones from W.A, from the Yarra Valley and all are utterly magnificent.
I don’t understand the short term thinking in “My truffle is better than your truffle” marketing that’s going on out there. The effort should be to educate those that are interested on how to appreciate them or we will be seeing lots of dishes with slices of dubious truffle laced with truffle oil and the real thing will be relegated to export.
Tip: if the dish has an overwhelming “truffle” flavour/aroma its most probably truffle oil.
Its worth getting a very small amount of comercial truffle oil to see what its NOT like.
In 10 tears or maybe earlier I can see farmers’ markets with a little corner where voluminously overcoated ladies and gentlemen huddle in small groups exchanging little parcels of bliss for whatever currency is king at the time.

I promise no more truffle raves till next year, that’s the joy of seasonality.

Lamb is here, artichokes are blooming, asparagus has almost shown its head and broad beans are coming.

Just as the button to post this was about to be pushed, a message to announce the unearthing of another big one has arrived. Bliss!

13 comments:

Ed said...

Okay, I cracked. Between you and Neil it's all too much and I'll have to visit Simon Johnson this weekend - the only place locally where I know to get them. If you don't mind I may link to you and quote you on the farmers' market for a story I'm doing on truffle hunting for the SBS Food website.

Sunnybrae and all who sail in her said...

No problem quote away. When you get the truffle, before you try to cook it just have it on the table in a covered dish and take the cover off occasionaly while you have dinner on the first day enjoying the aroma during the meal. I guarantee the conversation will get very lively and excited without too much wine.
Then cook with it. If S.J dont have any fresh, I ordered some last year by mail order from Perigord Tasmania first quality it was amazing.
Next day delivery.

Ed said...

I know what you mean on the aroma. When at the Royal Mail the other week I had one of the best truffle dishes ever. Simple with just some slow cooked chicken and egg yolk. It was so aromatic that i wanted to put a towel over my head (ortolan style) and inhale. Anh's Food Journey recently ordered some from Perigord and they looked magnificent.

Thermomixer said...

Great to see that the truffle season is better then the mushroom one. A couple of suggestions.
With the truffle on the table-place a bed of raw rice & eggs to absorb some of the flavour over that period.
Agree that they are better finely shaved at last minute than chopped
and the best two dishes I have eaten with truffles were both in Italy - first with Alba truffles shaved over scrambled eggs. Second and most exciting was in Gubbio where they placed butter on warm plates, shaved Umbrian truffle over this (the room was then redolent with aroma)topped with some tagliatelle and then more shavings of truffle. Semplice ma fantastico.

Stephanie said...

George ... I don't get it ... the Australian truffles I've had in dishes so far just don't fire me up... they seem to have not a fraction of the intensity or sex appeal of the French/Italian stuff. Why the hype? I'm more excited about the flavour of your olive oil (thanks!) than Aussie truffles... am I missing something?
SW

Stephanie said...

George ... I don't get it ... the Australian truffles I've had in dishes so far just don't fire me up... they seem to have not a fraction of the intensity or sex appeal of the French/Italian stuff. Why the hype? I'm more excited about the flavour of your olive oil (thanks!) than Aussie truffles... am I missing something?
SW

Sunnybrae and all who sail in her said...

Hello Stephanie.
Great question.
The thing about the black Perigord [Tuber Melanosporum] is that the most powerful effect is raw. The aroma of a good ripe example I am sure will blow you away. The local ones were much better than anything that I have had here from Europe, simply fresher and stronger. I urge you to read Elizabeth Luard's book Truffles, even just for the bit about her and Paul Levy's observations. It may also not be too late to go to Simon Johnson's and ask them to let you sit in a room with some good examples. I am sure the aroma will have you intoxicated. Many people that I have shown them to have blushed, flushed and swooned and without trying to be rude have really gone a bit silly. The taste is another thing altogether, I have tried to say many times that its what they do to simple dishes that makes them shine. Its not like the Italian White [Tuber Magnatum Pico] that one blows your head off in a very direct way, the Perigord is sneaky in cooked food, you dont get an immediate reaction in cooked dishes. I tried to explain it to Leo Donati Black=Classical Music Italian White= Full On Rock and Roll both brilliant.
The harvest is nearly over around here but next year you should come down and get amongst it. Many cooks also have your experience and lace a perfectly good truffle with Truffle oil to give the punter a big reaction, waste of time that will only lead to confusion and worse.
Glad you liked the olive oil.

Thermomixer said...

George, I think the Alba truffles are more Heavy Metal. The most amazing time in Oz was when an Italian importer in Carlton had just received a shipment and they were in their cheese room weighing up and packaging the truffles. Not sure how the staff coped - it hit me when I opened the front door.
I agree with Stephanie that most of the Aussie ones that I have had are no where near as powerful, but the last lot were the best so far.
I think you have Koffman's "La Tante Clair" on the shelves - there is a recipe using a 20g truffle per peson in duck farce wrapped in cabbage leaves - you or the Rides could try it and report back.

Sunnybrae and all who sail in her said...

Thermo
Black and White are so different.
If you ask our Italian Importer and mutual friend about the 160g example I took to him about 10 days ago I think you will find that he will confirm the OZ quality. And as you know he is a very strong supporter of all things Italian. I can remember a time when we thought OZ oil was not as good as Italian or French, [some still do] I despair at how the cultural cringe is still so ingrained into our food sensibilities.

Thermomixer said...

Sorry George, he did not compare quality/aroma of Oz vs OS, my observation. I am a big supporter of local and yes white & black are v diff. As said ones I got on Staurday were the best yet. I am happy to pay what is needed to support the fledgling industry and promote in whatever way.

neil said...

Interesting about the intensity and are some confusing perfume with taste? A friend of mine who was an executive chef said that our local morels didn't have the aroma of the European ones but the taste was just the same. Taste memory is such an elusive thing and really, the only way to know is to have them side-by-side, but that's just not possible. Me, I choose to enjoy them and don't worry about who's are best.

Sunnybrae and all who sail in her said...

Heil

With morels I have found that fresh they do not have much of an aroma but dried the local ones develop great aroma after a couple of months. It is also wise to remember that morels should always be cooked as raw they are slightly toxic. Can't wait for the season. They seem to grow best after a fire, the smoke apparently triggers the fruiting bodies.

neil said...

Good advice about having to cook raw morels and is pretty much true for most wild, edible mushrooms, you never know what's lurking around. So far, I haven't found the fire thing true for where I pick morels. One of my spots suffered a fire, but had no more morels than other unburnt areas. I know in the States they definitely pick in burned off areas, but here the amount of rain seems to have the biggest bearing on the crop, both in numbers and size.