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The Truth Behind The Truffle

Posted on June 24, 2012 at 5:50 PM

Australia’s fresh truffle season is late May to early August. Truffles are now well into their season and we are seeing lots of inspired dishes apperaring on restaurant menus throughout Australia. But, the big question on most peoples lips is "what actually are these truffles?"

 

Black truffles are a type of fungus which grow at the roots of specially inoculated oak trees. Each truffle is found by specially trained dogs who smell truffles from the aroma they emit when ripening which are located from 5cm to 30cm below the ground.

 

The black truffle or Tuber Melanosporum, also known as the Perigord truffle grows mainly in France and Italy and is the variety most commonly cultivated in a truffle orchard or trufferie. Truffles in Europe occur under their native woodland trees of oak, poplar, willow and hazelnut. In the regions of France and Italy where truffles occur naturally the truffle harvests are decreasing over time. Because of this, in the 1970’s a major initiative began in France to cultivate truffles. There are now also established trufferies in Spain and Italy. Outside of Europe, the first black truffles were produced in 1991 on specially inoculated oak trees in Oregon, USA. In the southern hemisphere, the winter of 1993 saw the first production of commercial truffles in New Zealand, and in 1999 black truffles were produced in Tasmania to further confirm their production feasibility in the southern hemisphere. Western Australia has also taken full opportunity with two major producers in it's southern region.

 

The taste and smell of a truffle is quite unique with many different descriptions often being told but if you can imagine a mix of wet dirty leaves around a clove of garlic and you might get close to the smell. The best way is to just get your hands on one of these amazing wonders of the world and try it for yourself.

 

Truffles go best with simple dishes involving eggs, mushrooms, chicken, pasta, potatoes, risotto and work well with beef. They are best stored in the refrigerator in a large jar, each wrapped in a paper towel to prevent them getting wet. If they grow a little white mould, brush it off under running cold water and dry the truffle before replacing it in the fridge. Truffles lose moisture (weight) and aroma continually. You can expect to pay an astonishing $1500 to $3000 a kilogram but keep in mind that a 100 gram truffle is about the size of a tennis ball and will last for several dishes. They should be shaved as thinly as possible as the greater the surface area exposed, the greater the aroma from the truffle.

 

Several products have been produced to further enhance your truffle cooking experience such as truffle oil, truffle salt, truffle butter, truffle mustard, truffle flour and truffle honey. These products are a great cheaper alternative to introduce yourself to the truffles' magnificent flavour.

 

The most simple ways to enjoy the truffle is by drizzling some truffle oil over a nicely cooked thin piece of eye fillet or folded through creamy mash potato. It also works very well driddled over scrambled eggs. Even over the tom of a mushroom risotto. Try topping all of this off with some freshly shaved truffle.

 

 

Truffle Infused Field Mushrooms served with Truffled Polenta and Wilted Spinach

This is an amazing dish that really embraces the beautiful taste and aroma of truffles. It makes a great entree and suits a vegetarian option too.

 

Truffle Infused Field Mushrooms

4 large field mushrooms

75ml Truffle oil

2 Garlic Cloves, crushed

salt and pepper

 

- Remove the stem from the mushroom.

- Combine the garlic and truffle oil and drizzle around the underside of the mushrooms.

- Place onto a greased oven tray then into a 180 C oven for 8-10 minutes.

 

Truffled Polenta

250ml water

250ml milk

1/2 teaspoon shaved truffle (optional)

75ml Truffle Oil

200g polenta

75g finely grated parmesan

 

-Bring the water and milk to the boil in a large heavy-based saucepan over high heat. Gradually add the polenta whisking constantly until the polenta is incorporated.

-Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring constantly, for 10 minutes or until polenta is soft. Remove from heat.

-Add the parmesan and stir to combine.

-Stir in the truffle oil and truffle.

-Season with salt and pepper.

- Place into a piping bag and pipe little cones with the base being a little smaller than the size of the mushroom.

- Set aside for 5 minutes.

 

Wilted Spinach

100g spinach

80g butter

salt

 

- Melt butter in a fry-pan then add the spinach.

- Cook for 3-5 minutes until spinach is just wilted.

- Season with the salt.

 

The Dish

Place the mushroom onto the centre of a plate. Add the spinach and top with the polenta.

Serves 4 as an entree.

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