My first taste of truffle season starts not in the dining room of one of our state’s best restaurants but at a kitchen table. Gavin and Mel Booth, owners of Australian Truffle Traders are the kind of easy hosts we’d all like to be. An extra two dinner guests, no problem. Truffle dog Gidgee lays in front of the wood burning stove dreaming of whatever truffle dogs dream of. Foxes I’m told.
In the oven, poularde en demi-deuil, or chicken in half mourning; named for its layers of black truffle veiled underneath the skin. It’s a celebratory start to the 2020 season. One which sees a good deal of uncertainty for truffle growers in the Southern Forests region. If there has ever been a time to buy truffle and perfect a few home dishes it’s now.
Over the years I’ve become accustomed to the simple classics. A loaded cheese toastie layered with black truffle or the dish that is on every chefs’ lips when I ask for at home tips: scrambled eggs.
Manuka Woodfired Kitchen chef-owner Kenny McHardy says “I’m honestly a big fan of the scrambled eggs on toast with a bit of goat or sheep’s curd. I love the truffle to taste more than the ingredient that I’m using to be the catalyst for it. So, a nice crunchy bit of sourdough is a must and I use Cambray religiously. I find their sheep’s cheese not as acidic as some. It’s well-balanced and doesn’t undermine that flavour of the truffle. Reducing lots of cream first, folding through your eggs and a little bit of grated garlic and butter of course. I’m happy as, that’s it done.”
My own preparation starts at 24 hours before, when I seal a decent sized truffle in a jar with my eggs, a piece of kitchen towel on top to protect the truffle from moisture. A ripe truffle will impart flavour through the permeable shell. Given a few days refrigeration I’ve found that I don’t even need to plane or slice truffle over the eggs. But that said, it is the season, so my advice is to go all out.
Chef turned Manjimup truffle grower David Coomer says that while gentle heat does wonders for truffle, softening the texture so you don’t get “that crunchiness to it,” can allow it to attain what he describes as an almost al dente pasta texture. “I love simplicity,” says Coomer. “A really nice warm potato salad scenario with a bit of pancetta, smoked bacon, spring onions and herbs, parmesan or pecorino, and fresh shaved black truffle with a truffle vinaigrette or a mayonnaise is awesome. The other thing is really good Spanish ham or prosciutto with truffle slices on the top and just a little bit of olive oil. It looks really impressive but takes bugger all work.”
“I know it’s a cliché,” says Amy Hamilton chef-owner of Liberte in Albany. “But I just don’t think you can beat a really simple spaghetti with butter, and parmesan and truffle.” Aaron Carr of Yarri in Dunsborough also favours an italo-inspired dish; his go-to is last-minute gnocchi.
“I’ll take some Jerusalem artichokes; a truffle and whatever cheese is lying around. I roast the JA, and maybe add some kale, good cheese and hazelnuts, with the gnocchi and truffle. A glass of chardonnay is my best match.”
Perhaps in a genre of its own there’s also the marriage of truffle with food below its station. With the air of a confessional, Matt Carulei of Perth’s Heritage Wine Bar, admits, “I know it’s really scruffy, but I do love it on two-minute noodles. You know chicken Maggi. When I’m making them at 2am, just back from work, I look at a bowl of noodles and I’m like ‘come on man you’re a chef, you can do better than that.’ Then, you know, grate a truffle on it and voila it’s gourmet,” he laughs.
For those that want an at home experience but without the work Carulei aims for truffle redemption. He’s put together a special Heritage Wine Bar pack with David Coomer. “When you buy the pack you get your own individual truffle in a little gift box, David’s parfait, and we’re going to truffle a chicken, stuffing truffle butter under the skin, then our sexy mash, sourdough and a truffled triple cream brie that you’ll be able to bake in the oven.”
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