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A tale of two truffles

I started writing this post more than a month ago.  Today, with a few edits to bring it up-to-date, it is a finished product!  Oh blog, how I have missed you.

Tasmanian trufflesThe photo credit for the above truffle photo goes to Truffles of Tasmania

Some time ago now I read a tweet about a little popup shop in South Melbourne and felt a bit excited.  It was about Madame Truffle, a once-a-year-blink-and-you’ll-miss-it kind of shop opening three days a week that celebrates the relatively new annual Australian truffle season by selling them.  That’s it.  They sell truffles.  Only truffles.  And when truffle season is over, they pack up and wait for next year.

Here’s the link to Madame Truffles’ website, with information, recipes, a blog and the chance to order online:  http://madametruffles.com.au/

I paid my first visit to the little shop – above St Ali’s coffee roasting warehouse in South Melbourne.  A single trestle table at the end of the room had:

  • four jars, each containing paper towel
  • an upended crate with some stuff on it
  • that’s about it.

The paper towel filled little jars contained the truffles, which I explained to the people working there I’d never tasted before.  The lids came off and I was offered each jar to smell.  Wow.  There was one from Western Australia, one from NSW and two from northern Tasmania: Deloraine and the Tamar Valley. My verdict was:

  • the WA jar smelt like petrol and old socks
  • the NSW jar smelt fruity and strong, but I didn’t like it much
  • the Tamar Valley was still fruity and earthy and interesting
  • the Deloraine truffle was milder and smoother – musty and earthy

A Tasmanian truffleIn the end I chose a truffle from Deloraine.  It was a little one, just 7 grams (at $3 a gram, it was a $21 truffle) and looked forward to trying it the next day.  Unfortunately I didn’t get to even taste one shaving of that truffle.  I visited some people the next day and offered the truffle in place of a bottle of wine.

Mistake.  Instead of offering a The truffle I never tastedtaste (a shaving or two would have been wonderful on her very tasty home-made pizza), it went straight into the fridge, only to be seen when I asked if I could photograph it for my blog. I hope they enjoyed it.

A week later I visited Madame Truffles again, smelt the jars and chose a truffle from the Tamar Valley this time. The delicious truffleIt was of the musty-fruity variety and I couldn’t wait to try it, however with a house move and life keeping me busy, it took several days to actually eat it (caring for it and keeping it dry in the meantime, as instructed).

Finally I made a risotto, using a fresh vegetable stock as the base and stirring the shaved truffle through at the end.  I’m definitely a truffle fan now – it was gorgeous.

I kept meaning to get back for truffles number three, four, five … and cook lots of wonderful dishes to share with friends, but alas I’ve missed the season now.  I’ll just have to wait until this time next year.

Black truffle risottoTruffle risotto phtoographThe trick to a fully flavoured risotto is a fully flavoured stock and the right wine to complement the flavours.  I would usualy use chicken stock, but made vegetable stock for the truffle risotto so my vegetarian housemate could share it and chose a light and dry sauvignon blanc with a hint of fruitiness.  You don’t want the wine to dominate, just complement.  I’ll post about stock making another day.

I must admit that because it’s so long since I made this particular recipe and didn’t write it down straight away, I’m going to be fairly loose with my measurements here.  But essentially, it’s:

2 golden shallots, finely chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1.5 or so litres good quality, home-made chicken or veg stock, simmering gently in a pan
1/2 cup of good quality dry white wine
a splosh of good quality olive oil in the pan
grated grana padano or parmiagano – about 2-3 tablespoons
a tablespoon or two of butter
a generous cup of best quality carnaroli rice (arborio will also do the trick)
one delicious truffle … as much as you can afford, shaved
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the olive oil in a heavy bottomed large pan.

Gently fry the garlic and shallots until softened without browning.  They go all glowy and transluscent.  Add the rice and stir for a minute or so, coating every grain with the oil.

Pour in the white wine and stir.  Let cook a couple of minutes until the rice absorbs the wine.  Stir regularly and watch carefully.

Begin ladelling your gently simmering stock into the pan.  Start with enough to just cover the rice and stir through.  Keep an eye on it because it will absorb quite quickly, but only stir ever minute or so. You want to release the starches from the rice without turning it into a gluggy mess.

Keep ladelling stock through as the last lot absorbs and the rice cooks.  Don’t let it dry completely, as it will stick like crazy to the bottom of the pan and increase the chance of burning it.

Towards the end of the cooking process, just add less and less to ensure a good moisture content is retained and the rice is cooked to your liking.  Add salt & pepper to taste towards the end of the cooking process too.

Stir through the grated grana padano and butter.

Lastly, just a couple of minutes before serving, gently mix the shaved truffle through and let sit a minute or so to let the flavours seep into the lovely creaminess.

Serve in lovely bowls with a gentle dusting of more grated or shaved cheese.

Simple food done well. Divine.

Note:  The photograph of the risotto above is not a photo of the actual risotto I cooked, but one I found on a net search and edited slightly.  I would normally credit the photo but didn’t write down the URL.  For the record, I wouldn’t put rosemary leaves on a truffle risotto – far too flavour drowning!

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