Growk your skills
How to get the most out of your truffle
If you have not used a fresh truffle before (and I am not talking about the chocolate variety!), it can be quite daunting at first, but once you understand some of the unique properties of this incredible ingredient you will be able to experiment successfully with amazing dishes – both savouy and sweet.
What do Truffles taste like?
The taste of a truffle is very difficult to explain if you have never tried one before. The aroma is really earthy, nutty and mushroomy but the taste is even more complex and rich. I also get a sweet aroma from truffles that reminds me of yeasty, musky, vanilla bean. It’s believed that some of the distinctive aromas from Truffles come from a molecule called androstenone, a hormone that is also produced by male pigs. This is why traditionally pigs were used as truffle hunters, although they also like eating truffles, so truffle dogs are more commonly used today to seek out these amazing underground gems.
The best way to experience truffles is definitely when they are in season at their best. There are a lot of truffle flavoured products on the market but quite often they use synthetic truffle flavouring and it doesn’t compare to the real thing. Fresh Australian truffles are in season in winter usually around late June, July until early August.
Why are Truffles so expensive?
Truffles are an expensive ingredient, but for good reason. They are not something that can be easily propagated and harvested. They grow underground in the wild and are very particular where they grow. They need moisture on warm days and cool nights and only grow on specific trees such as oak, pine, and hazel trees. The Italian and French countrysides are very good growing spots for truffles, but some species also grow well in Australia.
Truffles also grow very slowly, with some truffles taking as long as four to six years to grow. The truffle season is also very short, and they have a very limited shelf life. Finding truffles can also be a difficult exercise, requiring specially trained dogs or pigs that can smell them under the ground. Once they are found (if they are not eaten first by the truffle dogs or pigs) they need to be carefully dug up and cleaned.
Storing your truffle
Truffles have quite a limited shelf life, it is important that they are loved and cared for once you get your precious truffle home. It is quite easy to look after them, the best way is to wrap them in a paper towel and keep them in the fridge in an air-tight container. You need to change the paper towel every day and they will last about a week in the fridge. To extend the life of your truffle there are several different ways that you can make your truffle go further. Being such an expensive ingredient these tricks are definitely worth noting.
Extending the life of your truffle
My favourite way to extend the life and use of my truffle is to place the truffle (wrapped in a paper towel) in an air-tight container in the fridge with at least a dozen eggs for 1-2 days. Eggshells are quite porous and so the eggs absorb the aroma of the truffle really well. I love using truffled eggs for breakfast as a simple scrambled eggs, to make pasta dough for truffle flavoured pasta, or in a pannacotta or beautiful custard – which you can enjoy on its own or churn into a beautiful truffle ice-cream. All of these things you can make without actually using any of your precious truffle. Of course, grating your fresh truffle over your truffle dishes further enhances and boosts that incredible truffle flavour. You can add grated truffle to butter and it will keep up to 2 weeks in the fridge, or 4 weeks in the freezer, and you can also add grated truffle to lard – about 20 g of truffle to 300 g of lard. Truffle lard will last up to 3 months in the fridge – so you can have truffle for even longer to add to roast vegetables, make amazing pastry for pie crusts – or just have on your favourite toasted sandwich.
My top tips for Cooking with Truffles
- Truffle is a very delicate ingredient, so keeping your ingredients simple will help the flavour of your truffle shine through.
- Heat is great to really activate the flavour of your truffle – but gentle heat – not too much! Never cook your truffle over 80 degrees Celsius as it can destroy the flavour.
- I love grating my fresh truffle over a dish when it is still hot – this is the best way to activate and maintain the beautiful flavour of the truffle. Grated over fresh hot pasta or scrambled eggs is my favourite way to enjoy the true flavour of truffle.
- Dairy and truffles go really well together which is why I love them in desserts. The lactic acid in dairy helps unlock the truffle flavour. You can use any dairy – butter, cream, cheese or milk, and this will really help to carry the flavour of the truffle and enhance it’s earthiness.
- Preserve any leftover truffle in butter or lard to extend the life of your truffle.
- Store your truffle in an airtight container in the fridge wrapped in a paper towel (changed daily) with at least a dozen eggs, so you can enjoy truffle eggs without using any of your precious truffle.
- As with all seasonal ingredients, enjoy truffles fresh, when they are in season at their peak. There are plenty of truffle products on the market, but there is nothing like the real thing.
My top myth busters for cooking with Truffles
- You don’t need to use a fancy truffle grater to serve your truffles. A Truffle shaver does produce a beautiful paper-thin slice of truffle that looks beautiful on the plate, but you can also just use a simple Microplane grater which creates a lot more surface area for your truffle to exude flavour.
- Don’t store your truffle in uncooked rice. This will dry out your truffle and the rice doesn’t actually absorb much of the truffle aroma and what it does absorb, it quickly disappears when you cook the rice.
- Fresh truffles are very seasonal and nothing beats a fresh truffle. There are a lot of truffle flavoured products on the market or cheap inferior products, but quite often they use synthetic truffle flavouring and it doesn’t compare to the real thing.
- There are lots of different species of truffle, but even though most are edible, some truffles have no taste at all or are quite unpleasant – so it is important to know what variety of truffle you are buying. The most valuable ones are the most flavourful which are the Tuber magnatum pico, the Italian white truffle, and the Tuber melanosporum, the Périgord truffle.
- Truffles should not be peeled to remove the earth, dust or debris
They are just brushed with a small delicate brush or wiped with a damp cloth to remove dirt. A pointed knife can be used to remove dirt in the indentations, but this is usually done by your Truffiere.
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