Last week, a special delivery arrived at The French Laundry in the Napa Valley: the first Australian truffles of the season. Evidently, Australian-grown truffles are internationally recognised for their quality and flavour. But if you’re unsure what to do with a handful of black gold, or a little nervous about the price tag (truffles sell for up to $2500 a kilogram), this new project is sure to pique your interest.
Duncan Garvey, of Tasmania’s Perigord Truffles, supplies black Perigord truffles to leading restaurants across the country, including Neil Perry’s Rockpool Group to Stefano Manfredi’s Balla at The Star. Pierre Issa (aka Pepe Saya) is another connoisseur of fine foods, producing hand-churned, cultured butter that has proven another chefs’ favourite. In something of a match made in heaven, Garvey and Issa have joined forces to produce fresh truffle butter.
The Australian truffle season runs from mid-June through to early September. “The truffle grows in a wonderful symbiotic relationship with the tree,” explains Garvey. “It initiates in late spring; in autumn it starts to take its size from the amount of moisture in the soil; and as it gets colder it gradually matures and develops its perfume.
“A lot of people um-and-ah about buying a fresh truffle, because they don’t know how to cook with it and it can be expensive, but you can’t go wrong with truffle butter,” continues Garvey. “You can cook a steak or roast potatoes and melt the truffle butter on top, toss in pasta or simply spread on warm sourdough.”
While we’re busy slathering truffle butter on everything in sight, Garvey has a hidden agenda. “Hopefully the truffle butter also weans people off truffle oil. A lot of people still think truffle oil reflects what a truffle actually tastes like. In fact it has nothing to do with truffles: it’s a petroleum-based product made in Europe. It’s all synthetic.”