The word “seasonal” gets flung around with frightening ease and laziness these days. It makes it very hard to figure out what’s actually seasonal and what isn’t. One ingredient that is totally uncontroversial in this regard is the Australian black truffle. During the off-season, the word truffle means only oils, imports, essences and rip-offs, but when the season’s on it means fresh truffle shavings, truffle infusions, sauces and soups. Now that the Australian truffle season has arrived, here’s our guide for how to best enjoy all the earthy black gold you can while it lasts.
Slow-cooked heirloom pumpkin, Bruny Island C2 cream, Manjimup truffle, roasted seeds at Bennelong
Peter Gilmore’s knowledge and command of ingredients and their preparation is immediately obvious. He can tell of the nuances between truffle varieties, talk about the history of Australian truffle farming and explain the difference in flavour between Australian truffles and their French counterparts. His salt-baked pumpkin with Bruny Island C2 cream, toasted seeds and fresh flakes of truffle is one of the best things we’ve eaten this month. The Potimarron pumpkin is steamed in a vac-bag with a hunk of butter for one-and-a-half hours and served on a pond of cooked curd cheese (that’s the C2 cream). To garnish, it’s sprinkled with toasted seeds and of course lilies of truffle, which he gets from Australia’s preeminent truffle producer, The Truffle & Wine Co. in Western Australia.
Mac‘n’cheese at Love, Tilly Devine
Aren Edye, chef at Love, Tilly Devine recently had a truffle awakening. It was after meeting Bernadette Jenner and Simon McCrudden, the partnership behind Madame Truffles, Sydney’s newest and greatest truffle tuck shop. Edye was already well acquainted with the lucrative fungus, but Jenner and McCrudden showed him the incredible variety of flavour and aroma that truffles can produce depending on what Australian region and conditions they’ve been grown in. Edye’s mac‘n’cheese features a Tassie truffle for its earthy and pungent aroma. The cheesy and crumb-topped mac has the truffle shaved into and mixed through the sauce and sliced salami-like on top.
Golden egg at Devon on Danks
The Devon cafe duo has long impressed us for running menus that completely subvert the cafe stereotype. It’s not surprising to see them using truffles in a dish we’ve never heard of – a taro scotch egg. It’s a soft-boiled egg encased in a dense Eastern European dumpling style mash of taro, which is layered in flour and taro butter and then deep fried. The enormous golden egg is placed on a net of crisp egg noodles and a rich garlic-butter mushroom gravy. It is all generously showered in Western Australian truffles. The magnificent and bewildering idea comes from Zachary Tan, a chef we’ve been eagerly watching. He told us he doesn’t understand why everyone pairs truffles with creamy, heavy stuff, that’s why he decided to go with taro, something completely different.
Truffle and rabbit at Nel
Before Nel’s full degustation starts patrons are served three mysterious and ultimately mischievous snacks. The second one, labelled just truffle and rabbit appears on a faux newspaper. It’s The Lancashire Times and in-between pictures of the Beatles, Blackburn’s sole premiership and head chef Nelly Robinson, there’s a small filo-pastry-like finger, a cup of something that looks like beer and some artful splodges of green mush. The pastry is rabbit and truffle pie, the green splodges are tarragon purée and the beer is rabbit consommé topped with a “froth” of egg white and tarragon foam. To top it all off, literally, it’s all showered in a healthy shaving of fresh Western Australian truffle.
Potato gnocchi, WA Manjimup truffles and parmesan at Otto
Otto head chef Richard Ptacnik is a produce obsessive. None of his dishes over complicate the beauty of his high-quality ingredients. His approach to truffles is the same. While the season is on, Ptacnik will serve gnocchi with parmesan and fresh truffle shavings. “It’s just about the flavour. That’s why we have only potatoes, parmesan and truffles,” he says. Like most things at the famous harbourside Italian restaurant, the gnocchi is handmade. Ptacnik first roasts the potatoes overnight before shaping the gnocchi to add extra flavour. Once ready, he pan-fries them to add crunch before layering them with parmesan and fresh truffle.