In Food + Drink

Truffle Season: Where To Source The Best Ones And How To Use Them

Truffles, the darling food of the winter months, are well and truly in season. As thousands of connoisseurs making their way to the cooler climate hot spots for truffle hunts, eateries around the country are hosting special tasting events, degustation dinners, cooking classes and more celebrating this precious ingredient.

Vue Group’s Executive Chef Justin James looks forward to the season more than most, planning out menus across the Piggery and Vue’s venues.

“I think the hype about truffles is they are very hard to cultivate, extremely seasonal, and a pain to find. And most importantly their taste and aroma. Truffles have this exotic personality and romance to them,”says James.

With truffle season lasting roughly from June to August, it’s a short time frame to get your hands on the good stuff and this season, James say, is looking pretty amazing with some great quality product out there.

“This season has been absolutely stunning. We get our truffles from Terra Preta Truffles in Braidwood, NSW. It is a family run farm, who put so much care, love, and passion into the truffles. In my opinion they are the best truffles in Australia and they get better every year,” he says.

The quality has also seen chefs and home cooks broaden the ways in which truffles are used. While adding shaved truffle or truffle oil to pastas and potato has been the norm, there’s been a surge of quirkier products on the market over the last year or so.

One such was last year’s limited release of ‘The Mist,’ a black truffle gin created between collaborators Macenmist Black Truffles and Catcher and Co Distillery located near the NSW and ACT border.

Foodish, at Canberra’s Belconnen Markets have also released a black truffle ice cream, made with fresh truffles from the Canberra region.

“Although I love truffles on pasta or scrambled eggs, I’m always looking for a more creative way to use them,” says James, adding that he prefers keeping it simple as it’s the best way to showcase them.

“Currently at Vue de Monde we are serving black truffles with confit wagyu tongue and a broccoli ‘porridge.’ We use the truffles in a puree and fresh in the dish. At Iki-jime, we are serving black truffles with slow cooked squid cooked in a black truffle butter. The squid is served with chives and grated fresh truffles. In the Lui Bar the bartenders and I have worked on a truffle martini which was insanely good,” he says.  “Gin infused with truffles and we garnish the martini with a couple drops of truffle oil we make and one slice of truffle floating in the middle.”

So if you’re looking for a good truffle, going on a hunt and finding your own can be a deliciously rewarding experience. Alternatively, you can find them at specialty food markets as well as online at sites such as www.truffleharvest.com.au. You can also get them direct from the truffle farms online as well. But if you’re unsure about what makes a good one, don’t despair.

“The best method is to find an honest supplier or farmer and create a great relationship with them,” says James.

“What to look for in a great truffle is colour, smell and feel. The colour on the outside should have no white spots or fading,” he adds. “On the inside, look for a good ‘marbling’ and no discolouring.”

The smell should be intoxicating but not over powerful.  The feel should have a small bounce to it, not to soft and not to firm. They should feel in weight as they look. If it is lighter than it looks pass on it.

Aside from the upcoming truffle themed events, Chef James says that the Vue Group has big plans in the year ahead.

“Other than the truffle events at Vue events, Iki-jime, and Piggery there are always big plans happening in the Vue Group,” he says. “Most of them I cannot say at the moment but we are looking to take an international jump sooner than later. We are teaming up with Something Wild in October for an event at Vue Events, where we will be serving 5 courses of wild Australian products from Something Wild…it is going to be wild!”

Published 24 July, 2018