There have been a number of attempts at an Australian truffle cookbook. I’ve got some of them, photocopied stapled sheets with recipes that assume you’ll have some Tuber magnatum in the fridge. So it’s with real pleasure that we welcome this hardbound ‘real’ cookbook to show how the public can use our growers produce. It wouldn’t serve much to carp about it’s inadequacies (the photographs are all of the ‘minimal background, big plates with small serves’ style and some have a feeling that the schedule for the shoot day(s) left them go cold) but with this volume in one hand and a similarly priced truffle in the other, you’re ready to start a wonderful time together.
If we all go out and buy it, maybe the next edition can correct a few things, mostly misconceptions, and add some menu suggestions for some of our other varieties as they become wider available.
I asked my wife Jan O’Connell if we can re-post her review from her Australian Food Timeline website. There’s a link at the bottom of this page that will take you to Booktopia for an advance purchase that is the first of our affiliate links with them. The Association gets a small cut and it costs you no more. Of course you’ll see it in the bookshops soon and the usual Amazon and Book Depository sites.
“Cooking with truffles doesn’t have to be complicated. My favourite truffle dish is scrambled eggs. The way we make it requires a bit of forethought, as the eggs need to be stored for a day or two in a sealed container with a truffle. The truffle aroma penetrates the eggshells and is absorbed by the yolks. You don’t even need to add truffle to the dish – the flavour is already there.
In The Truffle Cookbook Rodney Dunn agrees. He makes his scrambled eggs with truffle butter and it’s just one of a number of easy dishes designed to introduce you to the extraordinary flavour of this extraordinary black fungus. “When using truffle for the first time, I advise you to keep it simple,” Rodney says. So, truffle toast, truffled mashed potato, truffled mac and cheese.
But he goes way beyond simple. The Truffled Coulibiac, which he describes as a “very grand fish pie of Russian origin”, is a complicated assembly of puff pastry, crepes, mushrooms, rice, eggs and salmon fillet. And truffles, of course. Dunn will also have you making your own truffled sausages, your own pasta, and your own brioche doughnuts (to be accompanied by truffled custard and poached quince).
So, yes, there are dishes here that will satisfy accomplished cooks and sophisticated palates – chicken broth with marrow and truffle dumplings, for example, or crumbed sweetbreads with truffle mayonnaise. It’s restaurant-quality food adapted for the home kitchen. Many dishes are quite labour-intensive – there’s a lot of sieving, pasta-rolling, and a polenta recipe that asks you to stir for an hour. (Obviously instant polenta is considered cheating.)
Each recipe has a chatty introduction, with comments on the key ingredients or suggesting variations. The step-by-step instructions are also conversational and clear, although it might have been helpful to include an indication of prep time and cooking time for each one. And most of these are not one-pot dishes; there’s a lot of “meanwhile….”, so you’ll often have several pots on the go.
The book starts with a quick education in truffles – what they are, how they’re grown and harvested and how to buy them. Dunn has consulted a number of truffle growers to inform this section and drops a few names that people in the industry will recognise.
Unfortunately, despite this, some errors have slipped through. Those who know their truffles will sneer when they read that, in the case of black truffle (tuber melanosporum), “the truffle should be jet-black with white mycelium”. Rodney, the mycelium is the truffle’s underground network of fine white filaments called hyphae that reach out into the soil. You don’t find them inside the part we eat, which is the fruiting body of the fungus, those are white sterile veins”.
The “cooking with truffles” section also omits a few important bits of information. For example, while “heat and acid” may release the truffle flavour, too much of either will destroy it. You should generally be thinking warmth rather than heat, which is why in many dishes truffle is added at the end of the process. Don’t try frying a truffle, OK?
The other thing you need to know is how much truffle to use. Truffles are expensive, so it’s tempting to skimp. Ultimately, though, this is wasteful – if you don’t use enough for the taste to come through you might as well leave it out altogether. Generally it’s recommended that you allow three to five grams per person for an entrée dish and closer to ten grams per person for a main course. Perhaps this isn’t an issue if you’re simply following Dunn’s recipes, but it’s handy information if you’re going to start improvising.
The recipes in The Truffle Cookbook have been photographed by a chef-turned-photographer, Luke Burgess, who cooked with the author at Tetsuya’s back in the day. It’s Australia’s first proper truffle cookbook and is a worthy addition to the shelf, whether you’re a truffle newbie or looking for more exotic ways to enjoy this mysterious and magical treat. It’s due for release on 30 May 2016 – you can order from Booktopia (and save $15 or so on the recommended retail price).”
The Truffle Cookbook is published under Penguin’s Lantern imprint – Hardbound 176 pages, RRP $59.99
This video is part of a series that is available in the Members area of this site. It was part of the Barcelona Truffle Tour that Jan O’Connell and I took with some other Australian growers in January this year. We were taken to visit two very successful growers in Teruel in Spain. There is some reinforcement of concepts that are presented in the lecture videos but I felt it was of wider interest to all growers and prospective growers so Marcos has allowed us to include the video here.
Emilio Peréz showed us around the truffiére, which is now managed by his son Miguel. There are some gaps and off camera moments in audio but I didn’t want to add a ‘travelogue’ music track. Marcos Morcillo has a lot of experience he offers in this video, and he generously shares his information with the world on his English language blog. We announced his latest book here.
Fred Harden <thinktag>
ATGA committee member Stuart Dunbar from Yarra Valley Truffles commented in an email this week.
“The Victorian season is looking to be later than normal.
We don’t have much data to track it on, but I think I track it closer than most. Real ripening indications won’t be known until June, with the most likely criteria being how much cold weather we get. Although last year’s substantially early cold didn’t alter things much. The fireplace was running hot this time last year and I was drying Birch Boletes, it currently remains unlit.
Truffle surface signs ran 2-3weeks late compared with previous years data on truffle eruption dates.
Currently rampant, and still catching up protecting end of Feb flush six weeks later, full time, so Great Season… but.
The grape vine’s over the creek were done and dusted several weeks earlier than normal. I believe the European adage is good for truffles, bad for grapes and vice versa.
I can also state outright, warm winter weather kills truffles.
Pray to truffle dog’s for cold weather.”
This is the first of the lectures (it preceded the videos in the previous two posts) presented as part of the 2016 Barcelona Truffle Tour. Here Marcos presents successful examples of truffle growing in Catalonia and Spain, and refers to the research that is taking place at the Catalan government Research Institute of Agronomic Technology – IRTA . The video runs for just over an hour and is recommended viewing for all growers. There is some ‘translation’ required for seasons in our hemisphere, and the fact that there is natural limestone soil in Spain. The huge plantations that were started with EU funding are also very different to many of our growers here so there are some differences in scale when considering costs.
You’ll need to watch in as high quality as your connection will allow to see the details on the graphics.
The importance of the slide below will become painfully clear as you listen to the explanation of why your trees may have a good brulè and never grow truffles (unless you do something about it soon).
Maybe you’ve worked out where you will sell all your truffles (or when you get them) in Australia. Have you thought what the demand will be in, say 2020? Most of our growers realise that our local market is not going to be big enough and are looking for overseas sales to make their truffières viable. Marcos Morcillo and his company Micologia Forestal and Applicada have, and he presented his latest assessment of the future at the Barcelona Truffle Tour in January we attended this year. Here is another ‘back of the room’ video notes from the lectures (see his ‘Paradigm shifts in truffle growing’ lecture video here). The Australians contributed actively to this discussion.
This chart is from “Truffle Farming Today, a Comprehensive World Guide” Marcos Morcillo, Monica Sanchez and Xavier Vilanova. Marcos talks about it in the video above.
My wife Jan and I (as Thinktag Creative), were part of a group of Australian growers who attended Marcos Morcillo’s Barcelona Truffle Tour in late January this year. You can read about it here. The first days of the tour consisted of half day lectures and I attempted to record these from the back of the room. Marcos has generously agreed to share these with Australian growers and I’ll add them to the website as I finish them. They’re all about 50 mins long, and have shaky camera bits, heads in frame and audio level differences. If you can ignore the couple of Bulgarian growers in the foreground who were rudely disinterested, you should find Marcos’ summary here of what changes we will need to consider based on their research, upsetting. Disruptive is the approved word.
The other lectures explain many of the points further but the research that shows the accepted model of tree and truffle in symbiosis is closer to that of the truffle being parasitic, that there’s a need for ensuring two mating types are in each brulé for the ongoing life of your orchard, that you should change how you do your weed management, that you can lime less. They are are just some of those disruptions. And this video includes an assessment of the future world truffle market that will change your financial modelling (and plans for small crop viability).
Get a cup of tea or coffee, sit back and pay attention. I get a Hitchcock walk on moment as I turn off the light at the start of the video.
I’ve been playing with this Adobe online presentation format for a while and decided to use it for my notes from the trip that Jan and I did to Marcos Morcillo’s truffle tour in late January. I have a lot of video I’m editing but this includes a couple of short pieces of that video as a test. Member comments are welcome in the standard blog format below.
It’s best watched full screen, (just click on it, double click to get back to the two pages, use Esc key to close full screen window.) and you can also download a printable PDF copy (minus the video’s) from the menu at the bottom.
If you’re on an iPad, or having troubles etc, this link has a version that may work better.
Through the careful work of authors ATGA member Anne Mitchell and Alison Mathews we now have a great introduction to growing black truffles, not just in WA but with information applicable to the eastern States. I encourage you to visit the site.
The first newsletter of the project Pests and diseases of truffles and their host trees in Australia, is online. The project is running from 29 May 2015 to 10 Jan 2019. Their Newsletter is a biannual update of project activities and will be produced in December and June each year of the project. Here’s a link to December 2015.
The Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia is the lead agency in conducting this project and involves a team based in WA and eastern Australia.
You are able to send pest and disease enquiries and observations to the project team via the MyPestGuide-Reporter app. For more information on the app please refer to the article in the December 2015 newsletter, and the DAFWA website. You can also create pest and disease reports online through the DAFWA website rather than download the app. Please note that there are several MyPestGuide apps, for truffles you will need to download the Reporter app and once in the app select ‘truffle survey’ from the drop down menu each time you send a report.
Dr. Victoria Ludowici sent us these weeks ago, sorry about the delay in posting here.
“I have attached the three factsheets, on the truffle industry’s high priority pests, that we brought along (which can be found at our website- www.planthealthaustralia.com.au).”
There are also fact sheets available on the truffle industry’s other high priority pests and diseases as listed below:
Unfortunately there is no factsheet on hazelnut rust.
I would also suggest that your members visit the Farm Biosecurity website where you can find:
Videos for implementing biosecurity on your farm
Thank you Victoria.
- How hot?
- 2017 ATGA Members Pests and Diseases Roadshow
- June Newsletter online
- NSW ATGA Members Grading workshop
- Great Southern Truffles Services for 2017
- Plant Health Australia Photo Competition
- Shock for importer of Tuber magnatum into Western Australia.
- Conference highlights – a captain’s pick
- RIRDC Truffle Pest & Disease Newsletter #2
- Farm Biosecurity newsletter September 2016