Nuggets of delight… all about Tasmanian truffles
Have you ever tasted a truffle? No, not the chocolate kind. The pungent, earthy, underground kind. The kind that fetches crazy prices internationally. Thankfully we now have a burgeoning Tasmanian truffle industry and can access these nuggets of delight at much more palatable prices. But just what is all the fuss about?
Truffles evoke big reactions from first timers. You either love them or really, really … don’t. If you love earthy, savoury flavours akin to mushrooms but stronger, a little funkier… you might love truffles.
The truffle industry in France is hundreds of years old and is an economy all of its own. Their annual truffle auctions attract international bidders from around the world, all vying to buy the best, biggest and most pungent truffles of the season.
In Australia this delicacy was either unavailable due to the tyranny of distance, or the exorbitant prices for fresh truffles imported from France. All this changed about three decades ago when a few adventurous souls started to experiment with growing truffles in Tasmania, where conditions such as temperature and soil type can be favourable to truffles. An industry was born and now there are several truffle growers in Tasmania bringing high quality truffles to the market at much more affordable prices.
Our supplier, Truffledore, in Lower Barrington at the foot of Cradle Mountain, is owned and run by Ina Ansmann and Timonthy Noonan. The truffière was planted in 2007 and contains 600 English oak, holly oak and hazelnut trees. Ina and Tim began in the truffle business in 2019 and run the farm as organically as possible including using natural pest control such as their flock of guinea fowl. Harvesting is done by hand with the aid of a small team of truffle dogs.
Truffles are a form of fungus and grow underground on the root system of oak and hazelnut trees in a symbiotic relationship with the trees. Truffledore grows French Black Winter (Périgord) truffles which are available June – August.
How to use truffles
Truffles pair well with simple dishes where the flavour of the truffles can permeate and shine through. Dishes featuring eggs, cheese, butter, or cream are a perfect match. A creamy pasta, a risotto, poached eggs with asparagus and hollandaise sauce and a shaving of truffles, a poached egg on a bed of polenta with a shaving of parmesan and truffle – are all sublime. Seafood is also a great match – scallops and crayfish in particular.
You can store truffles in the fridge with eggs or rice, which will take on the flavour of the truffles, for 2 to 3 days.
How much to use
A dish would generally use about 4 grams of truffles per person. They are best shaved very finely using a truffle shave or microplane.
Store fresh truffles in a glass jar with paper towel or tissue paper in the fridge. Change the paper each day and leave the truffles out of the jar for a few minutes to breathe. Truffles are at their best for 6-8 days after harvesting. They can be frozen but will lose some flavour.
And the price?
At Hill Street Devonport, Sandy Bay and West Hobart, fresh truffles are $1.95 per gram.