At the Mundaring Truffle Festival, we picked up a tiny chunk of black truffle. Nine grams to be exact (we shared a piece with my parents).
I’ve never cooked with truffle before, and since it’s so expensive and has such a tiny season, I felt like we really had to make the most of it! We decided to divide it up and try to infuse it in a few different ways, to get the most out of it. I find the taste of pieces of truffle nice but nothing compared to the way the flavour and smell permeates when infused, even with only a tiny amount.
Truffle butter & pasta
The first thing I made was truffle butter, for which I finely chopped a small chunk of truffle and mixed it with a small chunk of softened butter. This then sat in our fridge for a few days. I have no idea if this is the correct method, but after a few days the smell of truffle was all through the butter and the taste was very noticeable.
I decided to use the truffle butter in a simple pasta dish, as the pasta dishes featuring truffle we had at the festival seemed to be the best vehicle for it. Of course with such a fine ingredient I had to make the pasta myself – I don’t think that dried pasta would do it justice! The truffle butter formed a base for a simple white sauce, then topped with a small drizzle of truffle oil. The end result was decadent and intensely truffle-y.
I stole this idea from Sefie of Sefie Eats – apparently due to the porous nature of eggshells, keeping truffle in a sealed jar with eggs infuses the flavour and scent into them. It sounded like a good way to get a lot of taste out of a little bit of truffle, which definitely sounded good to me! Looking back at Sefie’s post it looks like her truffle was about the size of our entire truffle piece – I ended up putting just a few tiny slices in the jar with 6 free-range eggs. I was worried that the flavour wouldn’t be intense enough with such a small amount in there… but I was thankfully very wrong. When cracked and whisked the heady aroma was already wafting out. The Boy scrambled the eggs Heston style and served it on grilled sourdough spread with the last of the truffle butter, grilled field mushrooms and the slices of truffle on top.
This is definitely my favourite dish that we made with the truffle – it also only used a tiny amount and was the least effort! Something about the creamy fattiness of the egg just works with the flavour of the truffle and amplifies it, so even though only a few slices were used for the infusion the taste was very present and delicious.
Probably the largest chunk of truffle went into a jar of arborio rice to infuse, and this was the last dish that we cooked with it.
The smell seemed strong enough on the rice, but once it started cooking it was far less noticeable. A dash of truffle oil (man I love that stuff) to finish and some more field mushrooms bumped up the flavour, and the end result was rich and earthy but not as strong on the truffle flavour as I was hoping. To be fair this was the last dish that we cooked, so although it was infusing for a decent while the truffle was a little past its prime by the time we cooked it.
Although tasty, I’m not sure arborio rice is the best use of truffle (or maybe we’re doing it wrong?) so I don’t think I’d attempt this again unless I had some better idea of how to do it. I absolutely loved the truffle oil on risotto though, so I’ll definitely be using it for that again!
The last item I tried to infuse was salt. I’m not sure I made the best choices here – I think if I were to do it again I’d go for a smaller amount, and choose salt flakes rather than rock salt so it’s easier to use (and maybe infuses better?). The taste and smell is very subtle, and in the quantities that we typically use it tends to get lost in other flavours. It worked okay to top the pasta and eggs, although I’d attribute the truffliness to other aspects. Still, it was worth a try! If you want to try this at home, remember that the pieces of truffle infusing in the salt will also absorb the saltiness, so don’t try to put them on something which is already salty enough!
We were going to make truffle oil but were pretty impressed with the one we tasted from Great Southern Truffles, so just bought a bottle of that. The scent and flavour is surprisingly strong, and I don’t think I’d be able to get anywhere near as good a result infusing it myself, so it was definitely worth buying. I think I’ll be using it to finish dishes like pasta, risotto, gnocci, soups and mashed potato.
A few things I picked up from some quick research before using our truffle, and observations from our attempts:
- Truffle is the feature – all the other flavours in a truffle based dish should complement or enhance the truffle taste, not mask it. It goes well with relatively bland dishes, such as pastas and potato.
- The flavour is delicate and can easily be lost in strong tasting ingredients.
- It seems like fatty ingredients (like oil, butter and eggs) seem to absorb and amplify the taste of truffle, and match it beautifully.
- It’s more about the smell than the taste! Taste is affected by what you can smell as well, so I think this is where the truffle really shines. For this reason I think products which have been infused with truffle have a stronger and more interesting taste than just eating a chunk of truffle on its own.
- A little goes a long way, especially when it comes to eggs!
- We were told that the truffle would last for a week in the fridge, or up to a month in the freezer. Keep it wrapped in a paper towel and then in an airtight container, to absorb the moisture it sweats out and so that your whole fridge doesn’t end up smelling like truffle.
- I’m glad we only got a very small amount, as there’s pressure to not just use it whilst it’s in its prime, but to also do it justice with really good ingredients and meals made from scratch. If you’re unsure (like me) just get a small amount.
- I’m unconvinced by truffle salt. Too subtle maybe?
- Truffle related products sold by the producers (such as the truffle oil we bought) are excellent value, considering how much you would pay for the truffle and ingredients to make it yourself. It will also last much longer than a fresh truffle, and at an event like the festival you can taste it before buying.
- Truffle is a bit of an acquired taste, but once you’ve had it it becomes a bit addictive. I suppose that’s why people patiently await truffle season each year and pay such high prices for it!