'Being a truffle can be disconcerting, as truffle is the domineering ingredient in dishes,' says Andrew Haskins of 3Seeds Cooking School. The leading Canberra chef (ex 'the fig') and cooking school owner is presenting a series of unique and informative hunt and cook packages during the truffle season.
It's a Friday night and we're seated in a marquee in the middle of a paddock, not far from the truffle shed. A twilight truffle hunt is finished and now we're in for more sensory pleasure. Haskins has the stove fired up and has planned a mini-feast for the attendees. We'll be tasting and smelling truffles and truffle-infused dishes as we listen to sage advice on the best ways to use these earthy treasures.
'I remember first seeing truffles in 1979, as an apprentice in Melbourne.' Haskins tells me before the class. 'They looked like tiny balls of rubber, and tasted the same!' he laughs. 'My first personal 'go' with truffles was in the 90’s at our restaurant, 'the fig'. Truffle butter drizzled over pan seared blue eye cod with a truffle scented potato mash,' he explains. 'My best truffle experience was in 2010. A cafe in Certaldo, Tuscany, with my wife, Catherine, for her 40th. Fresh truffle pasta, both made with and shaved on top (not my thing now) and served with an awesome local Chianti,' he recalls.
A truffle is not the cheapest food commodity. Indeed, it is an investment. Haskins says that when most people buy themselves a truffle, they make the mistake of shaving the whole thing over a dish of scrambled eggs or pasta. 'Then the truffle is gone all at once. And, what's more, you only smell a little of the truffle by doing that,' he adds.
To get the most out of the truffle, and bang for your buck, the idea is to layer the flavours and infuse products to give them truffle pungency. 'You can get so much truffle mileage in such a short time by bringing flavours together to creative a little party. And, you've still got the truffle to use,' says Haskins.
Here are the chef's suggestions and top tips. The last one is a cracker!
I really like these ideas, don't you? Tell me, have you ever tried truffle? What are your favourite ways of using truffle?
Cooking and writing have been a lifelong passion.
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NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.