'What does truffle taste like?' a reader asked recently. Good question. 'Well, it's sort of earthy,' I replied. 'Yes, they grow underground, so I figured that. But what are they like?' she replied.
Rodney Dunn, chef and the founder of the Agrarian Kitchen in Tasmania, can perhaps provide a better answer. In a recent interview on ABC RN's Blueprint for Living he confirmed that people do need to try them, because there is not really anything like them and, as such, the flavour of truffle is 'an interesting thing and hard to nail'.
'Effectively, truffles are an underground mushroom, so they do have those mushroomy notes to them,' he explained. 'They are also a ball of glutamate - a flavour enhancer with umami characteristics - think MSG. Truffles do take on different flavours, depending on what you put them with.'
Indeed, as a truffle enthusiast myself, I enjoy them in both savoury and sweet dishes - but they are not everyone's favourite thing. Peter and I shared a lengthy discussion about the topic over a truffle degustation at Pulp Kitchen in Canberra just last evening. Although my man was arguing that you 'cannot serve truffle in a dessert', he thoroughly enjoyed the hazelnut sponge with truffled sabayon that we were served to finish the meal!
Now back to Rodney Dunn. In his second cookbook, which happens to be The Truffle Cookbook, Dunn delves into the mystical and (sometimes) elusive ingredient, which he says is steeped in an aura so overpowering that it dissuades most people from ever tackling them in the kitchen. He has celebrated truffle season ever since the inception of The Agrarian Kitchen and, later, he introduced truffle cooking classes. This book evolved from those classes.
Readers are introduced to truffles, truffle varieties and the truffle industry. He writes about the scent of truffles; how to store them and how to cook with them. He also notes that most of the truffle oils on the market have been flavoured with a synthetic agent derived from petrochemicals!
There are recipes for truffles with cheese; truffles with soup; truffles with seafood, meat and vegetables; as well as truffled sweets. Some of the standouts include chicken liver truffle parfait with blackcurrant jelly; cheddar, jerusalem artichoke and truffle custard; steamed treacle, date and ginger pudding with truffle custard; and truffled macaroni cheese - which I have the pleasure of sharing with you here, thanks to the publisher.
Dunn writes, 'Making a killer macaroni and cheese comes down to using some really good cheese: a nice cloth-bound aged cheddar, something with a deep nuttiness like comté, and a good parmesan such as reggiano or grana padano. If you like, smoky bacon is a welcome addition – just sauté it first before stirring it into the sauce.'
Truffled Macaroni Cheese
300 g macaroni
800 ml milk
1 fresh bay leaf
100 g butter
100 g (2/3cup) plain flour
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
100 g mature cheddar, coarsely grated
130 g gruyère, coarsely grated
80 g (1 cup) nely grated parmesan
20 g finely grated black truffle
120 g (1 and 2⁄3 cup) fresh breadcrumbs
crusty bread and green salad, to serve (optional)
Extracted from The Truffle Cookbook by Rodney Dunn with photography by Luke Burgess, Lantern, RRP$59.99.
Rodney Dunn will be in Canberra as part of the 2016 Truffle Festival Canberra Region for the Food & Words event on 31 July, 2016. Read more about that luncheon and talkfest here.
The Truffle Cookbook by Rodney Dunn, $59.99, Lantern is available from all good booksellers now. Thank you to the publicity team at Penguin/Lantern and also to Rodney Dunn for giving me the opportunity to showcase this title.
It's your turn now, dear readers. Tell me, do you love macaroni cheese? How about truffles? Have you ever paired the two?
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