Yes, that's a photograph of yours truly (above) on my first ever truffle hunt in 2012. I can honestly say that I was awe-struck by the experience and the start of a new truffle season in the Canberra region always brings me great excitement! From all reports, local truffle growers are expecting a promising harvest.
My home town, Canberra, is building a reputation as the truffle capital of Australia and growers across the region been working hard to provide a unique winter experience for visitors to the 2015 Canberra Region Truffle Festival. High-end restaurants, providores, fresh produce markets, bakeries and accommodation providers all working collaboratively with truffle growers to showcase the fresh black Perigord truffle.
The Festival is held from 21 June to early August, with more than 250 individual events, held across a region spanning more than 200km wide, including truffle growers in the Southern Highlands.
The focus of this year's event is on 'truffles from paddock to plate'. Events range from gourmet degustation dinners, truffle dishes at cafes, pastries, cooking classes and demonstrations, wine tastings and matchings, farmers markets, truffle hunts and more.
Highlights include fortnightly cooking demonstrations at Westfield Belconnen and Woden. The demonstrations will be conducted by well-known Canberra chefs - including Brendan Walsh (Pialligo Estate), Damian Brabender (Sage), Jack Walker (Pulp Kitchen) and Alaine Chanter (Foodish) - and are designed to introduce a wider audience to truffles. A great initiative, methinks.
The Conservatory Restaurant 'Chefs of Canberra Dinner' features a star line-up, with chefs Ben Willis (Aubergine), James Mussillon (Courgette), Clement Chauvin (Les Bistronomes) joining Janet Jeffs in The Conservatory Restaurant’s kitchen. Guest speaker, Paul West, whose River Cottage Australia cookbook and TV series puts an international spotlight on Canberra’s food region, and truffier Sherry McArdle-English, make this a showcase event.
On 17 June, the Farmhouse Restaurant at Pialligo Estate is holding a 'Truffle Extravaganza Dinner'. A five-course menu will feature local truffles in dishes created by chef de cuisine, Brendan Walsh. Bookings are essential. For more information, visit the web site or telephone +61 2 6247 6060.
Canberra's only trufferie, French Black Truffles of Canberra, owned by Sherry McArdle-English, offers truffle hunts as well as delicious 'hunt and cook' packages. Learn about the history of the farm and its journey to becoming one of Australia’s most successful trufferies. See the truffle dogs in action and learn how to harvest and handle the truffles. Once the perfect truffle is found, head back into the warmth of the truffle shed where you'll meet chef Andrew Haskins, taste some extraordinary dishes with truffle and discover the secrets to using this highly prized delicacy. For information and bookings, visit the web site. And please watch this space for my upcoming feature about a twilight hunt and cook I attended last week as a guest of French Black Truffles of Canberra.
The Fyshwick Fresh Food Markets are once again a major supporter of the festival, with cooking classes held at 3 Seeds, together with beer and wine tastings, free cooking demonstrations and kids activities, live music, fresh truffles and truffle products for sale - as well as truffles on the menu at many of the markets' cafes and delis.
Below you'll find a couple more 'pick of the bunch' events. But there are numerous others (too many to list here, in fact), so pop in to the Truffle Festival web site, pick out the events you'd like to attend, mark your diaries and get ready to truffle.
Truffle degustations and cookery classes at Le Très Bon...
French-born chef, Christophe Gregoire, says Australian truffles have a superb quality and beautiful aroma. He and his wife, Josephine, will be celebrating the truffle season with special events at Le Très Bon, their restaurant and cooking school in Bungendore. There will be two truffle degustations - one showcasing award winning wines from Lerida Estate (31 July), the other showcasing award winning French wines (26 June). H.E Monsieur Christophe Lecourtier, Ambassador of France to Australia will be a special guest at the latter. In the hands-on cooking classes, attendees will cook either here.Chimay eggs and black truffle (25 July). For information and bookings, click
Pepe Saya Truffle Hunts at Tarago Truffles...
Prepare the hounds and grab your gumboots, 'Pepe Saya Truffle Hunts' are coming to The Canberra Region Truffle Festival. Pepe tells me that he loves winter. And I know that he adores truffles too!
'I think the mystique of truffle is what I love the most about the black rough diamonds.. It draws you in with its seductive aroma. The flavour is misunderstood by many a palate corrupted by faux truffle oil. Once you have the nose for truffles, you are truly hooked. My butter is the perfect carrier as it locks in the aroma and the flavour and releases was slightly heated,' he says.
Since 2011, the Pepe Saya Butter Company has been using truffles from the Canberra Region in its Australian truffle butter, which can be found on plates all over Australia and on Qantas first class flights. This year, the partnership has extended all the way to the paddock, with Pepe Saya sponsoring truffle hunts as part of the 2015 Canberra Region Truffle Festival.
Denzil Sturgis owner of Tarago Truffles will be conducting Pepe Saya Truffle Hunts at his property. 'The hunts provide a fantastic learning opportunity for visitors to our region and solidify the paddock to plate connection. They can come and see how truffles are grown, meet our dogs, participate in a hunt and smell and taste the truffles. It truly is a unique winter experience,' Denzil explains. For more information about the Pepe Saya Truffle Hunts at Tarago Truffles, click here.
A tribute to 'Tom' the truffle dog...
The passing of a family member is always so sad, and can be particularly painful when the dearly departed is a faithful and beloved pet. Recently, Anne and Denzil Sturgiss lost Tom. They have asked me to share this touching tribute to him:
Tom, Master of the Tarago Truffle Hunt, loyal servant of Denzil, often tangled mass of springer spaniel friend of us all, we miss you terribly. You came to us in your middle years, you taught us much about the art of finding the elusive truffle and you adapted well to life on the farm at Gap Hills. You won the hearts of all who came to hunt and you also won Ninu's heart, whose eleven puppies grew into fine dogs bearing many of your striking features. You have earned your resting place beneath your oak tree. ♥
Tell me dear readers, do you love truffle hunts and have you ever cooked with truffles? Do please pop in and tell me!
Hello. I'm Liz, a writer, cook and traveller based in Canberra, Australia.
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NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.