From toasties to ice-cream: Try some truffle treats
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With images of truffle dishes inundating all aspects of social media, you'd never know that Australia's truffle industry is barely as old as Apple's first iPhone - both coveted, scarce, and at the time-dependent on foreign imports.
But while the growing number of domestic truffle farms are able to produce more product, the allure of the black diamond remains.
"When you're an apprentice, it's quite an ethereal thing. You'd hear about them, you'd read about them, but you rarely got to touch them," James Kidman, Cafe Sydney's executive chef, says.
"I remember the first time I really saw them. I was a second-year apprentice, and the owner had imported them for a truffle dinner.
"I remember the white truffles and the explosion of the aroma coming from the fridge."
While he still appreciates the northern hemisphere's variant, Kidman's dishes feature black truffles from the Canberra area.
"If you're eating a black truffle, it's all about the flavour, about the taste and then it reaches the olfactory system."
To let the truffle take centrestage, his medium of choice is risotto.
"It's just rice, butter and parmesan - nothing complicated."
That being said, Kidman's version of "simple" involves a stock prepared with broccoli, celery and other seasonal vegetables.
"It's made daily, so it doesn't have time to go flat."
Once in the bowl, it's topped with a hen's egg yolk and truffle slices that soon emit their earthy aromas once activated by the heat.
For something a bit lighter but try the veal carpaccio, duck liver and foie gras parfait with Turrella truffle - it's delicious, innovative, and does a brilliant job of showcasing Australian truffles.
- 5th floor, Customs House, 31 Alfred St, Sydney; cafesydney.com
Dubbed "black gold" truffles have long been associated with wealth and fine dining, but thanks to chefs like Morris Baco of Devon Cafe, who have incorporated it into cafe classics, it has become more approachable, garnering truffles a new legion of fans.
Baco explains how Devon's foray into truffles dates back to 2013.
"The first one to become popular was the Ultimate Toastie," he says.
Made with sauteed mushrooms, kombu butter, truffle scrambled eggs, melted cheese and fresh truffle, it's mostly the same formula as the original.
And while it may have seemed odd for a toastie, Baco notes that two of the best ingredients to use with truffles are eggs and cheese, so, in theory, it works and taste-wise, it's perfect.
The seasonal menu has grown since then, often inspired by Baco's travels such as the mushroom lasagne, which he saw served as a slice and on its side to emphasise the defined layers.
He made it even more appealing by adding a bit of cheese and topping that with shaved truffle. The mie goreng is also a relatively new addition.
"I just learned a couple years ago that 'goreng' means stir-fry," which as a chef, he said fascinated him, so he set about creating his own with fresh egg noodles, Asian mushrooms, porcini bumbu, chicharron, fried shallots, soft egg and fresh truffle slices.
In Malay, 'mie' is pronounced 'me' but in a roundabout sort of way, he liked calling it "My stir-fry".
For smaller truffle-topped options, on the savoury side, there is the egg sandwich or curly fries, while sweeter treats include the truffle ice-cream sundae and the Truffle-misu made with Valencia hazelnut praline, blueflower Earl Grey and honey or if you can't decide, have a taste of it all with the Truffle Brunch Experience ($69pp).
Oh, and before you leave, don't forget to pick up a jar of their housemade truffle honey and truffle salt. And just maybe some truffle soft serve to enjoy along the way.
- Shop 19, 200 Barangaroo Ave, Barangaroo; devoncafe.com.au
DOPA BY DEVON
It takes about five or six years for a truffle to mature, but in the skilled hands of DOPA by Devon's head chef Zachary Tan it takes mere minutes for him to assemble the premium truffle offering, the "ocean and earth bowl".
It's the latest creation from the gents behind Devon Cafe, who have built a respectful reputation for taking simple street foods, in this case, the donburi, a Japanese rice bowl, and retaining their essence while transforming them into something exceptional.
Marrying the flavours of the sea with the truffles from the earth, Tan says: "It's a luxurious bowl utilising the best of winter's produce in NSW. We're using aged bluefin tuna caught off the coast of Ulladulla.
"The sea urchin is hand-dived from around the area as well, and the truffles come from Goulburn, NSW."
For something a bit simpler, there is also the agedashi (deep-fried) tofu and because, as Tan explains, "tofu has a tendency to take on flavours and aromas" so he has added a generous portion of shaved truffle on top.
Ever the creative, he still gives credit to the ingredients themselves.
"We are so blessed in Australia, especially in winter."
- Shop 5/6, 2 Little Hay St, Haymarket; facebook.com/dopabydevon/
THREE WILLIAMS CAFE
For Jacqui Ektoros, head chef at Redfern's Three Williams, there is no mincing words when it comes to celebrating seasonal and local ingredients, particularly in regard to her popular honey and mandarin crumpet featured on their current truffle menu.
"Mandarins are banging in season. They're beautiful right now," Ektoros says.
The other highlight of this dish is also a local find.
"I get them from Merna (Crumpets by Merna). She makes them from scratch with her own sourdough," Ektoros says, explaining that not only do they make for a great base, the tanginess adds to the dish's overall flavour.
"This is essentially a sweet dish," she says, noting the prominence of both fresh and freeze-dried mandarins along with drizzles of thyme honey, "but there is a sourness that comes from the crumpets, ricotta and mascarpone".
For those after something a bit more savoury, try the melt-in-your-mouth slow-braised beef cheek with parsnip puree, red wine jus and sliced truffle.
The portions are substantial, so bring a friend and share your way through Ektoros' seasonal menu.
- 613a Elizabeth St, Redfern; threewilliamscafe.com.au
It may not have been his intention, what with years as a chef in French and Italian restaurants, but with a baby on the way, Daero Lee decided it was time to give up the 80-hour weeks as head chef at busy restaurants and open his own place.
The next step wasn't so obvious.
"We couldn't decide what type of restaurant it would be," says Illa Kim, Lee's wife and the SOUL Dining's co-owner.
"I just wanted to recreate all the dishes that are in my head, but with the techniques I have learned," Daero says.
Turns out, those just happened to be based on ones from his childhood in Korea.
"At first it was an all Korean restaurant, but we weren't serving typical foods," such as spicy kimchi and bulgogi beef.
"We now call it 'contemporary Korean'. It's more sophisticated but with familiar flavours."
To start with, there are the individual deep-fried dumpling skins, cupped and filled with Wagyu beef tartare and covered in sliced truffles.
Follow that with one of their signature dishes based on the Korean street-food, Gyeranbbang (egg bread).
It's a sweet dough baked in an oblong tin with an egg in the middle.
At SOUL, Lee has amended it a bit and meticulously covered the top with sliced Périgord truffles from Tasmania which naturally blends well with the broken yolk.
Another modified dish is Tteokbokki, thick and chewy cylinder-shaped rice cake noodles which he serves in a creamy mushroom sauce with truffles.
Finish the meal off with a doughnut-shaped churro, topped with truffle ice-cream and of course, more sliced truffle.
- 204 Devonshire St, Surry Hills; souldining.com.au
PRINCE OF YORK
While that party on the dancefloor may have to wait a tick longer, you're still good to sashay your way to Prince of York for their Truffle Shuffle, a four-course dinner featuring premium product from Madame Truffles.
Executive chef Sam Bull has prepared a scrumptious menu that starts with warm focaccia, wagyu bresaola topped with WA truffle slices and a wedge of truffle-stuffed brie with toast and apple chutney.
Follow this with the rich and creamy fettuccine pasta with pecorino and Blue Mountains truffle.
You may raise a brow at the next course - the crab sandwich with Truff Hot Sauce and shaved Canberra truffle, but one bite and you'll be a convert.
Finally, you guessed it, truffle ice-cream topped with shave truffle. And with that, you should be tied over till next winter. ($110pp; Thursday, July 16; 6pm)
- 18 York St, Sydney; princeofyork.com.au
The ornate pastries are an Instagram fave, but come winter, it's the simpler side of Textbook Patisserie's menu that gets all the attention.
With a bit of truffle magic, chef/owner John Ralley transforms his delicious meat pies into a delicacy and his flaky custard-filled croissants into cult-worthy creations.
A true standout this year is the Croque Madame - a toasted ham and cheese sandwich topped with a gently-fried egg and shaved truffle. It's the type of dish that legends are made of.
- 274 Botany Rd, Alexandria; textbookpatisserie.com.au
FOUR FROGS CREPERIE
It's a double win this week as Four Frogs celebrates truffle season and Bastille Day (July 14), France's national holiday with a special savoury galette, a sort of cross between a pancake and a crepe.
Through to July 19, they'll be serving up their Swiss cheese and egg version topped with grated, local black truffle ($27) at their four locations: Circular Quay, Lane Cove, Mosman and Randwick.
THE LOCH - FUNGI FIELD DAY
Head straight to the source for your epic truffle adventure with the annual Fungi Field Day at The Loch, in Berrima.
At this working farm, set in the stunning surrounds of the Southern Highlands, The Loch's chef/owner Brigid Kenney, will prepare a premium paddock-to-plate menu with locally sourced produce paired with local boutique wines.
The event runs on Sunday, August 2 at 12pm and is limited to 50 people. ($200pp, $145pp- food only)
- 581 Greenhills Rd Berrima; theloch.net.au
Originally published as From toasties to ice-cream: Try some truffle treats