In recent weeks, we’ve spent more time under stay-at-home orders than we would have liked, thanks to all the ‘Rona shenanigans. It’s been quite depressing, to be honest, but there were a few bright spots amidst the gloom, and one was being sent this little beauty, all the way from a truffle farm in Western Australia.
Truffles are most definitely a luxury item. They are painstaking to grow and harvest, are in season for just a short time each year, and are highly sought after by chefs and gourmands who appreciate them for their intoxicating aroma and flavour.
Not surprisingly, they are one of the most expensive foods you can put on the table, selling for a couple of thousand dollars a kilo. There’s a good reason why they are often referred to as “black diamonds”.
Gavin Booth, owner of Australian Truffle Traders, thinks that having gone through a tough 18 months, it’s time for Aussies to treat themselves. We couldn’t agree more. Cooking in lockdown is a whole lot more bearable with one of these little beauties on the table.
His family business has worked hard at making truffles more accessible. “Truffles, while alluring and decadent, should be enjoyed by everyone and not just a select few eating at expensive restaurants,” he says.
“We sell to customers direct from our farm and also online, which is super easy – in just a few clicks, a freshly harvested black truffle will soon be on its way to you.”
The whole process takes about 24-48 hours (in most cases), from the time the truffle is unearthed at the farm in Manjimup in Western Australia’s south-west, to the time it is delivered to your door, sealed and cold-packed so that it is still redolent with its heady scent.
The Booths will even pop a card into the package with a photo of the dog that sniffed out your little treasure, a handwritten date indicating when it was dug up, and brief instructions on how to store it (in the fridge for 3 to 4 days). Ours was found by Monaciello, a Kelpie cross known as Cello for short, “still on L-plates when it comes to this truffling gig but I find it very exciting”. Cute!
We were spending some time with family in Canberra when our truffle arrived. It was just before lockdown, so we headed straight to the Fyshwick Markets to pick up some lobster for a pasta dish that I had in mind. The lobster was also from W.A., making it a truly West Australian feast.
I already had on hand some truffle oil – a genuine one (many aren’t). We kept it very simple, shaving the truffle over some beautiful linguini tossed in truffle oil and butter with slivers of lobster. Very decadent but you only live once!
You only need a small amount of truffle to get the full effect, so we enjoyed more of the truffle over the next few days, making a truffle butter to put on salmon, shaving it on scrambled eggs (truffle and eggs are a match made in heaven), and serving it on delicious poached pears. Magnifique.
The owners of Australian Truffle Traders, Gavin and Mel Booth, have been growing truffles for more than a decade and are fully in tune with their industry. As farmers they understand that for chefs, restaurateurs and distributors, getting truffles at the peak of freshness is paramount.
Gavin grew up on country estates in Scotland and was well grounded in life on the land before serving as a chef with Royal Navy. Mel started her working life in Margaret River vineyards and was an expert dog trainer and handler with the Australian Customs Service – perfect training for dealing with truffle-hunting dogs.
For an unforgettable truffle experience, there’s nothing like hunting them for yourself. I’ve done a few hunts in the region around Canberra but haven’t had an opportunity to visit any of the truffle farms in Manjimup. With all the border closures, we’re not likely to get to W.A. for a long while, but for readers in the west, note that the Booths do truffle hunts every Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday (and other times by appointment).
Visit www.australiantruffletraders.com for more information including tips for storing and using truffles, order truffles online and to book truffle hunts. The truffle season doesn’t last long so you’ll have to get in quick if you want to take advantage of this year’s harvest.
With thanks to Australian Truffle Traders for sending us one of their truffles and providing some moments of joy during these trying times. Photos (except where indicated) provided by Australian Truffle Traders and used with their permission.