Buying a truffle
The beauty of truffles is that although they are expensive, a little can go a long way. If you’ve ever considered spending $50 on a bottle of fine wine for a special occasion, then spending the same amount on some fresh truffle will enable you to enjoy the delights of truffles – for a special breakfast, wonderful lunch or as the centrepiece of a dinner with friends.
All of the Canterbury truffle growers listed on this web site are happy to supply truffles to members of the public. Phone or email them to discuss what you might need for a culinary creation to remember.
All truffles should be stored in tightly sealed containers in the warmest part of the fridge. Line the container with kitchen towels, and check the paper every day or two to make sure that it doesn’t become too damp. Despite what you may read elsewhere, we do not recommend storing truffles with rice. Rice will absorb moisture very effectively, and will cause the truffles to become dehydrated thus shortening their shelf-life.
Always store truffles with eggs, to allow the eggs to absorb the aroma of the truffles. After a couple of days they can be used to make scrambled eggs, omelettes, spaghetti carbonara, mayonnaise, even ice cream – all with truffle flavour, without using much (or any) truffle.
Try storing truffles with some good butter, cut into small cubes. The truffle aroma will infuse into the butter, which can then be used to dress pasta, finish a risotto, add depth to a sauce, or just simply eaten with some fine bread. The butter can be frozen, and will keep for a few months – a great way to stretch the truffle season into spring and summer.
All truffles have a strong affinity with eggs, cream, butter and cheese, because the key aroma and flavour compounds are fat-soluble. Always add truffles to a dish at the end of cooking and do not overheat them, or you may lose all their wonderful perfume.
Perigord black truffle (Tuber melanosporum)
This is the classic truffle of French cuisine – of tournedos Rossini, poulet en demi-deuil and many others. It works well in simple dishes as well as complex, and it has enough flavour/aroma to work well when grated over dishes as a garnish.
Scrambled eggs or omelette: use truffle-infused eggs, and shave more truffle into the mixture. Leave it to infuse for at least an hour before cooking. Do not overcook: the eggs should be cooked but still moist.
Fried eggs: fry truffle-infused eggs, and serve with a few shavings of fresh truffle on top. Good days start with truffled eggs…
Truffled pommes dauphinoise: shave slices of truffle into the layers of potato as you build the gratin. Be generous with the butter and cream. This is one of our favourites.
Truffled mashed potatoes: boil potatoes in their skins, then peel and mash while still hot (this keeps them dry, so they will absorb more butter and cream). Shave and chop some truffle into matchsticks and add to the cream and butter, and gently warm the mixture until the butter melts (do not boil the milk), then add to the potatoes and whisk/beat. You’re aiming for a fairly fluffy, creamy mix – pommes purée, the French would call it.
Bianchetto white truffle (Tuber borchii)
These are very similar to the famous Italian white truffle, but a great deal less expensive. They can be used in any Italian recipe calling for white truffle. These are often quite simple:
Spaghetti: heat some good butter in a pan, and just before the spaghetti is cooked shave some truffle into the warm butter (don’t fry the truffle!). Immediately drain the spaghetti and toss it in the pan with the truffle butter. Shave on some more truffle, add grated parmesan, toss once more and then serve with more truffle and cheese on top.
Risotto: make a plain risotto (Milanese), and when it’s ready – at the point where you stir in some butter and parmesan – add shaved truffle and stir through. Serve with more truffle and parmesan on top.
Carbonara: follow any good recipe, but make the egg custard with truffle-infused eggs, shave in more shaved/sliced truffle, and leave it to infuse for at least an hour. Serve with more truffle and parmesan on top.
Burgundy truffle (Tuber aestivum syn uncinatum)
Similar to the Perigord black truffle, these work very well with cheese. Buy some good Brie, and make a truffle sandwich. Leave three days, then sample with the finest pinot noir you can lay your hands on.
Black winter truffle (Tuber brumale)
Use as Perigord black. Especially good when cooked, as warming tends to drive off the musky edge to the nose.
A note on slicers and graters: To get the best results with your truffle, you should invest in (or borrow) a truffle slicer. These enable you to make nice thin slices of truffle which will look good on your chosen dish. They are available from good cook shops. Microplane graters produce a nice chiffon of truffle, which can look good on a dish, but they cut so finely that the truffle aroma and flavour is lost very quickly.