Saturday, 20 June 2015

the truffle

Single ingredient festivals. Why not? It’s all about celebrating the season, the products that are available and those that cultivate and harvest them.

There have been coffee, chocolate and mussel festivals. So why not truffles? Now in its second year, the Truffle Festival at Prahran market this weekend is all about making accessible these little black shrivelled up nuggets of gold.

Truffles. Mysterious, highly flavoursome, highly expensive and difficult to use. That’s the perception, but as Chef Guy Grossi points out, they don’t have to be. You only need a shaving of a truffle to add volumes of flavour to a dish. Festival Director, Nigel Wood, explains, the price tag for 50 grams of black truffles may well be $135, but that would lift the profile of a whole lot of dishes, and you wouldn’t need as much as that to add that certain je ne sais quoi to your next dinner party.

What ARE truffles and why the hype? Truffles, like mushrooms, are the fruit of a fungus. They are pretty high maintenance little things as they grow underground and need trees to host them and animals to eat them and distribute their spores. They are also pretty needy because they can’t make their own food, so they form symbiotic relationships with deciduous trees. They do give a little back  to the relationship as they coat the roots of the tree and help it absorb minerals and as a kickback, they get their nutrients from the tree.

Truffles are at their best and most prolific in the winter months and like any high maintenance entity, they don’t just sit around waiting to be found. They nestle in between fallen leaves and bits of branch and mineral-rich soil. Hence the need for specially trained dogs or pigs to locate them.

There is plenty of opportunity to try these little black diamonds in all their glory at the Prahran Market this weekend (20 and 21st June). Dispel all the myths, by watching cooking demonstrations, sampling truffle enhanced culinary delights and watching truffle dogs in action.

If, as French writer Alexandre Dumas claimed, “they can, on certain occasions, make women more tender and men more lovable,” Prahran Market will be a wonderful place to be this weekend. 

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