T’was a flippin freezing wintery Sunday morning during mid truffle season when I ventured out to Sutton near Canberra on the New South Wales border for a good old-fashioned Truffle Hunt. Sporting a brand new pair of leopard print gumboots, and about 14 layers of warm clothes to combat the icy air, we traipse single file through ankle deep puddles, across rolling hills to arrive at what seems a pretty ordinary windswept paddock with Oak trees scattered throughout.
‘Let Us Begin’, says The Dirt Whisperer. He explains we can hunt for truffles in just about any conditions, rain, hail or snow. Everything it seems except for wind as it throws the dog off the scent.
We follow the trained truffle dogs around the orchard, often on hands and knees to smell the fertile, rich and oh so pungent earth in the search of the elusive Truffle. It isn’t too long before we strike black gold either. I was pretty amazed actually, I expected to find truffles that were small, more the size of a lime that I knew so well while Chefing in London, but hot diggity, our first find gave us a meaty nugget the size of a large apple. We greedily pass around the truffle and have a sniff. The perfume is difficult to describe – it’s earthy & woody & a bit damp, a little like freshly mowed grass with the slightest hint of air after rain in there somewhere too.
Finding the right truffle and digging it up is all about timing – and of course a good truffle dogs’ sniffer. The pups consider truffle hunting a game and are rewarded with hugs, cuddles and meaty treats. The truffles are brushed off and proudly displayed for all to see.
Following the fun filled truffle hunting, we head to a make shift camp site with a fire pit to warm up and enjoy truffled brie, shots of truffled vodka (party in the paddock right?) and mini truffled pies. Truffles are classified as a vegetable, they have no fat, no sugar and have a high water content, and they are also high in essential minerals and trace elements. Truffles are healthy! #BOOM
The taste and flavours of the fresh black truffle, they are something I recommend everyone try at least once. For me, the texture is kind of nutty, & smells more pungent than a porcini mushroom. The real thing tastes nothing like the overpowering scent of truffle oil that is commonly found in commercial kitchens and restaurants.
There are few things in the foodie world that elicit as much excitement and wonder than this elusive fungi, and as a Berra native I tend to agree. I stand before you, hand over heart and claim that we as the Nation’s Capital are well on the way to holding the title of producing some of the world’s best truffles. The Truffle Festival starts on Winter Solstice and runs until late August.
So tell me dear reader, did you hit up any of the truffle dinners in the ACT this year? Have you ever been truffle hunting and what are your thoughts on fresh truffles?