The Secret Truffle Society is delighted to announce, "It's truffle time!" Ian and Merilyn of Oakhill Truffles and their good friends Lynette and Andres at Wattle Flat are now producing good Truffle. They would like to establish contact with chefs in the Ballarat area that would use Truffle in their menus. If you would like to discuss your truffle options please contact Ian and Merylin Woodhouse or Lynette and Andres via this link.
The Melbourne Truffle Festival at Caulfield Race Course this weekend, 12th and 13th of July 2014, where you will find the largest collection of truffles ever gathered in Australia. Caufield will become a truffle temple, with truffle stories, all day chef demonstrations, mock truffle dog hunts and fabulous food at all price ranges. For more information visit www.trufflemelbourne.com
This event is seriously great for inspiration for your local menus. We hope the unicorn will be adding the truffle scented scramble eggs back to their Menu very soon.
I caught up with Nigel Wood, truffle farmer, Festival Director and founder of Truffle Melbourne this week. The conversation went a little like this…
Suzi: When did you begin your culinary exploits?
Nigel: As a kid my grand parents had an old fashioned corner grocers shop in Fitzroy in the 1950's. After coming home from primary school, I'd get to eat the 'broken biscuits' and dates that were in big hessian bags. The store room smelled beautiful and my Nana was a great cook. These days I'm an average amateur home cook, but I am driven by unusual flavours and once the truffle magic hit fifteen years ago, I was hooked.
Australia is now the fourth largest truffle producing country after France, Italy and Spain and there are about two hundred growers across Australia. On the East Coast, most truffieres (truffle orchards) are small boutique operations like mine, run by one or two people. Whereas Australia's largest producer (which is now also the world's larger producer) of French Black Winter Truffle, has a team of maybe thirty staff including horticulturalists, truffle dog handlers, researchers and distributors covering thirty five countries around the world. Small growers might harvest forty kilograms a year - the Truffle & Wine Co will probably produce more than seven tonnes this 2014 season.
Suzi: What was the light bulb moment?
Nigel: The light bulb moment for the Truffle Melbourne idea was eighteen months ago in a small Spanish village called Graus in the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains. They have a great little truffle market in a medieval square and people from around the district flock to town for their annual truffle festival. I figured if a small village like this can do it, why can't we have a huge truffle festival celebration in foodie Melbourne?
Suzi: Who would you like to thank? Who has helped to shape you journey?
Nigel: Too many to mention, but especially my truffle dealer mate Simon Friend, those chefs that encouraged me early on, Shannon Bennett, Phillppe Mouchel, Guy Grossi and Manu Feildel. Those who've put their hands up to showcase their skills at Caufield on the 12th and 13th of July and the sponsor who are supporting the festival. You can't infuse a big city like Melbourne without that kind of help. And then my Victorian truffle growing friends who've opened up their truffieres to festival visitors across the season, and Victoria's best truffle hunting dogs and their handlers.
Suzi: Fabourite Australian chefs?
Nigel: Philippe Mouchel, a true French gentleman, respected mentor to many young chefs and a culinary master - who's accepted the role of 'Festival Executive Chef' and will create truffle master piece dishes at Caufield.
Suzi: Favourite Australian cook books and magazines, blogs and websites. Favourite international chefs, produce and restaurants?
Nigel: I'm a big fan of Rita Erlich and Stephanie Alexander's books and even fall back on Margaret Fulton or Julia Child if I lack some basic kitchen techniques (boys didn't do domestic science when I was a kid - such a pity!). Then Heston's modern take as a complete contrast.
Suzi: Nigel when you have a garden full of truffle, what's on the menu at your place? Favourite food groups?
Nigel: Simple things slow cooked single pots and roasts when I have the time. As truffles become an ingredient that is part of our local pantry… They are now a seasonal staple. Truffle (of course), eggs, butters, cheese, garlic, pepper.
Suzi: What is the secret thing in your pantry, it can be a terrible culinary tragedy like Rosella tomato sauce, dried herbs, ezy sauce or Krummies?
Nigel: San Remo lasagne, I often make big batches of pasta sauce and you can make great lasagne quickly by thawing some sauce and baking lasagne.
Suzi: What is the dish you love to cook at home?
Nigel: I love roasts too, tonight I'm sliding some thinly sliced truffle under the skin of a chicken, letting that infuse in the fridge for 24 hours wrapped in Glad Wrap and then roasting it smeared with butter and some baked parsnips and spuds and greens on the side, with a quick shave of truffle into my gravy just before serving.
Suzi: Share some truffle treats you have enjoyed lately.
Nigel: The truffle dishes at Bistro Vue are to die for and last night Manu Feildel and his team made the most delicious truffled ice cream, sitting along side a dark chocolate tart and caramel sauce.
Suzi: Favourite eateries in the Balarat region?
Nigel: My truffle farm is in Geppsland so I don't get to the region as often as I'd lie to, but Sault restaurant outside of Daylesford is a favourite and the Lakehouse has been a credit tot he region for years.
Suzi: Local produce you just can't get enough of?
Nigel: Truffles from the Secret Truffle Society crew.
Suzi: Is there something that really annoys you about the food scene in Australia?
Nigel: Our failure to tackle the obesity challenge and to teach everyone about flavour.
Suzi: What are you drinking at the moment?
Nigel: Uncountable cups of coffee each day and Levantine Hill new release pinot from the Yarra valley.