Above, a truffle infusing arborio rice and eggs, chocolate cupcake-shaved truffle and truffled cream, scallops with celriac, chestnut and truffle, truffled brie, foie gras and julienned truffle for perigordine sauce, truffled creme brulee, making and cooking truffled egg ravioli.
The temptation is to throw a dinner party to show off this expensive ingredient. Or tackle a recipe you’ve tried in a restaurant. My folly was to try and recreate a rolled lamb roast I’d tried in Italy. Ok, but where’s the truffle we said. So if you’re determined to understand why this is such a valued ingredient, you’ll need something that delivers.
Even then, the following recipes are quite variable. Unfortunately you’re going to have to try some of these more than once to get the quantity right. And if your truffle is not particularly pungent, you’ll need to use more of it. Truffle is a natural glutamate and enhances flavours, similar to garlic which is also a natural glutamate). Eating slices of it raw shaved on top of a chocolate cupcake will have some truffle hit, but we’re looking for something enhancing and foolproof here.
Foolproof option 1.
Store your piece of truffle with a dozen or more good quality free-range eggs in a plastic container or large glass jar. Place the truffle on a piece of absorbent kitchen paper on top of the eggs. Leave for 24 hours. More time doesn’t seem to make much difference and the truffle will lose moisture (change the paper each day).
The photograph shows a truffle in rice. This was in preparation for a truffle risotto, but frankly, the rice doesn’t do much absorbing whereas the egg yolks, because they contain fat, suck up the aromas through the shell. Adding truffles at the end of the risotto cooking works better.
So you’ve now got enfused eggs and you can do any eggy recipe with them. Scrambled, poached and fried. We gave some truffled eggs to someone who hadn’t tried truffles and she cooked two and was completely turned off, she didn’t appreciate the change in flavours and gave the rest back to us. If your truffle is good, you’ll know they’ve been there (and everything in the fridge will to!).
If you want a stronger hit, shave some truffle onto the eggs/omlette. The warmth plays a big part of bringing out the aroma and the smell is a big part of the taste (as usual).
Poached eggs with truffled cream
Jan Gundlach served this at his first truffle dinner in 2008. He describes it “This is a breakfast dish, perfect for relaxed Sunday with some champagne, nice surroundings and nice people to be with. It’s a conscious getting away from the fried eggs and bacon, or the muffin poached egg and hollandaise.
We cut the top of the egg with the help of a special tool, it marks the shell and you can easily remove the top, leaving a clean edge.
We remove the egg white and yolk, to separate the two. And return the egg yolk into the shell cup. You then float the eggs in a pot with water at 60 deg C to poach the egg for 4 to 5 minutes. Meanwhile you make some seasoned cream, with salt flakes, vinegar, vino cotto and add some freshly grated truffle. Add enough so the truffle flavour shines through, the vinegar and the vino cotto elevates the flavour of the cream. It’s not vinegary, it’s not sweet either, it underlines the structure of the flavour.”
My suggestion is you make more cream than one portion per person, because after you have one, you’ll surely want another because they really are delicious. Eaten with a teaspoon, the intense truffle creaminess is suddenly softened when you dip through the cool cream into the warm egg yolk, then all the flavours mix in your mouth. You don’t need to use infused eggs for this, the truffle is in the cream.
Foolproof option 2.
Truffle’s affinity is to fats. Make some truffled butter for toast or just crusty bread – shave or better, micro-plane some truffle into cold butter, mix through, wrap in plastic and store in the fridge until needed (but not too long, after a couple of weeks you’ll see it going mouldy). Cream also absorbs the flavours. A risotto made with a mild stock or just water is a perfect base for shaved truffle. Strong flavours can kill your perception of what the truffle is doing.
Foolproof option 3.
Earthy root vegetables love truffle. Mashed potato, turnips, beetroot and especially celeriac. Make a mash and grate some into it. How much? about 5 grams or so per person but taste as you go and stop when you feel it’s strong enough, so you can keep the rest. See Jan Gundlach’s ‘favourite dish of last season’, variations with with scallops and baked celeriac or just with roast celeriac with chestnuts and truffles.
Vegetarian options? Make a delicate Aqua Cotto. (‘Aqua’ as in water, ‘cotta’ as in boiled.)
Jan Gundlach explains “It is just a selection of fresh vegetables in their own broth, and it is up to the cook to choose nice fresh seasonal produce, baby carrots, turnips, parsnips, kohlrabi, snowpeas, peas. Fresh wild or green asparagus is beautiful. You cut them into natural shapes, pieces so they fit on the diners spoon. A carrot you may cut sticks or dices, or triangular pieces, if you have fresh baby carrots you can peel and use them whole.
Preserving nature is the key. They are simmered in water, you could use a vegetable stock, or chicken stock, I tend to use good quality water, rainwater is good, stay away from chlorinated tap water. Cook the vegetables according to their cooking times so they’re all at their peak at the same time. Carrots and kohlrabi first, then the other vegetables with shorter cooking times.
When they’re ready, I use good quality salt flakes – Murray River or Maldon salt. Sea salt adds more mineral content. I use a bay leaf, a sprig of thyme, sometimes lemon grass and a slice or two of ginger. I left the ginger out of the one we had with truffles. You can play with the flavours and it’s meant to be rather subtle.”
When it’s cooked to ‘doneness’ we add some freshly chopped lemon zest, a dribble of lemon juice. You may put a piece of butter and/or add some olive oil, throw in some chopped herbs, parsley, chervil, chives. Maybe some cut roquette and it’s ready to be eaten.”
“If you’re having it with truffles, add a good helping of sliced truffle onto each bowl before serving. The vapour of the soup then captures the aroma of the truffles, travels up your nose and you’ll be stimulated by a beautiful piece of natural produce.”
Foolproof option 4.
Pasta with truffles, pasta and mushrooms with truffles. Here the good olive oil or butter is the fat that sticks it all together.
The intensity of porcini mushrooms can be overwhelming, but the mixed exotic mushroom packs in most green grocers work well. Variations? Use garlic, a little parmesan cheese, a splash of white wine, a pinch of nutmeg salt and pepper. Tagliatelle, or taglierini pasta, Christian Hauberg at Pulp-Kitchen made a great variation that used angelhair pasta.
Do you get the idea that simple dishes work best? Do you now know how big a piece of truffle to buy? You don’t need a recipe for mashed potato? Ok, time for some more tricky bits.
Foolproof option 5. Enclosing the flavour.
That’s in dough as in the egg ravioli in the pictures in the top slideshow , enclosing truffle and meat in a sausage casing (there was a great variation at one of the dinners that used duck neck skins over rolled boned quail withtruffled stuffing). Inserting the slices of truffle under the skin of the duck or chicken before roasting, looks good and infuses the meat beneath.
We’ll add some of your suggestions to this, but there was a truffle recipe sheet (download as PDF) prepared by the Truffle Growers that has some other ideas.
The Umbrian company Urbani sell a range of preserved truffle produce, frozen, tinned, juiced. Their website has a number of recipes including the classic Tournedos Rossini. This truffle dish is named after composer Gioachino Rossini who was a gourmand and a good cook. He can have the last words.
“I have wept three times in my life. Once when my first opera failed. Once again, the first time I heard Paganini play the violin. And once when a truffled turkey fell overboard at a boating picnic.”