Saturday, June 25, 2011

Aussie truffles welcomed in France

From the Courier Mail, June 23 2011

THE world's top producer of truffles, France is saying 'oui' to our own home-grown tubers.

Almost eighty per cent of Western Australian-based Wine & Truffle Co's 2011 harvest is to be exported to Europe, with France being a particularly strong market.

Australian truffles are even starring on the menu at a dinner for European dignitaries at the Australian Embassy in Paris tomorrow night.

Brisbane based Frenchman, Phillipe Reboul, aka the Truffle Man, said he believed that the French were becoming more aware of Australian grown truffles.

"Some of them are already familiar with Australian truffles and have used them before, others have never heard that we grow them here and are still suspicious."

Mr Reboul left Brisbane for Paris on Wednesday night with a consignment of Australian truffles, which sell for upwards of $2500 a kilo.

"I have an order from a shop in Paris and I plan to visit a few more restaurants in the city to sell more," Mr Reboul said.

The black or Perigord truffle (tuber melanosporum) vary in size from as small as a marble to a kilo or more. They grow in the ground, attached to the roots of hazelnut or oak trees that have been inoculated with truffle spores. Specially trained dogs are used to unearth them.

Currently, Western Australia is the country's biggest commercial producer, but truffles are being grown in all states apart from the Northern Territory.

Harvested in winter from June through to the end of August, the black truffles are being seen as an opportunity to fill the gap between Europe's own opposite season. Last year, the harvest in Australia was approximately 1.7 tonnes compared to France's 50 tonnes, however estimations are that our production could increase by as much as 40 per cent each year as more trufferies start to produce.


DESPITE the hefty price tag, truffles are being snapped up by a surprising number of aficionados, including keen home cooks.

According to Mr Reboul, he is selling as many of the tubers to private buyers in Brisbane as to restaurants.

Fruit shop owner Tass Maniatis, of Superior Fruits in Graceville, says that he's seen a steady increase in private customers in the five years he's been selling them.

"In our first year, we only sold a kilo, in the second year and third years it was three or four kilos, while last year we sold five kilos. This year we hoping to sell at least six or seven kilos."

Mr Maniatis sells the truffles for $25 for 10g, enough, he says for a meal for two.

"We order smaller truffles so that people who might not have had the opportunity to try them before can afford to buy them," Mr Maniatis said.


WHILE truffles are a luxury food, a little goes a long way, says Phillipe Reboul.

"You need to take good care of your truffle, storing it in a moisture-free, sealed environment such as a tuppaware container with a paper towel."

While some people store their truffle in uncooked rice, Mr Reboul says it can draw too much moisture from the truffle and advises storing it with raw eggs, which will absorb the flavour without drying out the truffle.

"Then scramble the eggs with with some thinly grated truffle or grate about 20g of truffle into 100g of a really good butter and mix," he said.

"It's fantastic on meat or steamed veg and you only need a very small amount."

Mr Reboul warns not to use one of the old fashioned 'punched hole' graters but a microplane which will grate the truffle wafer thin .

"Use a microplane grater instead, which can grate the truffle wafer-thin and try to use your truffle as soon as possible to get the best from it," he says.

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