Truffle Hunting and Cooking in the Yarra Valley
I have to admit, my relationship with truffle was a bit of a slow burner. I first remember trying truffle on its own (I suspect when it was a little over ripe) and being quite overwhelmed by the flavour and taste. Since then, I have learned to appreciate the truffle in all its glory, especially after going on a truffle hunt and cooking class in the Yarra Valley recently.
We met bright and early at Locavore Studio in Lilydale, eagerly stocking up on freshly baked cinnamon doughnuts and coffee to warm up our bellies. A mini bus picked us up and after thirty minutes we arrived at Yarra Valley Truffles in Woori Yallock, owned by truffle specialist Stuart Dunbar.
Nestled in the hills of the Yarra Valley, the truffière (French for truffle orchard), was planted in early 2006 and their first truffles were harvested in 2011. Cold winters, warm summers and high rainfall of the Yarra Valley region make it beneficial to both truffle and wine production.
With Lani, Stuart's beloved truffle dog by his side, the group was guided through the truffle orchard - lucky we had gumboots since it was rather muddy in the fields. Isn't she the most adorable little thing?
Stuart taught us how to distinguish unripe truffles from ripe. Usually if a truffle has only a small odour and pale centre it is unripe, while if it has too much moisture and smells "fishy" it may be overripe. A good truffle should have a rich, earthy scent.
Yarra Valley Truffle's goal is to produce and market the highest quality truffle possible. Each truffle is dug out by hand, to ensure that each one reaches peak quality. No fertilisers or herbicides are used in this process.
Stuart taught us some really useful cooking tips to really enhance the truffle's flavour. His most important tip is to use salt, to really bring out its flavour. Truffle is also great with cheese, scrambled eggs, in a risotto or my favourite - in butter!
After a couple of hours at the farm, we were picked up by the mini bus and transported back to Locavore Studios for a truffle cooking class.
Chef Jessie Rae Crossley is the owner of Locavore Studios, a cooking school and patisserie located in the heart of Lilydale. She was a great host, exuding warmth and you can really tell she loves what she does. Locavore is all about keeping it local and organic - all produce is locally grown and really celebrates the uniqueness of the region.
This was a hands on cooking class, designed to showcase the truffle and teach us simple, yet delicious meals we can recreate at home. Jessie firstly demonstrated the method, then it was up to us to recreate the dishes at our own modern kitchen stations.
We started with a delicious truffle butter followed by a Yarra Valley Pasta teamed with truffle, parmesan and plenty of garlic and olive oil!
The main event was a truffle roasted poisson (baby chicken) which was really simple to make. Simple place shaved pieces of truffle with slices of butter between the chicken skin and breast and roast on slices of onions with plenty of stock and a splash of sherry. The flavour of the chicken was amazing!
As you can tell, Sydney Food Lover and I had a lot of fun in the kitchen! And there's something even more delicious about eating the food we cooked ourselves.
I was invited as a guest of Chester Communications. All views are honest and my own.