Make the most of winter fare with The truffle cookbook by Rodney Dunn »
How to enjoy truffles at their seasonal best
By Jennifer Fearn
This most desirable luxury winter ingredient is creatively curated in Rodney Dunn’s latest culinary contribution, The truffle cookbook.
The book is a beautifully photographed collection of recipes accumulated over many years of running cooking classes at The Agrarian Kitchen in Tasmania’s picturesque Derwent Valley.
But what is a truffle, and how do you use it, to make the most of its fabulous aroma, especially given the cost? Science can explain!
Mutualism is a sub-category of symbiosis – a relationship in which two organisms of different species benefit from the activity of the other. A truffle is a fruiting subterranean fungus that exists in a mutualistic relationship with several tree species, including beech, hazel, oak, pine and poplar.
The truffle provides an extension of the tree’s root network, whilst the tree provides nutrients that the truffle cannot produce for itself, due to an inability to undertake photosynthesis.
Rodney Dunn, author of the 2013 The agrarian kitchen cookbook, has captured the true essence of mutualism in his latest offering, The truffle cookbook. Each recipe is a celebration of unique flavour parings that result from combining the intense truffle with a variety of ingredients.
The truffle lifts otherwise stock-standard recipes to new heights, whilst the aforementioned ingredients provide a delivery mechanism for the unique aroma of truffle. Likewise, photographer Luke Burgess’ high-end photographs bring Dunn’s recipes to life on the page and, together, the easy-to-follow recipes can be realised in their full glory.
Whilst the home-cook may find it comforting to be reacquainted with familiar pairings, such as truffle and egg, truffle and butter, and truffle and cheese, it is refreshing to learn of some more unusual pairings such as truffle and squid (Braised Squid Stuffed with Truffle Quinoa p81), and truffle and Jerusalem artichoke (Roasted Jerusalem Artichoke and Truffle Soup p46, which we can testify is delicious!).
The book is divided in to chapters: cheese, soups, pasta, seafood, meat, vegetables and sweet. The addition of truffle to desserts was a little unnerving, but with cream and egg being natural delivery mechanisms for the truffle, it was no surprise that custard featured heavily in many of the desserts, such as Truffle Custard Brioche Doughnuts with Poached Quince, p138. Having sampled these, and not normally being a huge fan of desserts, they can only be described as exquisite.
Aside from the truffle, the remainder of ingredients are not particularly exotic and, despite the recipes involving making everything from scratch, the techniques are not unachievable. There is also the option of taking short-cuts or using pre-prepared ingredients if time is a restriction.
Launching the cookbook at MONA’s The Source Restaurant, guests – including myself – were presented with several offerings: Potato Crisps with Truffle Salt; Potato Croquettes stuffed with Truffle Butter; Chicken in Mourning and Truffled Coulibiac. This last dish, which features salmon, puff pastry and crepes, was a highlight, due to its complexity, richness, texture and clever amalgamation of flavours.
The generously proportioned dishes were well-received by the guests and a large (approximately 300g) truffle was passed around the table and its aroma discussed, evaluated and admired.
Dedicating an entire cookbook to a celebration of a single ingredient is not a unique concept, however the hefty price tag of truffle as well as its overwhelming aroma and limited seasonal availability means that this book is not for everyone.
During truffle season in the depths of winter however, when people like to bunker down and entertain at home, this book provides the recipes to create a fine-dining restaurant in your own home. Your friends are bound to see that as beneficial for all involved!
The truffle cookbook by Rodney Dunn is published by Penguin Australia Pty. Ltd (China, June 2016; hc, 166pp) and is distributed by Penguin Random House. It is available where all good books are sold. RRP A$59.95.
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