Sunday, August 1, 2010

WHB#244: Truffles

We are back for WHB! Laurie from Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska is the host for this week's Weekend Herb Blogging.  And this week I will discover the magic of the diamond of fungi - Truffles!

Black Truffles [Source]

Had been fascinated by truffles ever since the first time I tasted it at a local restaurant. It was a risotto with truffles generously shaved over it. The host of WHB, Haalo has a very enticing recipe a truffle risotto here. It is a pity that it is hardly available here in Singapore, and I am on a active hunt to bring it in with help from family and friends overseas.

My passion for food always brings me to researching about ingredients. (hey, I am an engineer by training. gotta go down to details.ha.) Note: A not so appetising fact about the prized fungi follows. Skip the next paragraph if you do not want to risk the way you look at truffles again.

*Potential Appetite Spoiler*

Truffle Flavour: The musky aroma of black truffles comes from androstenone. Androstenone is a steroid that is present in the male underarm sweat and in the saliva of boars (to prompt a mating response from sows). Some people find androstenone repulsive while others are more tolerant of it. 

*End of Potential Appetite Spoiler*

Truffles are basically subterranean mass of dense tissue with stiff structures and a earthy flavour. Raw white truffles are more pungent than black ones and are slightly garlicky, but their flavour is fleeting and is wiped out by too much heat. That is why truffles are usually served finely shaved (I want a truffle shaver!!!) onto hot food, like pasta or risottos at the table (plus what a visual sight!). This is to allow them to be slightly warmed and their flavour don't get dissipated before they reach your mouth!.

Truffle flavoured oil carries from a mild (white truffle oil) to rich (black truffle oil) and complex, mushroom-like flavour. It can be drizzled over carpaccio, scrambled eggs or plain pasta. Rich stuff like cream, butter or heavy cheeses goes great with the sh'room. Oh yah, of course, foie gras too, served on toasted bread with shavings of black truffles. Heavenly.

Truffle shavings on egg [Source]

Some tips on the usage of truffle:

Truffle season varies. For the best quality, use them in their respective season. For white truffles, spring (mid Feb to end May) and autumn (mid Sept to end Dec) are best while summer (May to end Oct) and winter (Jan to end Mar) are ideal for black truffles. Apparently different season brings out different tastes in the truffles. I won't know. Hadn't had a chance to taste all four types.

Truffles only grows in very specific conditions. The right climate, the right soil and the right host tree. Truffles forms a mutually beneficial relationship with its host tree, with both supplying each other with the essential material for growth. Read more on the internet, it is interesting. The pH level of the soil needs to be at 7 and only in uncontaminated soil that truffles will grow well to maturity. A great indicator of the extreme organic food? I am more attached to it already!

Truffles are great on their own! Do not boil, parboil, steam or marinate it. You will spoil the taste (and waste your money.) Canned truffles are (I really have no other choice) alternative. You should avoid cooking or freezing white truffles. And it does not goes well with seafood. Main gist: eat it raw.

Or, if you are feeling extravagrant, make truffle butter and stuffed in under chicken skin and bake it. It is heavenly. You can use other mushrooms like porcini too.

Red wines go best with truffles. Go for medium to full bodied reds to complement the woody fungi. White wine may be too acidic and wash out your palette.

A good sized truffle (30-50grammes) will go a long way.

Black Truffle [Source]

I really hope I can get my hands on some truffles soon!

*As truffles are not readily available in Singapore, pictures used are from other sites. Sources are all quoted at the bottom of the photos.*

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