Autumn is in the air, bringing with it a host of seasonal food favourites, not least the white truffle, always a highlight on any epicurean calendar. But what is it about this funghi that makes it such a firm favourite? We asked our chefs if white truffles are worth the hype.
Christopher Mark, Black Sheep Restaurants
White truffle is an undeniable highlight in the food calendar and, to be honest, I find them a little intoxicating. Perhaps there is a science behind it, perhaps not, but I can definitely attest to getting a ‘truffle high’ whenever I eat or smell them, especially for the first time in a season. They are so fragrant, it is a truly sensuous experience. I like to eat them as simply as possible, either shaved over eggs or on butter pasta. Truffles are sexy, that is all.
Lisette Magampon, Osteria Marzia
Truffles are a palpable luxury in the food world. They are so rare, difficult to source and have a very short-lived season over the winter months, running from October to December. Although there are several variations, the best truffles are sourced from their origin: the Piedmont region in Alba. People may try to argue differently but I stand by this wholeheartedly, there is just no beating the original! Truffles are exceptionally aromatic and their irrefutable flavour should be the focus of any dish. Although I specialise more on rustic Italian fare, I find a sense of grand magic in the simple marriage of freshly made pasta, lots of butter and the fragrant shavings of white truffle.
Angie Ford, Buenos Aires Polo Club
Truffles are exceptionally seasonal, lasting just a few short weeks which means you cannot always get your hands on them. You always want what you cannot have, right? They are also such an extravagant, flavourful and versatile product that can be incorporated into many dishes, like a simple pizza or pasta or a really elegant dish centred around the ingredient.
When I lived in Sydney, I went truffle hunting with a team of chefs and professional truffle hunters, the hunters being the dogs! That was a memorable experience and after hunting, we had the most elaborate feast on the farm with a menu composed of all things truffle. My fondest memories of this are eating it shaved on a freshly baked baguette with a beautiful cheese.
Luca Marinelli, Osteria Marzia
White truffles sourced from the Piedmont region in Alba have an unmistakable flavour, expressed best through simple methods. I prefer to use it in its raw state to enhance the fragrance, in dishes such as ‘carne cruda’ (beef or veal tartare), carpaccio or Tajarin, a traditional Piedmont egg pasta. A great trick is to keep white truffles in a jar with raw eggs over a few days and then use the eggs for a wet scramble once they have absorbed the aroma and flavour of the truffle. The trick is sealing the jar or wrapping the truffles in kitchen paper that you change daily to keep them fresh.
Luke Barry, Black Sheep Restaurants
Truffles are the fruit of the earth, more rare and precious than any other edible root, tuber or mushroom. They are packed with umami, which is not usually a flavour done so well in its natural state, and elevate simple dishes into something luxurious. I prefer to serve them in thinly sliced, generous portions, so the guest can truly taste the essence of this beautiful ingredient. White truffles are precious, so eat them only when in season and store them with some raw white rice, to act as a cushion, in an airtight container. One trick to ensuring you get the best of the batch? Smell it! If the truffle is not heavily fragrant or if it smells damp, steer clear.