Where to get a winter truffle fix around Brisbane

Fresh truffle is delicious shaved over risotto, pasta and scrambled eggs.
Fresh truffle is delicious shaved over risotto, pasta and scrambled eggs. Photo: Wayne Taylor

The truffle may be the perfect case study for the adage "don't judge a book by its cover".

Black and lumpy on the outside, it would win no beauty prizes, but when it comes to the truffle, it's what's inside what counts.

Amanda Reboul is known as the Truffle Lady. She runs Brisbane-based truffle retailer The Truffle Man with her husband, Philippe.

Australian-grown black truffles.
Australian-grown black truffles. Photo: Steven Siewert

Reboul fell in love with the truffle while living in France and upon moving back to Australia in 2006, became something of an ambassador for the tuber.

Traditionally, truffles were the domain of France, Spain and Italy but Australia has its own burgeoning truffle industry.

"The Australian truffle industry is really growing and in fact some analysts think that in 10 years time it will be the biggest truffle producer in the world. Currently we are ranked fourth," Reboul says.

The main truffle growing areas are Western Australia and Tasmania. Truffles are also grown in the ACT, Victoria and on a smaller scale in Queensland's Granite Belt region.

Australian truffles are cultivated from spores originally from French Perigord truffles, so they are essentially the same product, according to Reboul.

"What comes into play is the soil and climate. However, the [local] growers have gone to great lengths to analyse soil and try to re-create the conditions as much as possible."

The roots of oak or hazelnut trees are inoculated with the spores which attach to the roots and hopefully develop into truffles.

Currently, only cultivated black truffles are grown in Australia, with white truffles only found growing wild in an area of Italy. Black truffles - the most common type - sell for $2200-$2500 per kilo while their rarer cousin - the white truffle - sells for about $9000 per kilo.

Modern techniques may be used to grow them, but when it comes to the truffle harvest, the old ways are still the best, with specially trained truffle dogs used to find the precious crop the world over. An even older method, using pigs, is rarer these days, the difficulties in wresting a truffle from a hungry pig making it more trouble than it's worth.

In Brisbane, particularly during the Australian truffle season, (June-September) truffles are appearing on restaurant menus, in many different guises.

At Public in George Street they're spreading the truffle love, with specials such as wagyu tenderloin with truffle and a very popular posh truffled version of mac'n'cheese, as well as a simple and affordable duck egg with truffle and toast. Nantucket Kitchen in Indooroopilly is serving truffle shaved over charcoal-grilled pine mushrooms topped with a soft poached egg, while at Aquitaine at South Bank, truffles come the French way - "Oeufs brouilles au truffe" or scrambled eggs with a jus viande and chargrilled bread. And proving that truffles really are affordable for everybody, you can have truffles in your ramen at Taro's Ramen in the CBD.

What is universally agreed is that when it comes to cooking with truffles, simple is best.

"Truffle releases its flavour when it's gently heated, and because the taste is so amazing, it's best to serve it simply so as not to overpower its taste," Reboul says.

The fact that truffles need so little preparation or technical skill may also be contributing to the fact that more people are buying them to use at home.

"We've noticed a lot more retail interest from the public in the last year because they're being used a lot more in cooking shows and in restaurants and people are becoming a lot more aware of them," Reboul says.

"Though expensive, only 20-30 grams of truffle is needed for an entire dinner party, making the cost of the truffle comparable to the price of a good bottle of wine."

At Superior Fruits in Graceville, owner Tass Maniatis has seen a gradual uptake in the purchasing of truffles since he began selling them six years ago.

"Certainly they're becoming more popular especially because we sell in small amounts. You can buy just 10 or 20 grams which is plenty. Our aim is to educate people about how truffles are an affordable luxury."

As well as fresh truffle, Maniatis sells butter infused with fresh Tasmanian truffle; perfect for tossing through pasta.

Storage and use

■ Store a truffle in paper towel in an airtight container in the fridge and it will keep for 10 days.

■ Alternatively, store in an airtight container with a couple of eggs and some raw risotto rice. The truffle aroma will penetrate both.

■ Use either a truffle slicer or microplane to grate.

How to serve

■ Grated into scrambled eggs

■ Grate onto a still-hot steak

■ Use in a creamy sauce with chicken

■ Grate into risotto

■ Use in mashed potato with a little truffle butter

■ Grate onto some pasta with butter

Truffles are being showcased at The Great Gatsby Dinner Party - a six-course truffle and champagne degustation ($175-$275) at Blackbird Bar and Restaurant on Thursday, July 31, as part of Good Food Month. See brisbane.goodfoodmonth.com