Shannon talks truffles
We get the dirt on truffles from Shannon Bennett, chef and owner of Vue de monde in Melbourne. Where to get fresh truffles, how to cook your first truffle dish and more importantly, is truffle oil the real deal?
Sometimes it can be a struggle to describe the taste of truffle so for us that are new to the world of truffle how would you describe the texture, taste and smell?
Shannon: The smell is earthy, hypnotic and mystical with a touch of kerosene. The texture is firm but yielding – usually you eat them shaved so they feel deceptively light. The taste mirrors the smell but has an unexpected sweetness – it is like the richest, sweetest, deepest mushroom you have ever tasted!
Truffle Oil seems to be the flavour of the month not too mention an ingredient which tips an affordable dish up a couple of bucks. Is truffle oil the real thing or is it a marketing gimmick?
Shannon: Truffle oil is a total gimmick – it is made of fake polymers that are made to mimic real truffle. Chefs and food have moved on. It does come in handy when training a truffle dog though. The only way to guarantee true truffle impact is to buy fresh and shave it yourself!
I’m about to cook my first dish with truffle. What should I cook? How much truffle do I need? And, where should I get it?
Shannon: For your first truffle dish keep it as simple as possible and try cooking something you already cook well but add some truffle to it just as you serve it. I would suggest a very simple pasta with some mushrooms and egg – shave fresh truffle over the top as you serve it. You will only need a couple of grams per person and use a truffle slicer or a microplane so you maximise the yield. Great providores such as Simon Johnson stock truffles when they are in season – for the ultimate in convenience (truffles delivered to your door) try www.truffleharvest.com.au.
Where do you get your truffles and do you have plans for your own trufferie?
Shannon: During the Australian truffle season we use truffle predominantly Manjimup in WA and from Mount Burnett in Victoria (from Chesnut Hill winery who also make great wine).
We planted our 5 acre trufferie last year so it will be at least another 2 -3 years before we can expect to harvest truffles. Once we do have truffles of course we plan to serve these in Vue de monde and our other venues but we will also incorporate truffle experiences in to the stays of guests to our hotel property at Burnham Beeches (hopefully this will be complete before we are producing truffles).
What’s your favourite truffle dish on the Vue de monde menu?
Shannon: We are serving fresh truffles with a fried duck egg (which is actually a celeriac puree for the white with a perfect yolk sitting on top), this is accompanied by sweetbreads and caramelised onions – the flavours all marry together beautifully.