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Got to the Truffle

The elusive truffle (tuber melanosporum), the sought-after fungi with a unique flavour that gets chefs and foodies alike is no longer just a dream in New Zealand with a mushrooming industry of truffle growers (or truffière). Did you know there are around a dozen in the Waikato and BOP alone?

Award-winning chef and owner of Palate in Hamilton, Mat McClean admits when he was working in Europe 20 years ago he would never have believed he would one day be cooking with New Zealand truffles in his restaurant.

While still in its infancy, the New Zealand Truffle industry will continue to grow as more and more truffière start producing truffles. It’s a long game, you see, with the average truffle farms taking 7‒10 years to produce their first truffle, some never will. But once they do, given the right conditions, the number of truffles can double each year.

The most common truffle grown in New Zealand is the périgord or black truffle, which are ripe in late autumn to mid-winter. Gus Tissink from Bidfresh is an avid truffle fan, helping educate local chefs on the delicacy and ensuring they can get their hand on the best there is and says, “Truffles are a work of love with no guarantees of ever producing, so when you do get truffles it’s a special moment. They are completely unique from anything else—a subterranean fungi. The more I learn and taste truffle the more I’m convinced they have their own terroir like wines, so regionally they can be very different. French Novelist Colette said, ‘The limitation of the truffle is the imagination of the chef’. That’s an exciting thought!”

There are many ways to enjoy truffles but sometimes the simplest is best; shaved over eggs, in a butter on steak, in an aioli…. To get you started on your love affair with truffles, Chef Mat McClean from Palate in Hamilton, has put a couple of recipes together for you to enjoy.

Truffled Spaghetti

1 cup cream
1 cup ricotta
½ cup grated Parmesan
3 egg yolks
fresh NZ truffle
shaved Parmesan
truffle oil
sea salt
400g fresh spaghetti

Cook pasta in a large pot of salted water and drain.

Bring cream to a boil, then add grated Parmesan and stir to combine. Using a microplane grate a generous amount of truffle into the sauce.

Add the ricotta and egg yolks, season with salt and pepper then toss through the warm pasta.

Serve with more shaved truffle, Parmesan and a drizzle of truffle oil.

Baked Truffle Egg

Infuse free range eggs in an airtight container with a fresh truffle for at least 24 hours.

Crack the egg into a ramekin, bake at 150°C or until the egg is just set.

Grate over a little truffle and season with salt and pepper.

Serve with celeriac and crème fraiche and a few matchstick-sized batons of Granny Smith apple. Or hot smoked salmon and brioche toast would also be perfect!

Celeriac and Crème Fraiche
100g thinly sliced celeriac
lemon
sea salt
crème fraiche
fresh NZ truffle

Squeeze a little lemon juice over the celeriac and season with some salt. Mix with a dollop of crème fraiche and some grated truffle.

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