While we've been quite satisfied with the truffles coming out of Western Australia and Tasmania it is great to finally get to taste some of the Victorian truffles. This one is from Tibooburra, close by in the Yarra Valley. It's a real pity that scratch and sniff isn't possible because the aroma coming from this truffle is the nicest we've experienced in a long while and if this is an indication of the quality coming out the ground, the Victorian truffle industry is headed for a very good future.
I do though want to make mention about truffle aroma. Unfortunately, it seems that a high proportion of males just won't get the fuss about the smell. It's truly a benefit to be female in this case as we generally can appreciate and physiologically are attuned to the aroma. So if you are one of these males that whine about how over-rated truffles are, firstly, I do feel sorry for you that aren't made in a way to appreciate them but secondly, the problem isn't with the truffle, it is with you.
When thinking of what to cook with the truffle there's quite a range of ingredients that compliment - root vegetables, eggs, pasta, rice, poultry - but for WHB I've settled on rice and in particular, risotto.
This risotto offers layers of mushroom flavours - dried porcini have been reconstituted and turned into a porcini paste - the porcini liquid has been added to the stock and finally a sauté of both oyster and swiss browns add differing textures. The final crowning glory is freshly shaved truffle.
½ cup arborio rice
1 small red onion, diced very finely
1 stick celery, diced very finely
chicken stock (or vegetable)
20 grams dried porcini
6 swiss brown mushrooms, sliced
6 oyster mushrooms
black truffle, finely shaved
Make the porcini paste:
Place the dried porcini in a bowl and generously cover with boiling water. Seal the bowl and allow to infuse for about 30 minutes.
Strain the porcini, reserving the liquid. Place the porcini into a small food processor, add a spoonful of porcini liquid and process until a smooth paste forms - you may need to add another spoonful of liquid to get the right consistency.
Prepare the mushrooms:
As oyster mushrooms can vary a bit in size I've cut mine in a way to even out the size - some I've cut in half while the large ones are cut into quarters.
The swiss browns where fairly small and have simply been evenly sliced.
To the cook the mushrooms, I've used the same pan that will be used to make the risotto. In this case, I've used a wok as I find it really distributes the heat very evenly.
The mushrooms need to be cooked quickly so they brown but not lose their moisture - I've sautéed them in a mix of olive oil and butter. You should also cook them one variety at a time.
Set the cooked mushrooms to one side.
Make the risotto:
Before you start, make sure you have your pot of stock and reserved porcini liquid simmering away.
Place a good knob of butter along with a little drizzle of oil in your pan and place over a medium heat. Once the butter has melted and has started to sizzle, add in the onion and celery. Cook this until they have softened but not coloured.
Sprinkle in the rice and stir so that the grains are well coated. Continue stirring until the grains start becoming translucent. Add a heaped spoonful of porcini paste and stir well before adding the first ladle of stock.
The stock must sizzle as it hits the pan - if it doesn't you may need to increase the heat. The first ladle should be absorbed very quickly - once it has, time to add the next ladle.
Continue stirring and repeating the process of adding ladles of stock until the rice is tender and creamy.
When you've added the last ladle of stock, add in half the cooked mushrooms to the pan and stir well. Finish off with a handful of grated parmesan and a large knob of butter - stir vigorously, it is this that gives the risotto that lovely glossy, creamy finish (you'll see this process referred to as manticato in Italian).
Scoop out into bowls and top with with the remaining sautéed mushrooms.
The best thing about this dish is that even if you don't have truffles, it still is a pretty fantastic mushrooms risotto. There are layers of flavour in this, that deep brown colour comes from the porcini paste and it's then built upon with the porcini infused stock. The mushrooms that are in the risotto are softer while those on top, especially the oyster mushrooms are gorgeously chewy. The parmesan adds a nutty creamy note to bind the whole dish together.
But if you have truffles, you'll turn a ten out of ten into a twelve out of ten!
You'll probably find that you have porcini paste left over - beat it into softened butter to create porcini butter. Roll it into cylinders and store in the fridge or freezer - cut off slices when you want a mushroom hit.