PREMIUM TRUFFLES FROM FISH RIVER TRUFFIERE
Def: TRUFFLE - A strong smelling underground fungus that resembles an irregular,
rough-skinned potato. It is considered a culinary delicacy and found with the aid of trained dogs.
Hello VIVE friends...
One of the most fabulous things about the change of seasons is the change in the food we're able to access, cook and eat. Right now, it's cold outside which means truffles are on the menu!
We've been whipping up some pretty incredible truffle-inspired recipes recently at VIVE Cooking School. And this weekend, we're honoured to have Carmine Di Campli of Fish River Truffiere in the VIVE kitchen, working his magic alongside Head Chef Julien Vasseur to educate and inspire around all things truffle!
We caught up with Carmine this week to delve a little deeper into the life cycle of the elusive truffle. And with a myriad of truffling hours under his belt, Carmine was a wealth of knowledge.
THE WONDER OF THE TRUFFLE
This week's post has been an education of sorts. While I've always been a big fan of the pungency of truffles, I've also been a little vague on the what, where and how of these intriguing flavour-bombs. After a brief chat with truffle expert Carmine Di Campli however, my curiousity has been satisfied.
As with most VIVE collaborators, Carmine Di Campli has a great story to tell. The son of Italian immigrants, Carmine and his family (mum, dad and sister) settled in Sydney's Rosebery, long before the appearance of Saporium and VIVE Cooking School. A lot may have changed in Rosebery over the years, but Carmine's parents are still happily at home in what they once considered 'the best kept secret in Sydney'!
Living their Australian lives steeped in deep Italian tradition and rituals, Carmine and his sister were surprised to learn that not every household in Rosebery had a self-sustaining vegetable garden and egg-producing chickens in their backyard! Through simple circumstance and unwavering tradition, Carmine and his family learned an early appreciation of whole, seasonal food and the rituals that have since become hallmarks of their lives. From the annual tomato passata-making to harvesting and cooking mussels found in the waters at Botany Bay, this family shares a lifelong love and celebration of food, family and friends.
So why truffles?
Carmine and his family had always dreamed of owning a farm one day. So when presented with the option to purchase some land complete with truffles, olives and a flowing river, the allure was too great and the deal was done!
So we welcome Fish River Truffiere. As the name suggests, this family owned and operated business is located on the banks of the Fish River that flows through the O’Connell Valley in central west NSW. In 2002, 1,000 oak and hazelnut trees were planted on this picturesque property resulting in the the production and supply of fresh, premium truffles to restaurants in both Bathurst and Sydney since 2007.
As well as being a wonderful story of family and food, I was especially keen to understand the real allure of the truffle. I fired this quick Q&A at Carmine - and was not disappointed with his informed responses.
Q: What is a truffle exactly?
A: A truffle is the fruiting body of an underground tuber or fungus. Truffles form a unique relationship with the roots of particular trees (oak and hazelnut) which, to this day, is not fully understood. The theory is that the roots transfer sugars to the truffle and in return the fungus provides nutrients from the soil. While most research tends to confirm this, it is by no means conclusive. This, and many other aspects of truffles, form part of what the French call ‘la grand mystique', the grand mystery of truffles!
Q: How are truffles found and how long is the season?
A: Truffles form in late summer and slowly mature during autumn to be harvest-ready in winter. They can be found near the earth's surface or deep within the root systems of host trees. The truffle season in Australia runs from mid-June until mid-August, with truffles cleverly located by trained dogs.
Q: Truffles are coveted and expensive, tell me why this is so.
A: The world supply of truffles has slowly diminished since the early 1900s due to the destruction of the natural habitat required to produce truffles during the two world wars. To this day, these forests have not fully recovered.
As a result, truffles are difficult to cultivate resulting in limited supplies and higher prices. Australia has been producing black perigord truffles for almost 20 years. These wonderful truffles have a strong umami taste that cooperates with the flavours in food, thereby enhancing and intensifying them. Originally found in the wild, truffles are now cultivated as a domestic crop.
Carmine and his wife stumbled upon VIVE Cooking School during one of their regular walks through the streets of Rosebery. Introducing themselves to founder Jean-Luc, a friendship was formed and VIVE were fortunate to secure a beautiful truffle from the first harvest of the season at Fish River Truffiere.
VIVE and Fish River Truffiere will be collaborating this Saturday 2 July during the Saporium Market Day. This hands on workshop conducted by Carmine will offer a sound understanding of truffles and truffle production, culminating in the sharing of some simple truffle recipes.
We hope there will be more collaborations with Fish River Truffiere in the future.