For the quintessential foodie, winter is all about one thing – Truffle Season! There is no ingredient quite like the beautiful truffle, with its richness, scent and sheer ability to turn a good meal into an unforgettable one.
In Victoria we are very lucky to have these beauties growing in our own backyard, specifically – Red Hill. The incredible property of Red Hill Truffles is as glorious as one would imagine, with rows and rows of trees planted to produce truffles that have graced the plates of the finest restaurants as well as the homes of those wanting to create something truly special for their family and friends.
In its current peak, Red Hill Truffles offers an array of experiences from hunts, brunches, and lunches – to degustations with matching wines that will have the tastebuds dancing with joy.
This past weekend I had the absolute pleasure of attending the hosted truffle hunt, where we were educated and taken into the world of just what makes this is a beautiful ingredient.
The experience begins with an insider’s guide to truffles, host Jenny McAuley, gives guests an understanding of how truffles are grown and maintained – and if you want to know the answer, well … you’ll just have to book the experience.
Then, led by the gorgeous truffle hunter dog Thomas, we went out into the property to find magnificent truffles. Thomas is trained to sniff out where the truffle grown, it is truly a science and process that is certainly hard work. We were able to smell, touch and observe each truffle found, as though we had dug up gold. Following the hunt, we returned to the Truffle Tasting Pavilion to be greeted by our chef, who had been busy preparing some truly delicious dishes featuring truffle. Everything from the butter and honey to the artichoke soup and macaroon dessert was truly out of this world.
So how did truffles make their way to Red Hill? I sat down with Jenny to find out …
Truffle season is such an exciting and delicious time of year! What do you think makes truffles so special?
Truffle is special because it is a mysterious product. It has a history surrounded in mystery. This is the truffle we grow and eat in Australia had its genetic origin from Europe. In Europe truffles come from old forests. Truffle Hunting is surrounded in mystery because hunters are not prepared to give away their secrets as to where they find truffle. In Australia it is not quite as mysterious because truffle is farm on land owned by a farmer. It is known where the truffle comes from.
However, the truffle itself is mysterious because it grows underground, it is very dark and odd shaped. Truffle has an evocative, deep aromatic smell. In humans the aroma of the truffle stirs primal senses and is very appealing to the majority of people.
How long have you been running the truffle hunts and events?
Red Hill Truffles in partnership with MP Experience have been running truffle related events on my property for the last 4 years. We started with only a few events and have built from there. 3 years ago, in 2016, I completed building of a truffle tasting pavilion at the farm. We have been able to run more events with truffle tastings and truffle degustation’s since this time.
We now offer Truffle Hunts, with tastings which maybe a light lunch or a breakfast. At a tasting guest can taste a range of food, soups with warm bread and truffle butter; scrambled truffles eggs topped with truffle; French fries with truffle salt and truffle aioli, truffle infused cheese with truffle honey dribbled over the cheese. And a truffle macroon, plus tea and coffee. Ttruffle Hunts and Tastings occur every weekend throughout the truffle season June to mid-August.
We also offer:
- Truffle Hunts with a 2-course truffle lunch at Max’s Restaurant,
- 2 truffle degustation’s a season with French Truffle chef Romu Oudeyer.
- 2 truffle events with transport from the city and a degustation lunch at Max’s restaurant.
- We also offer a Focus on Fungi event where we partner with local mushroom grower, Mushroom Forestry. This is an event which enables people to sample truffle and exotic mushrooms together.
What can guests expect when they attend?
Truffle Hunts consist of 15 people or less. We want guests to experience a small intimate occasion on a beautiful farm setting where they are not rushed or feel that they are part of a crowd. We go out rain, mist or shine. However, we have had only 2 really rainy days in all the time we have been conducting Truffle Hunts. Guests need to wear gumboots. If they are visitors to our state we can supply appropriate footwear.
Guests can expect to learn about truffle growing and about how to cook with truffle. They experience watching my truffle dog Thomas hunt and find truffle. They get down on their knees and smell truffle in the soil and then either participate or watch me harvest truffle. Back in the Tasting Pavilion they will watch me wash the truffle and prepare it for eating or for sale.
What is your absolute favourite truffle featured recipe?
My favourite way to eat truffle is in eggs, although potatoes with truffle is wonderful. No, my really favourite recipe is a beautiful hazelnut torte served with truffled mascarpone or truffle custard.
What is the secret to finding the perfect truffle?
The secret of finding truffle is a well-trained truffle dog. Dogs are a critical part of the truffle industry. There is no other farming, that requires an animal to find the produce. Most truffle growers have, their own dogs.
However, there is a lucrative and important business in training truffle dogs for growers to purchase. A number of people have also trained their own dogs and hire themselves and the dogs out to growers. This is beneficial for growers as when you first start out, a grower will not own a dog.
Experienced growers often bring dog operators and dogs into their truffiere once or twice a season to get a “second opinion on truffle location on their farm.
I have 2 English springer spaniels. One is an older dog Thomas. He is 7 years old and was a rescue dog. Thomas is a very experienced dog and enjoys meeting people and doing truffle hunts with me. My new dog Maddie is currently being trained and will not participate in Truffle Hunts until next year. She is enjoying working with Thomas and I truffle harvesting.
To book your truffle experience contact: www.redhilltruffles.com