Synonymous to decadent food, here’s how to add culinary gold to your dish – and life!
They’re extravagant, an indulgence in every sense of the word and easily the sexiest of exotic food known to the culinary world today. Such is the reverence for this hard to find tuber that Alexandre Dumas imagined the truffle itself declaring, “Eat me and adore God.”
So what is about this rare to find fungus that makes it the king of great flavour appeal? Or is it just another emblem of gastronomic snobbery? For those who have never had the chance to taste a good quality truffle – black or white – may appear unnecessarily exorbitant price and outrightly ugly, given the shrivelled looks! Fascinatingly, neither is the case.
Of the 70 varieties, the two which are of any culinary significance, come with their own distinct taste and aroma. So while the black truffle, available round the year, and are available between the shade of brown to black, have a pronounced strong aroma and need to be cooked; the ivory white truffle, on the other hand, are more fragrant and can add a new flavour profile to any dish.
Given their distinct characters, while the ivory colour or white truffle (especially the Alba White Truffles) is generally used as a garnish, which is shaved on salads, pasta dishes, risotto and others; the black version is used in cooking. The fascinating thing about truffle is, says Vikas Seth (Culinary Director, Lounge Hospitality) “is that much of their flavours actually depend on the soil they grow in, and the time of harvest and use, because unlike morels, truffles continue to ripen even after being foraged. So using truffle in the recipe needs the same discretion as any flavoursome ingredient.”
The reason for this, adds Sabysachi Gorai (Chef-owner, Fabrica by Saby), “is that no two foraged truffle are likely to have the same kind of flavour profile. Take the case of the oregano White Truffle that has this strong garlicky flavour and can play on its own in a complex dish as compared to the mild Italian truffles known for its subtlety.”
So how does one use truffles? Much like a final flavour addition, say the chefs as they give some interesting pointers on how to assemble the culinary gold in your cooking.
Black and White Truffle: The ideal way to use truffle is by shave over a dish. Truffles take very less time to infuse its flavours, so shaving works the best. A brilliant example of this is the Truffle Fondue, Truffle Risotto, roasted chicken with leeks and can be a good addition to any dish that uses mushroom as one of its hero ingredient.
Black and White Truffle Oil: Usually cold pressed, truffle oil is cooking oil much like olive and sunflower oil that has been infused with the aroma and flavours of good quality truffle. Since it’s an infused oil, both white truffle and black truffle oil can be used interchangeably, and as a finishing ingredient. Some of the best uses of truffle oil is as a finishing garnish. Truffle oil pairs wonderfully with mild flavoured shorbas (chilgoze ka shorba and almond soup) as well as creamier soups, roasts, pan seared fish and lobster and even some wok-tossed greens. The trick is to use little.
Truffle Salt: Much like the oil, truffle salt is also salt that has been infused with the flavours of truffle – and works as a great flavourant salt. This is the easiest way to incorporate truffle in your diet. The best use of truffle salt is as a rub on the bread, seasoning on bruschetta, eggs, puffed corns, dips and dressing.
Truffle Honey: Given the short shelf life of truffle, one of the best ways to preserve truffle is add it to a jar of honey. Of course, most of the honey available doesn’t always use the premium quality of truffle available, but the taste, once the honey and mustard have had time to interplay, is just as brilliant. Aside the usual places of using truffle honey, it can also be used in preparing salad dressings, sweetening yoghurts and cakes, in granola bars, sweetening roasted nuts and as a basting sauce for duck and turkey. In fact, it could make a beautiful sauce to serve alongside Mexican Alambre and Bhut Jhlokia dumplings.
Truffle Mustard: This may appear as an interesting combination, given that mustard often has a strong, overpowering flavour profile to truffle. But a good quality truffle mustard, which usually is a mix of both dark and light mustard and fresh truffles comes with the right amount of infusion that makes it a delight. While mustard alone could work beautifully with most seafood dishes – especially prawns and lobsters – the best use of truffle mustard is as a contrasting flavour. So think sweet potato salad, pumpkin risotto, lamb rack and dips for kebabs.