Truffle season

Asparagus / poached egg / truffle

Yes that’s right folks. Whilst it may also be duck season, and rabbit season. It is now most importantly truffle season ! As the weather cools and the rain falls, you can take some comfort in the fact that those little nuggets of earthy goodness have been slowly growing in their special funghi like way for the past year (or 6 or 7 years perhaps) and are now ready to be harvested and savoured.

W.A is fast becoming a truffle haven it would seem. With the Mundaring Truffle Festival going from strength to strength each year, and Manjimup truffles being joined by Pemberton (The Stone Barn has just harvested it’s first truffles), and others in the works. It’s a boutique industry success story.

I picked up a little truffle at the Perth edition of the Good Food & Wine Show last weekend. It was from the Manjimup Wine & Truffle company who currently supply most (if not all) the black truffles you find in restaurants and gourmet stores across the country. Apparently the little 15gram piece I bought had been harvested the day before, and was vacuum sealed with a little padding for maximum freshness so it would still taste as strong as it did when it came out of the ground.

I like to do as little as possible to truffles. I think their uniquely pungent flavour should be the star of any dish they’re added to, and my lack of finesse when deal with fancy ingredients tends to lend itself to simple classics.

As such, the two dishes I made with this truffle were: Asparagus / Poached Egg / Black truffle, and a very simple truffle risotto with scallops.

My egg poaching method these days involves boiling water, white wine vinegar, and then just dropping the egg directly into the water without swirling or wrapping anything in cling film. The secret to the beauty of this is using really nice fresh eggs. The eggs I had this time were sourced from a stall at the Subi Farmers Market, and based on shape and consistency alone were obviously far superior to the supermarket eggs I’ve dealt with in the past.

Manjimup truffle risotto with scallops

The risotto was made using a chicken / rabbit stock as the base, and a little milk added along the way. I got the idea for the milk from Vince Velletri who used a similar method to cook the risotto for the Slow Food Perth lunch at the Mundaring Truffle festival last year. I was responsible for stirring about 10kg of rice that went into one massive pot and the memory still sticks in my head. The idea behind the milk is really just to mellow the flavours of the onion etc in the base so that the truffle has more poignancy in the dish.

The rest was simply frying some scallops in butter for 20 seconds or so on each side, and then shaving what was left of the fresh truffle over the top.

Served with a Bellarmine 2004 Riesling, it wasn’t a bad meal at all.

Really looking foward to the upcoming Truffle Festival at the end of this month, and you should all get up there and check it out.

Pork Belly Kakuni with Scallop Congee

pork belly with scallop congee

I’m not what you’d call the most dedicated cook. I’m fickle… and probably lazy… and if I read over a recipe and it looks like it’s going to be either long or complicated, or will require me to scour the seven seas for perrywinkles and seaweed extract, I’m unlikely to give it a go.

This dish however… made me look twice.

Whilst browsing through my beloved flickr one day, I came across this outstanding photo from Santos, the talented author of Scent of Green Bananas. She’d been sent a copy of a book by chef Masaharu Morimoto (of Iron Chef America fame), and with some inspiration via Aun of Chubby Hubby, decided to give it a shot.

Now despite reading the recipe and finding out that the pork belly would be cooked for a total of around 10 hours, and would take around 2 or 3 days to complete if you follow the recipe to the letter, I figured that the end result looked too good not to give it a shot.

I won’t rehash the recipe here, you can feel free to get the real deal from Aun, or else go out and buy the book, which sounds like it’s full of a lot of great stuff. I will however give you a blow by blow account of the process I went through to make the whole thing.

Pork belly marathon checklist

  • Purchase one slab of boneless pork belly
  • Purchase 4 dried scallops (I got mine from Emma’s Yong Tau Foo in Northbridge), not cheap at $150 / kg !
  • Purchase sake
  • Purchase brown rice (I found some medium grain organic brown rice in Fresh Provisions)
  • Sear pork belly on both sides til brown all over
  • Place pork belly into an oven safe dish and cover it with water, add 3 cups brown rice to the water
  • Cook pork belly for 8 hours in the rice (mine was left overnight, and then cooked for another 8 hours after I realised I didn’t turn the oven on properly… stupid symbols)
  • Take the pork belly out of the rice and wrap it up, rest in fridge for 2 days
  • Make spring onion oil, by slowly heating vegetable oil with spring onions and ginger.
  • Mix rice for congee with spring onion oil, let it sit overnight to absorb the flavour
  • Soak dried scallops in warm water til they are flakey
  • Take pork belly slab out of fridge, slice it up into squares
  • Braise pieces of pork in sake, soy sauce, sugar, and water for 2 hours or so (I also added star anise like Santos)
  • Cook the congee using chicken stock, rice, dried scallops, and spring onion (I also added more pork, and a little coriander)
  • Let the pork cook until it’s nicely caramelised and falling apart
  • Serve the pork over the congee
  • Do not accompany it with an aged 1999 Gew├╝rztraminer from Henschke (it will not do it justice)
  • Savour the taste of your labour

caramelising pork belly