This year’s Gourmet Escape was the hottest on record with temperatures soaring to 35°C on the Sunday. Fortunately the heat had no effect on the crowd levels and by the late morning the Gourmet Village was teeming with life. I was lucky enough to score front row seats to the first show on the main stage; the WA Signature Dish Final 2015 Cook-off.
For those of you who haven’t been following my coverage of WA Signature Dish this year, it is an annual cooking competition for amateur chefs that promotes Western Australia’s beautiful and abundant local produce.
Entrants must create a recipe that best represents our “State on a plate” using one or more of the “hero ingredients” from either the Gascoyne, Kimberley, Swan Valley & Surrounds or Peel regions.
I returned in an official capacity for 2015 to support the Gascoyne region and was so happy to see Jerolina Rankin progress to become the regional finalist. I met the lovely Jerolina last year on our trip up to the Gascoyne for the semi-finals and her passion and love for the region is endless.
I was told by insider sources that the judge’s votes were a very close call with all dishes being of an excellent standard, successfully showcasing the wonderful produce of their respective regions.
Of course there can only ever be one winner and it was music to my ears to hear the announcement that the winner for the WA Signature Dish 2015 is Jerolina with her Gascoyne seafood broth with Shark Bay wild prawns. Woo hoo!! Congratulations Jerolina and the Gascoyne producers!
After the excitement of the cook off, we headed over to the Buy West Eat Best stall to try some of the dishes ourselves. Sadly Jerolina’s dish had already sold out so we didn’t get to try it. Instead we ordered the dishes from the Kimberley and blogger Matt Cook’s dish from Perth.
We enjoyed both of the dishes and appreciated how hard the judges must have found picking a winner.
Historically my approach to attending the Gourmet Village has been to methodically visit every stall holder due to my well-known affliction with FOMO. It would be torture to see someone’s photo later that night on Instagram of a dish I didn’t get to eat! 😮
But due to a recent heavy burden of work related stress I have been a bit off my game leaving me with minimal tolerance to stand in the direct sun. Consequently the Boy and I used a more targeted approach to a couple of gluten free friendly stalls individually taking turns to line up in the sun while the other reserved a patch of shade.
Both dishes at the Bib & Tucker stall were gluten free friendly and it was hard to pick a favourite as they were both prepared and presented well. The charcoal roasted Blackwood Valley lamb shoulder was melt-in-your-mouth tender and was served with a dollop of charred eggplant purée, a dukkah crisp and pomegranate seeds.
The other Bib & Tucker dish was a pair of raw tuna tostadas; diced tuna served on a crisp tortilla with fresh avocado, green apple, radish and lime.
At the Genuinely Southern Forest stall they were promoting all the wonderful produce of the region. I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointment that they didn’t participate in the WA Signature Dish competition this year as their region has so much to offer. The gluten free option on their menu was smooth avocado, lime and cream mousse topped with candied macadamia crumble and a coulis made from rustleberries, boysenberries and raspberries.
We made one more stop for a dish at Voyager Estate before heading upstairs to the air-conditioned Platinum Lounge. Their ocean trout tataki was heavenly, the fish was so silky and soft. It was served on a bed of Japanese mushrooms, pickled vegetables, edamame beans and miso soil.
I was close to overheating by this point, which is odd for me as I usually tolerate the heat well. I put it down to my recent feeling of burn out. I thanked our lucky stars I had purchased tickets to access the Audi Leeuwin Platinum Lounge. We both entered the air-conditioned bliss with a simultaneous sigh of bliss.
The Platinum Lounge costs $230 per person, and in addition to access into a cool sanctuary you have unlimited food provided in addition to two glasses of Leeuwin wine. The food was set out in various stations positioned around the upstairs venue, nearly all of which were totally gluten free. Of course the first place we hit up was the oyster bar. An endless serve of oysters, what more do I have to say? I think we nearly ate our tickets worth in oysters alone.
The paella was filled with seafood and had a pleasant hit of spice which of course the Boy wasn’t too pleased about. He has delicate taste buds. I had cooled down under the blasting air con and was more than happy to polish off his spicy serve for him.
The charcuterie was also entirely gluten free and the chef had gluten free crackers on offer however the crackers were placed on the bread platter and thus likely to be contaminated with bread crumbs.
The cheese platter station was much savvier and the waiter kept the normal crackers and gluten free ones separate from each other. Seeing as I had already blown my dairy allowance out for the weekend I decided to push the boat out and share a serve of each with the Boy. There were four cheeses offered; Tarago River Jensen’s Red, a washed rind cow’s milk cheese from Victoria; Cantal Entre-Deux, an aged French cheese made from raw cow’s milk; Queso de Murcia Al Vino, a semi-hard goat’s cheese from Spain and some Stilton, a classic blue cheese from Nottinghamshire, England.
By this point we were well and truly stuffed. We sat back contentedly and contemplated the long drive home as the chef lit up a BBQ and started cooked seafood. And yes, it was all gluten free. I pondered for a millisecond whether we fit any more food in before lining up for more food with my new found fellow Coeliac from Lunch with my bestie blog.
I am so pleased that the WA Signature Dish competition has progressed to making it to the main stage at such a key foodie event. We are blessed to live in a State with such varied climates across the regions giving us an abundance of fresh produce that must leave other States envious. Once again I wish a massive congratulations to Jerolina and Chef Pete Manifis for winning and look forward to covering the competition again next year.
Chompchomp was the official blogger for the Gascoyne region for WA Signature Dish. She paid for access into the Audi Platinum Lounge in full.
A few years ago researchers at the University of Michigan discovered that people inherit their work ethic, or if it’s the case a lack of one, from their fathers not their mothers. This means that those who grow up with a hard-working, career focused dad will likely grow up to have similar attitudes. I am very grateful to have received Dad’s career orientated genes and it makes me so happy to see him proud of my achievements. There is however a slight downside to being so dedicated to our respective jobs, simply never having enough time in the day or in fact days in the week. It is far too easy to let the work-life balance slip off kilter and both Dad and I suffer from this.
Consequently it can be hard to pin down Dad and Tess for a weekend, especially as they live in Melbourne, but when we offered for their Christmas gift the lure of a full weekend eating truffles it was too good for them to refuse. We wanted to show them the full Truffle Kerfuffle experience so although it was a lot of eating I booked tickets for the Hunt and Harvest Dinner on the Friday, the Southern Forests Food Bowl Lunch on the Saturday and finally ending with Sophie Zalokar’s Truffle dinner at Foragers on the Saturday night. We booked our accommodation at one of Sophie’s beautiful chalets on the Foragers property in Pemberton.
Truffle Kerfuffle, or TK as it is known affectionately by the locals, kicked off in style on the Friday night with the Gala Opening Hunt and Harvest dinner. I loved observing the wide range in interpretation of the evening’s dress code; with some guests donning full satin evening gowns while others were dressed for comfort in jeans and sneakers. Upon arrival we were handed a welcome cocktail to sip as we found our way to our pre-allocated tables.
For last year’s TK, I planned ahead and had organised to be seated near decent lighting for the dinner event so that my photography didn’t suffer. This year I totally forgot and my heart sunk a little when I glanced over and saw that our arranged seats were situated in one of the darkest parts of the marquee.
The Hunt and Harvest Dinner consisted of five courses matched with local wines with each course prepared by one of the weekend’s celebrity chefs. All the chefs remained very focused on utilising the local produce in the Southern Forest region, not just black truffles. As we eagerly waited for our first course, our waitress came over to the table with a big grin on her face. “The chef just whipped up a surprise dish for you all; it’s a truffle croquette!” Everyone reached in excitedly to sample the crispy delights, but alas I missed out because of course they weren’t gluten free. The Boy happily snuffled up my croquette for me.
The first official course was made by Matthew Evans from the TV series Gourmet Farmer. Matthew is a chef that shares TK’s food philosophy of eating local and seasonal. He prepared a smooth textured brandade using locally caught Redfin perch, potatoes and of course plenty of Manjimup truffle.
The second dish was by far the best of the night and yet sadly one that I failed to capture on camera. Pata Negra’s David Coomer is somewhat of a truffle expert and was one of the first Perth chefs to twig onto the bright idea of growing his own truffles. David’s marron dish was close to orgasmic and for that moment all four of us stopped talking mid-conversation to focus attentively on sucking and slurping every single last morsel of flavour from our marron shells. The marron flesh was cooked to the millisecond of perfection and was literally drowning in a decadent brown butter truffle vinaigrette topped with grated truffle. What astounded me the most with this dish was that David somehow managed to ooze aromatic truffiliciousness into every mouthful; even the enclosed meat in the marron’s legs and claws tasted like truffle. It was heaven.
As the four of us glowed in the aftermath of marron ecstasy, Dad voiced his sympathy for the chef whose dish followed next as he imagined even a wonderful dish would be bland in comparison to that marron. Scott Bridger from Bib & Tucker and May Street Larder created his dish using local buckwheat and seasonal Jerusalem artichokes, topped with milk curd, fresh apple, sprouted buckwheat, wood sorrel and truffle.
I am guessing that he included some other gluten flours to be able to make the dough so fluffy, and thus my gluten free adapted version was made using a thin buckwheat crêpe. After indulging on copious rich truffle butter from the marron, I actually welcomed the lighter flavours.
Chef Kenny McHardy recently moved up to Perth from Albany and soon will be opening his new restaurant Manuka Woodfire Kitchen in Fremantle. He opted for a more hearty styled dish of a pork pithivier which is sort of a French equivalent of a meat pie but with a fluffy puff pastry. It was served with heirloom pumpkin and some local Tangletoe organic cider made at Mountford Wines in Pemberton.
Fluffy textures in gluten free pastry is a hard creation to prepare and Chef Kenny made the wise decision to not to ruin the dish with a lackluster gluten free pastry alternative. Instead, I received two buttery soft pork rillettes for my gluten free alternative. As many of my readers may recall, pork is not generally my first protein choice. But offer me pork lavished with luscious truffle and I can easily be swayed!
To finish off the evening, we enjoyed dessert made by Sophie Budd from Taste Budds Cooking Studio. Sophie bravely chose to made her dish truffle-less and used another culinary delicacy locally grown in the Southern Forests region; native finger limes. She prepared a smooth lemon souffle and topped it with adorable little pearls of Pemberton finger lime. I love how this fruit has been marketed as “citrus caviar”, it is such an appealing concept.
We commenced our next morning at the Truffle & Wine Co to go on a truffle hunt. My stepmum Tess is a huge animal lover like I am, with a particular weakness for Labradors. We got to meet the truffle dog Scrappy, a black Lab whose gentle nature and large brown eyes won everyone’s hearts especially Tess’s.
Not only is Scrappy trained to detect where truffles are growing under the ground, but she can also determine which truffles are ripe and therefore ready for harvest while leaving the immature truffles to continue to grow.
Using specific head gestures Scrappy was able to indicate to her trainer if there was more than one truffle in a single location and if they were growing together in a cluster or spaced a distance apart. Such a clever dog!
After a few cuddles with Scrappy, we returned to Fonty’s pool just in time for the Southern Forests Food Bowl Lunch. It was going to be a big day of non-stop eating so I had skipped breakfast in preparation and was ready with a very healthy appetite.
In a similar fashion to the dinner, our lunch was focused around showcasing some of the Southern Forest’s wonderful local produce with the black truffle taking centre stage. Each course was matched with local regional wines.
Our entree was prepared by Aaron Carr, the Executive Chef at Vasse Felix in Margaret River who was awarded 2015 Chef of the Year in the WA Good Food Guide. Using the locally farmed Blue Ridge marron, he paired it with sweet pear, cauliflower and truffle.
For the main course Chef Luke Burgess slow cooked some finger licking beef short ribs. The short ribs were served shared style in the centre table with each guest receiving their own plate of smoked quince and kohl rabi salad to pair with the tender beef.
The meal was rounded off nicely with dessert by Tom Randolph from No. 4 Blake Street. Savoury and sweet flavours were married with a truffle and Jerusalem artichoke custard topped with chocolate consommé and shards of salted chocolate.
After Saturday’s lunch we opted to head home from TK early as I was still suffering from my stupid back injury and needed some time out with my feet up to ease the pain. We had the Foragers Truffle Kerfuffle Seasonal Dinner that evening and I wanted to be able to last the distance. Foragers Field Kitchen holds sell-out seasonal dinners most Saturday nights which consist of a set menu served in a shared style. They have a BYO license.
Sophie Zalokar is a passionate advocate for the Southern Forest region and sources quality local produce to use in her kitchen as much as possible. Her cooking style is best described as authentic country cooking and nearly everything she prepares is made from scratch. For our first course, we started with a white bean and parmesan soup topped with truffle cream and fresh chervil. It was a crisp, cold night out and this shot of warmth was just what I needed.
For our second course we enjoyed some wood-roasted Jerusalem artichokes and sprout hearts. I haven’t tried them wood roasted before, it seems to be more popular to served them pureed rather than whole. They have a distinct but subtle sweetness to them which I have since learnt is due to the fructose content, something to note if you have fructose malabsoprtion. Toasted buckwheat and hazelnuts added a wonderful textural element to the dish. Some labna, or fresh yoghurt cheese, was made from Bannister Downs milk and of course everything was lavished with plenty of fresh truffle.
Whilst I’m certainly not a chef, it seems to me that rabbit can be a very temperamental meat to prepare. I often find it to be dry and tough unless it is served in some sort of slow cooked stew. Forager’s cider braised rabbit was none of those things and was so delicately tender and moist. It was served with celeriac cream, porcini juice, fresh truffle and Brussels sprout leaves.
I was thankful that our dessert was lovely and light as we had been solidly eating for most of the day. The smooth honey custard sat gently in my overly full belly and the persimmon and pumpkin seed salad was a refreshing way to finish a perfect meal.
We were yet to explore much of the Truffle Kerfuffle Farmers Market so we headed back on the Sunday morning as fresh as daisies to check it out.
There was an abundance of local food and wine to try with a smaller selection of hot food stalls to purchase more substantial meals. What sparked the Boy’s attention the most were the truffle inoculated trees available for sale and although we don’t have a property in Manjimup he showed great interest in getting one. Dad being the always generous man stopped in at the stall and bought one for his only son-in-law.
After the previous day’s feasting we were happy for a light lunch and while Dad and Tess wandered the Market tasting wines the Boy and I sat on the grass and ate some heartwarming market food. We had filled our bags with purchases of local produce to bring home including fresh truffles, local potatoes and an enormous spaghetti squash.
That evening back in our chalet, we had the most simple but exquisite meal of mashed potato with truffle butter and fresh truffle. It was as heavenly as all the other dishes we devoured over the three days, except of course for David Coomer’s marron. Now THAT was a one in a lifetime moment. It is always sad moment when TK is over, but the four of us are already counting down the days until next year’s truffle feasting. It looks like it might be an annual event for Dad and Tess too now!
Truffle Kerfuffle is held on the last weekend of June every year at Fonty’s Pool in Manjimup. Refer to their website www.trufflekerfuffle.com.au for more details
Disclaimer: Chompchomp purchased the tickets to the Hunt and Harvest dinner, Food Bowl lunch, Truffle Hunts and Winter Seasonal Dinner at Foragers at her own expense. She was grateful to receive a media pack with free passes, wine glasses and transportation to events for all her family from Offshoot Creative.
Pata Negra | 26 Stirling Highway, Nedlands WA 6009 | (08) 9389 5517 | www.patanegra.com.au
Bib & Tucker |18 Leighton Beach Boulevard, North Fremantle WA 6159 | (08) 9433 2147 | www.bibandtucker.net.au
May Street Larder | Shop 23, 155 Canning Highway, East Fremantle WA 6158 | www.maystreetlarder.com.au
Manuka Woodfire Kitchen | Shop 6/7,128-134 High Street, Fremantle, Western Australia 6160 | Facebook
Sophie Budd, Taste Budds Cooking Studio
Vasse Felix | Corner of Tom Cullity Drive & Caves Road, Margaret River WA 6284 | (08) 9756 5050 | www.vassefelix.com.au
No 4 | 4 Blake St, North Perth, 6006 WA | (08) 9444 6678 | www.no4blakestreet.com.au
Foragers | Lot 1 Roberts Road, Pemberton WAZ 6260 | (08) 9776 1580 | www.foragers.com.au
Colonial Brewing | Osmington Road, Margaret River WA 6285 | (08) 9758 8177 | www.colonialbrewingco.com.au
Kent Street Deli | Unit 3/1 Kent Road, Rockingham WA 6168 | (08) 9528 5335 | www.kentstreetdeli.com.au
Lady Marmalade | Donnybrook, WA | 0417 415 073 | Facebook
Recovery from a disc injury can be a roller-coaster ride of good days and bad days. After an optimistic fortnight of steady improvement, I was faced with a horrid day of crippling pain and depression. I forced myself through the morning’s torture in the hope that it would ease as the day progressed but the short drive to work was enough to push me over the edge. I am normally an energetic and bubbly person and I hate that I’m reduced to a crumpled heap on the floor of our staff room. To add to the pain, I feel racked with the guilt of leaving my colleagues with all my work for the afternoon. I battled through a couple of consults before pathetically limping back to my car for the dreaded drive home. Pain has a way of warping your perspective on life and I can sense how short tempered and grumpy I am but with every moment hurting I cannot stop myself.
Upon arriving home I drugged and heat-packed the hell out of that wretched spine of mine before laying back in bed with a glass wine in hand. Before long I was smothered in cats and started to appreciate that tommorow would be a brand new day. With new-found gratitude I reminded myself to be thankful I still have many wonderful things in my life; I have my sanity, my internal health, a loving husband and two of the most handsome cats in the world.
One of my treasured winter creature comforts in Perth is our locally grown fresh black truffles. I go absolutely bonkers for these little black fungi and our winter is filled with back to back truffle dinner events. This season has already kicked off and yet I’m in no good shape to sit down for a lazy degustation. So, in an act of kindness the Boy suggested that instead of going to the truffle, get the truffle brought to me. My first creation of the season is this luscious creamy truffle cauliflower soup. This is a vegan cauliflower soup that is also gluten free and dairy free, and rich in flavour and umami deliciousness.
- 1 clove garlic
- 30 grams Nuttelex or preferred dairy free, vegan spread
- 1 tablespoon vegetable stock concentrate (from Thermomix EDC, if you are not using a Thermomix, use 1 stock cube. Ensure it is onion and gluten free)
- 40 grams fresh shiitake mushrooms
- 40 grams raw blanched almonds, soaked for 1-2 hours and drained
- 250 grams cauliflower, roughly chopped
- 200 grams potato, roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon savoury yeast
- 600 grams filtered water, room temperature
- 10-20 grams of fresh black truffle, depending on preference
- salt and pepper to taste
- 100 grams cauliflower florets, broken into small florets
- ½ tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon sliced almonds
- 10 grams fresh black truffle
- Preheat oven to 200C.
- Toss 100 grams of small cauliflower florets in olive oil season with salt and pepper and roast in the oven for 20-25 mins until browned. Reserve for garnishing the soup
- Place garlic clove in the mixing bowl and chop for 5 sec | Speed 5 MC. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl.
- Add 30 grams Nuttelex and saute for 2 mins | 100C | Speed 1.
- Add vegetable stock concentrate, potato, shiitake mushrooms, cauliflower, drained almonds, savoury yeast, water and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 20 min | 100C | Speed 1. Put the simmer basket on top instead of the MC
- Blend for 1 minute | Speed 9, gradually increasing from Speed 1-9 until a smooth consistency is achieved.
- Shave 10-20 grams of fresh truffle into the mixing bowl ensuring to leave enough to garnish. Mix for 20 seconds | Speed 3.
- Serve immediately and garnish with roasted cauliflower, sliced almonds and fresh black truffle
- Finely chop garlic clove. Saute with 30 grams Nuttelex in a medium sized saucepan on medium heat.
- Add vegetable stock concentrate, potato, shiitake mushrooms, cauliflower, drained almonds, savoury yeast and water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 15-20 min or until vegetables are soft . Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Blend using a stick blender until a smooth consistency is achieved.
- Shave 10-20 grams of fresh truffle into the mixing bowl ensuring to leave enough to garnish. Stir to mix through
- Serve immediately and garnish with roasted cauliflower, sliced almonds and fresh black truffle
Excitement is mounting as the truffle season is about to kick off for the winter. This year West Australia is in for a bumper crop as our conditions have been close to perfect for maximum yield and quality. For those of you who have yet to fall in love with this mysterious black “fruit of a fungus” you are truly missing out. For gourmands around the globe it is highly sought after and has earned the name “black gold” due to it high price. This high value is enhanced by the fact it grows very seasonally and has a short shelf life due to losing its aroma and flavour very quickly.
Every year there is an annual food and wine festival called Truffle Kerfuffle that is held in Manjimup, in the heart of the Southern Forests truffle growing region in WA. The three day festival allows national and international tourists to live it up for a weekend of luxurious truffle excesses. This year’s festival will run over the last weekend of June from the 26th to the 28th of June and tickets to the events are selling out quick.
Many of our state’s top chefs will be attending the event helping promote what an incredible region the Southern Forests has become, not just for their truffles, but for other sought after produce including chestnuts, buckwheat, finger limes, marron, cherries, cheeses and fine wines.
In the lead up to Truffle Kerfuffle I recently attended a preview event truffle masterclass with Chef Kiren Mainwaring from Co-Op Dining. Kiren and I share similar passions when it comes to food and wherever possible he sources his ingredients locally and seasonally. He has always taken such individualised care for my dietary needs, even at big events where it must be such a hassle to make one dish to order.
Being a small group we were taken behind the scenes into the kitchen of Co-Op Dining to get a true chef’s table experience. Not a bad way to spend my rainy Wednesday afternoon indeed!
Kiren talked us through a couple of methods that can be used to preserve truffles as their potency starts to diminish significantly after just four days. Having said that, working in the kitchen of a fine dining establishment means that he is spoilt with the luxury of not needing to preserve his truffles and uses them fresh for the duration of the season.
For those that have dined at Co-op, I imagine you would have already gone goo-goo gaa-gaa over Kiren’s slow cooked egg yolk. He cooks the yolk at 55°C for 45 minutes to yield a yolk that is technically cooked but with the consistency as if it is raw. It makes for a perfect blogger’s yolk porn shot which even in the tight constraints of someone else’s’ kitchen, I simply couldn’t resist.
The yolk snuggled on a bed of broccoli puree surrounded by crispy puffed basmati and buckwheat. This gave the ultimate play on textures with the egg’s creamy silkiness contrasting with the crunchy grains. Generous shavings of fresh black truffle gave this dish an extra depth that rocketed it into absolute heaven.
Our second dish showcased more ingredients from the Southern Forests region that are also seasonal to this time of year. Pemberton grown Jerusalem artichokes formed the base of the dish featuring both as a puree, and also cubed and fried in smoked pork fat for that added oomph of umami flavour. Roast chestnuts signal the beginning of winter for me and added a wondrous nutty element to this dish.
It was finished off with shaved parmesan, crisp onion skins and grated fresh truffle. For this dish Kiren grated the truffle finely as he wanted the truffle flavour to evenly disperse throughout the dish.
It is only three weeks to go until Truffle Kerfuffle and this year I am so excited to be taking my Dad and stepmum along with us. Living in Melbourne, they have never explored outside of Perth and I am nervously proud of what we are soon to show them. They are both well-travelled foodies who have spent much of their careers as fashion designers hitting up the hottest places in the trendiest cities around the world. Hopefully I can impress them!
Truffle Kerfuffle runs from the 26th to the 28th of June 2015. Tickets for the festival and associated events can be purchased from their website at www.trufflekerfuffle.com.au
Check out my comprehensive post from last year’s TK at www.chompchomp.com.au/2014/07/southern-forests-truffle-kerfuffle-truffle-festival-2014
Disclaimer: Chompchomp was an invited guest of Truffle Kerfuffle and Offshoot Creative
My friends and family will tell you that I have always been an enthusiastic and excitable person. My facial features and hands rarely remain expressionless and I often suffer from a lack of volume control. There are some things in my life that can further amplify these personality traits and I have a tendency to obsess over them. To name a few. Cats. Raw chocolate. Popcorn. Running. Mushrooms. Slow cooked eggs. And black truffles. My black truffle addiction gains force each year as I seek out bigger and better truffle experiences.
For those not in the know I am not referring to a type of chocolate. Black truffles are weird looking balls of fungus that grow underground on the roots of oak and hazelnut trees. They are a highly sought after delicacy and sell for thousands of dollars per kilo. Truffles only grow for a very limited season over wintertime and do not hold a very long shelve life.
The Southern Forests region in Western Australia has proven to be the prime location to grow this “black gold” with 80% of the Southern hemisphere’s black truffle coming from this small but highly productive region. To celebrate the truffle season each year, there is a three day truffle festival held called Truffle Kerfuffle which is dedicated to showcasing the abundance of produce from the Southern Forests region with the black truffle being on centre stage.
This year I journeyed down to Manjimup for the full weekend to get the entire truffle experience. Our first evening celebrations kicked off with the sell-out Hunt and Harvest dinner. This was a luxurious affair of six courses and matched wines with every dish enhanced extravagantly with lavish servings of fresh, aromatic truffle. At each table setting we were even given a 20 gram fresh truffle to take home.
Whilst the truffle remained the shining star of the show, each course also utilised some of the best produce this region has to offer including marron, rainbow trout and crunchy sweet apples.
It was hard to pick a highlight for the evening but for me it was Philipe Mouchel’s Manjimup Hampshire Grass fed beef. The beef was prepared two ways; a tender soft roasted strip loin with rich, braised short ribs. It was served on a bed of Southern Forest celeriac purée with a red wine sauce and of course shavings of black truffle.
The cheese course was spectacular in appearance with each platter topped with giant sized shards of gluten free whey lavosh. Hidden under the lavosh sat rolls of Bannister Downs curd which had been delicately wrapped in paper thin slices of truffle. It was a night of excess and was well worth the expense.
The next day I woke up nursing a sizey hangover but the anticipation of more truffle feasting to come it made things seem a lot easier to get going. I certainly didn’t want to miss out on anything so we headed back to Fonty’s Pool early in the day for the festival part of the weekend celebrations. We started with a naughty breakfast of truffled popcorn from the Taste of Balingup stall.
Freshly popped corn tossed in truffle butter and topped with grated truffle? Oh my! It was out of this world. I have to confess to you that with the Boy’s help I may have eaten at least half a dozen serves over the course of the weekend. And I could have easily eaten more.
The Farmer’s market was filled with a number of stalls selling produce from the Southern Forest region with a strong focus on truffle. There were a great variety of gourmet hot food stalls too which led me to the compulsion to try as much dishes as I humanly could. Thankfully most of the stalls had a gluten free option so I didn’t miss out on much!
Whilst the truffle popcorn was obviously my favourite, some other addictive bites included the marron and truffle stuffed potatoes, Kent Street Deli’s fall apart beef cheeks with truffle mash and Pata Negra’s lusciously smooth pate. I was impressed that David Coomer’s wife was kind enough to bring gluten free crackers to the festival to accompany the pate for those Coeliacs in need!
Running at half hour intervals throughout the two days were truffle hunts held on one of the surrounding truffle farms. The hunt is conducted a short bus ride away from the festival and it is the best way to learn more about this interesting industry.
As black truffles grow underground they are not that easy to find. In Manjimup, truffle farmers spend time training their dogs to be able to sniff out the treasure without damaging it. We got to meet Latte the truffle dog, a very placid and patient boy who liked to live his life in the slow lane.
Latte would carefully walk under the oak trees to smell where the truffles lay and when he found one he would gently paw at the ground once or twice then look expectantly at his owner for a treat. After half an hour or so, he had helped his owner find a small bag full of walnut sized truffles. An impressive haul when you consider they sell on the retail market for over $2000.
Whilst the main group were busy watch Latte at work, I noticed the Boy was lingering back from the crowd looking somewhat suspicious. As I glanced back to see what he was up to I saw him flick a clod of moss off the ground with his foot and his face lit up with surprise.
I toddled over to see what he found and saw an enormous black shadow laying underneath the red dirt and bright green moss. It was a giant sized truffle that outsized all of the truffle dog’s truffles by far! Looks like the Boy has found his new calling. My truffle snuffling husband. I married well. As I sadly handed over the weighty specimen to its rightful owner I secretly hoped he would exchange one of the smaller golf ball sized truffles as payment but alas all he offered was one of Latte’s liver treats. Erm, no thankyou!
After our truffle hunt we met up with my dear friend Ai-Ling from Food Endeavours of the Blue Apocalypse for a Masterclass with Hadleigh Troy from Restaurant Amuse and Paul Wyman from Colonial Brewery. They teamed together to show us that food and drink matching isn’t just for wine but can easily be done with craft beers.
Unfortunately for me, Colonial cannot produce any gluten free beers but Hadleigh was thoughtful enough to source some locally produced gluten beers for me from Billabong Brewery. It was a joy to watch two masters at their craft talk so passionately about their industries and it reminded me that it is important to always follow your dream.
Hadleigh created a two course journey matched with three rounds of Colonial beers. Whilst I didn’t get to try Colonial brew, the Boy is quite the beer expert and was happy to inform me they got his fussy tick of approval. He enjoyed their complexity in flavour and was inspired to make sure we visit their brewery next time we are in Margaret River.
For our third and final festival day, I had booked tickets for the Southern Forests Farmers Long Table lunch. This was a much more casual affair than the higher profile Hunt and Harvest dinner which made a nice contrast in experiences.
Our table was adorned with an abundance of locally sourced fresh produce including potatoes, kale and silver beet. The lunch pulled on the talents of three amazing WA chefs; Kiren Mainwaring from Co-op Dining, Joel Valvasori from Lalla Rookh and Sophie Budd from Taste Budds Cooking Studio.
Every ingredient used in the three course lunch excluding staples such as sugar, flour and salt were sourced from the Southern Forest region. Kiren’s dish included one of his signature elements; a slow cooked egg. This was paired with a savoury meringue, cauliflower puree, shaved cauliflower and of course, fresh truffle. It was a wondrous play on textures with a layer of subtle sweetness coming from the gelatinous yolk and the air-puff crisp meringue.
There was a brief interlude before main course for local potato growers Carlo and Bob Pessotto to talk to us about the diverse range of potatoes available in Australia. We were served two potatoes; a Kipfler and a Laura. They were roasted and served with a spoonful of molten butter drizzled on top. They wanted to use this as a way to highlight that there can be such a range in flavour and texture between the different potato varieties and encouraged us to try experimenting with eating more types.
Joel’s dish of ricotta gnocchi, lamb and mushroom ragu and fresh truffle effectively silenced the table for minutes as everyone was too busy tucking into its deliciousness. It was just what the cold winter weather commanded and was the perfect way to warm our heart and soul.
He adapted my dish to be gluten free by replacing the gnocchi with thick, creamy polenta. The polenta partially soaked up all the richly flavoured juices from the ragu meaning there was no missing out for this gluten free girl.
Sophie’s dessert utilised the vibrant coloured local Pink Lady apples topping a hazelnut and frangipani tart on a short crust pastry with clotted cream and shavings of truffle.
My gluten free version omitted the pastry and my apple doubled in sized in comparison to everyone else’s. Many of you know that apples are not ideal for a fructose malabsorber however I was prepared to tough it out after slugging some glucose tablets down my throat. Glucose can help with absorption of fructose to an extent. If only there was a pill to reverse the effect of eating gluten how much easier would life be? As the lunch came to a close, we were offered to help ourselves to the produce on the table. I plopped a number of those tasty local potatoes in our bag with the plans to devour them for dinner at our chalet that evening.
Our basic chalet back in Pemberton didn’t have an oven in its kitchen but it did have a pot belly stove. Upon our return from the festival that afternoon, it didn’t take the Boy long to get the fire roaring. I smothered the potatoes in some truffle butter that we bought earlier that day, wrapped them in foil and poked them deep into the hot coals.
What was I saying about the simple things in life? After a weekend of eating decadently with lunches and dinners prepared by famous chefs, it was such pleasure going back to basics. Once our hot potatoes were cooked, I added more spoonfuls of truffle butter and cheekily grated fresh truffle on top. That was our dinner for the evening. It was the perfect way to end a perfect weekend.Truffle Kerfuffle truffle festival 2014 prices: General entry Weekend Pass – Adult $30, Child $15 Hunt & Harvest Dinner $220 including wine Truffle Hunt $40 Masterclasses ranged from $65-145. My Masterclass cost $85 Farmers Long Table Lunch $125 In addition to all her dietary issues, Chompchomp also suffers from a serious condition called FOMO, or Fear-of-missing-out. Consequently she had no desire to wait and see what events she may or may not receive invitations to via her blog and promptly booked her TK weekend for full price on the first day the tickets were released. And it was worth every cent. Trustee Bar InContro Grossi Restaurants Millbrook Winery Taste of Balingup Kent Street Deli Pata Negra Restaurant Amuse Co-op Dining Lalla Rookh
Over recent weeks I have been providing you with insider coverage of the inaugural WA Signature Dish competition run by Buy West Eat Best; a government initiative to help promote eating locally grown and made produce. I was appointed as the official blogger for the Gascoyne region and travelled up to Carnarvon to attend the regional final.
The three other participating regions were Perth and Surrounds, Southern Forests and the Great Southern. Each region’s finalist received one-on-one mentoring by their delegated chef to help prepare them for the Grand Finale held at the Perth Cultural Centre on WA Day. On the big day, the Cultural Centre was alive with activity with much to see and do for people of all ages.
The WA Day event was a free event and the Buy West Eat Best tent was packed full of stalls offering tastings of all sorts of local deliciousnesses including banana smoothies, gelato, oils, condiments and best of all, gluten free lupin flour chocolate cake. I was joined by two of my dear friends Foodie Cravings and Perth Munchkin who were also attending as official bloggers representing Perth and the Great Southern.
Each contestant had ninety minutes to prepare their dish from scratch using a variety of ingredients sourced from their region. Rhiannon Birch was competing for the Perth and Surrounds region and her dish was Dorper lamb with a lupin and za’tar crust with sweet potato and lupin salad with Moroccan flavours. Much to my approval her dish is entirely gluten free.
Clare King’s dish came from the Great Southern region titled “A Celebration of Beef in Thai style” and was made using a luscious Butterfield beef fillet topped with pearls of Pemberton Finger Limes.
Many of you have already been following on the blog the story of Paul Kelly, the contestant for the Gascoyne region with his Gascoyne tasting plate. This colourful plate included Shark Bay wild King prawns with salsa verde, plantation vegetable gazpacho with Abacus crab sticks, Shark Bay snapper ceviche and some simple pan-fried Shark Bay Pink snapper with lime mayonnaise and pickled Gascoyne vegetables.
Competing for the Southern Forests region, the softly spoken Alana Starkie prepared some stunning fresh Southern Forest marron with a Pink Lady apple, avocado and lime salsa. To make the competition even more challenging, throughout the entire cook off the four contestants were individually interviewed by both their chef and the hosts Anna Gare and Don Hancey. I was surprised how well they all kept their cool under pressure and kept their focus on cooking!
The final decision for the winning dish was made by the panel of high profile judges; Guillaume Brahimi, Ralf Vogt and Rob Broadfield. You could nearly hear a pin drop in the packed marquee as each judge carefully tasted the four dishes.
Whilst the quality and standard of each dish was high, there can only ever be one winner and this year the winner was Rhiannon Birch for her Perth dish of Dorper lamb with a lupin and za’tar crust with sweet potato and lupin salad with Moroccan flavours.
For the recipes for all the contestants dishes head over to the Buy West Eat Best website.
The Buy West Eat Best WA Signature Dish Finale was a free event held on the 2nd of June 2014 at the Perth Cultural Centre. I would like to thank buy West Eat Best and all the team at Clarity Communications for allowing me to be part of this fabulous WA Signature Dish experience. Also thanks to Paul Kelly and Chef Peter Manifis for putting in such an incredible effort for the Gascoyne region. Fingers crossed for a win next year!