The annual truffle season is just around the corner in the Canberra region. If you have never tried a truffle dish and are wondering what all the fuss is about, Tom Stoneham, the Culinary Director and Head Chef at Contentious Character, has curated some specially-designed menus for a range of events at their vineyard to showcase the wonderful, locally-sourced black truffle.
Originally from the south of France, truffles are ideally suited to the Canberra region climate. The extreme heat in the summer, coupled with our cold frosty winters and dry days, make it an ideal breeding ground. The truffieres in the region are mainly family businesses who, with research, careful selection of a location, quality tree stock, and good soil management, are at the forefront of an emerging truffle industry in Australia.
Tom, who adores the truffle season said, “I started out cooking professionally in 2001. I trained in the UK in Italian and English restaurants, cooking classic European food. Migrated to Australia in 2011 to help open the first Australian Jamie Oliver restaurant in Sydney, after that I ran my own restaurant in Sydney for a couple of years with a friend. Next, I moved to Canberra to head up Jamie’s Italian for a couple of years, shortly after that I found my way to Contentious Character. The classic Italian and English cuisines have most strongly influenced my cooking, and growing up in a fairly rural area, surrounded by great produce, has given me a great appreciation for local, seasonal and ethically sourced produce wherever possible, meaning my cooking is very ingredient driven. I think great produce speaks for itself.”
“I feel really privileged to live in a truffle growing region! I love winter, and truffles seem a really integral part of the Canberra winter to me. Truffles are such a magical ingredient, and the fresher the better! Getting to work with truffles that have sometimes been out of the ground a matter of hours is a dream.”
Of all the ways to cook and prepare truffles, Tom says his favourite way to enjoy the ingredient is, “Truffle Pasta. Has to be fresh pasta, a simple sauce of truffle butter, a little water, light seasoning, parmesan cheese, freshly sliced truffle. That’s one of my favourite things to eat, full stop!” For him it is all about the philosophy “The simpler the better, you don’t want to mask the flavour or over complicate it. They are a special ingredient which deserves to be showcased.”
To launch the truffle season in style, on Saturday the 23rd of June, Contentious Character will be joined by the Truffle Dogs for a demonstration and talk on the lawn at the vineyard, followed by a three-course lunch prepared by Tom. He revealed that the menu will feature a classic and mouthwatering winter favourite “Truffle risotto. As with truffle pasta, really simple! We blend truffle butter and parmesan through risotto right at the end of cooking (off the heat!), giving a beautiful flavour and texture, then top it with Tallegio cheese, truffle cured egg yolk, and of course – freshly sliced truffle.”
For a true truffle indulgence, Contentious Character will work together with Blue Frog Truffles to deliver a five-course dinner coupled with entertainment and talks by farmer and chef on Saturday the 4th of August. It is one of the must-do events of the season and the dish that Tom has planned is a cold weather winner. “Braised local lamb, sun choke, celery, truffle. The delicate, earthy flavours of celery and sun choke sit perfectly with truffle, without overpowering. Both the lamb and the truffles come from within 30 minutes drive of us!” said Tom.
As for the best wine pairing to enjoy with truffles, Tom shared his favourites, “For a white, something lightly oaked and creamy, like our (Contentious Character) 2015 Chardonnay. For red, the earthy characteristics of a Pinot Noir can go great with truffle but you want something with a bit of age and body… our 2006 Pinot Noir hits the mark.”
What you need to know:
Contentious Character is located at 810 Norton Road, Wamboin.
Truffle Dog Lunch is on Saturday 23rd June – bookings are required via the website.
Truffling @ Contentious Character 5 Course Dinner is on Saturday 4th August – bookings are required via the website.
Throughout Truffle season on the weekends, Contentious Character will also have a choice of a truffled dish and glass of wine for $45, to secure a booking email firstname.lastname@example.org.