It’s -4.8 C, and our young pup, some sort of poodle/labrador rearrangement of genes, is confused: her water bowl is behaving strangely.
While she ponders her canine physics problem, I’m looking out at the vast whiteness of a deep June frost and can’t get truffles out of my head.
While we have a few trees with spore on their roots, this dog can’t work out her water bowl hydraulics, so has Buckley’s of finding fungus.
There’s but one grower I need to contact. It’s a bit of a drive, and they’ll be busy at the markets. But the state of my day can’t change until I get that intense aroma in my life and onto an egg scramble.
Terra Preta is a booming truffle business out past Braidwood. I’ve known them for years and their philosophy of land management has created this active, diverse, natural landscape that is in vast contrast to the degraded land of conventionally managed properties you’ll pass on the drive.
I’ve stood under towering bamboo forests that create their own rain, waded through wetlands that were previously eroded banks and followed their gang of weird, short-legged, big-nosed dogs, hunting – or in some instances, tripping over – the bountiful truffles.
Nowhere I know thrills me more, but today I’m heading to the regional markets to get my truffle on.
In preparation, I’ll check out the chook yard. All good here, half a dozen freshly laid – no, hang on, as one chook goes off her nut, passing an egg at -4 can’t be pleasant, so – seven eggs.
The key to it all is having a perfect truffle, so get to know your truffle guy or gal. Nothing is more important in life other than a plumber who’ll turn up.
Truffles vary greatly in the volume of scent they carry, so smell them. The colour should be quite black and have a nice shine to it.
Generally, you’ll be able to see a cut side and note a pretty pattern of swirly facets, this should also be quite dark, more black than brown. It should also be quite large – like building a shed, plan your size, then double it. The saddest fungivore is one who gets home only to realise that you can’t wallow in heavenly truffle funk.
Later, at the markets, I’m encouraging Keith to find me the absolute best truffle they picked yesterday. Opening the paper bag, I’m assaulted immediately by the pungent scent. My knees weaken ever so slightly, my foggy eyesight clears, hearing becomes acutely focused, and I can detect every aroma in the building. It’s like I just became the superhero of the senses.
Keith shakes me, wondering if I was having a conniption or some sort of mild stroke. ‘Thanks,’ I brightly reply, I need to get to a pan and cook this thing.
There’s a ritual: A couple of days ago I baked a loaf of sourdough – the bread toasts so well at a day or two old. I’ll have some mature Pepe Sayer cultured butter on hand, salty, fragrant and soft and, of course, the freshly punched out eggs.
The eggs are broken into a bowl, a little salt and pepper, just loosely broken up. Don’t whisk them and certainly don’t add anything like milk or cream. There’s a special place in hell for people who mess up eggs like that.
Heat your pan of choice and melt a good block of butter, just enough for it to heat through but not sizzling. Add as much shaved truffle to this as you feel comfortable – the heat releases the flavour and the saturated fat will capture it. A breathtaking volume of aroma and potential flavour. Breathe deep, yep, it’s coming. Now add this to the eggs and stir through. Leave this to rest a while, patience will reward you with a more intense experience.
Toast the bread, heat the pan again and add eggs. The trick is to not break the egg scramble up. Fold rather than stir, it should only take a minute so you can’t leave the work station.
As the eggs get to the point of setting, remove from heat and pour onto the toast that has been miraculously buttered while you have been looking after the eggs. A little more truffle and pepper to garnish.
Now that’s scrambled eggs. Sure, it’s cost you half the day and the good part of $100 but what else would you be spending this cash on that delivers so much punch? Genetically modified hounds?