Cooking Q&A with Peter Gordon

The executive chef of dine by Peter Gordon at Sky City answers your cuisine questions.

Peter Gordon: The trouble with truffles

By Peter Gordon

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The executive chef of dine by Peter Gordon at SkyCity answers your cuisine questions.

Truffles are a contentious fungi. Photo / Natalie Slade
Truffles are a contentious fungi. Photo / Natalie Slade

I just wanted to know if there's any flavour that clashes with truffle oil. I had a meal out which claimed truffle potatoes as an accompaniment, but I could barely taste the oil. I have had it before and know it is distinctive. Assuming they use real truffle oil, does anything cancel out the flavour? Or were they just stingy with it?

- Luke

Truffles - you either love them or hate them, and truffle oil is even more polarising. Even the word truffle can itself be contentious - because in Britain, and other countries too I guess, a truffle potato is a purple potato much like a heritage New Zealand urenika potato. Though it is blackish skinned and purple fleshed, it is absolutely nothing to do with truffles.

Truffles - the fungi - are usually knobbly and covered in dirt, after being foraged by experts with sniffer dogs or pigs, but 99.99 per cent of all truffle oils have absolutely zilch to do with real truffles, apart from the odd ones you find with a tiny morsel of truffle trim added to the bottle.

Even though it's unlikely the trim will add a lot of flavour, these varieties will be more artisanal and better quality. In Britain white truffles can cost up to NZ$3000 per kg in season, so truffle oil, at less than $50 a bottle has filled a gap for people who can't charge £60 for a bowl of freshly made linguine with Alba truffles and Pecorino Romano. I mean, seriously, is a bowl of pasta worth $120? Aficionados would say it most definitely is. White truffle oil, which is far more pungent than black truffle oil, is generally a light olive or sunflower oil, flavoured with an artificial aroma to resemble real truffles. I sit on the fence with truffle oil. I have enjoyed making a dressing for raw salmon from diced roast beetroot, yuzu juice and truffle oil, but I have also felt disgusted by eating a rocket salad tossed with truffle oil, peaches and little else because the taste is really overpowering. Like truffles themselves, moderation is key.

My most memorable truffle experience was in the Tuscan village of San Miniato, near Pisa about 15 years ago. The whole town, which sits along the ridge of a hill, had practically become one long table. In hall and street, under awnings and tents and laid against cafe walls, there were truffles to be had in every shape and form. Everyone, from the dowager with blue rinsed hair to the green and orange-haired local punk kids in safety pinned trousers were sitting side by side enjoying the feast. We ate truffled pecorino, truffled mascarpone with pears, risotto, linguine and truffle salami - all of which was made from actual truffles.

As for your query - I couldn't answer what was wrong with your truffle potatoes, perhaps they were being stingy, perhaps they forgot to mix it in, or perhaps you should have sent it back and queried it, which is what I would have done.

* To ask Peter a question, click on the Email Peter link below.

- NZ Herald

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