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Article: Earthly treasures

Earthly treasures

Earthly treasures

A seasonal delight, black truffles are a delicacy on any menu.

The earthy, fungal fruits hold a mystique for the average cook, but in the hands of a professional they promise to deliver a meal not to be forgotten. The truffles used at Flemington are handpicked by Friend & Burrell, procurers and suppliers of some of the world’s finest foods. With caviar, prosciutto, Iberico Jamon, Sabarot Snails and Paspaley Pearl Meat among the products that they source for leading chefs, restaurants, cafes, caterers and home cooks, they are well-placed to select only the finest black truffles.
Working with Australia’s leading truffle farmers in Western Australia, New South Wales, Tasmania and Victoria, Simon Friend and Bryan Burrell have an extensive understanding of the industry. Collaborating with these talented farmers, the truffles are grown with passion and dedication before Simon’s keen nose assesses them, with only the most high-quality products chosen to grace any chef’s kitchen.

Truffles dog

Before they are scrutinised by Simon, however, the truffles must be sought out by another key member of the truffle-growing team: the truffle dog. While historically pigs were used to unearth truffles in Europe, the tradition has now been replaced with the use of trained dogs. Although they were effective trufflers, pigs would be more likely to try to sample the earthy delights for themselves, whereas dogs, predisposed to smelling anyway, simply do it for the rewards.

After a training period where voice commands and synthetic aromas are used to hone their senses, the dogs are lead around a paddock to the foot of the trees where truffles are growing underground, after the roots have been inoculated with spores. When the dogs smell the aroma, they will mark the spot with their foot and the truffle farmer will dig under the soil, revealing the truffle. If the truffle isn’t immediately apparent the dog will be instructed to look and smell again, whereby the jewel is usually then found. A biscuit, verbal praise, affection and sometimes even a game they like to play is the reward.
Locating truffles when they are ripe is key, as you can’t bury them again if they are not quite ready. That is where the sensitive nose of a dog is priceless as a mature truffle gives off a very particular aroma.
Simon Friend

The dogs do not have to be of a particular breed and most can be trained to do the job, but they usually do need a good temperament, intelligence and alertness. An ability to stay on task is also a valued quality.
As dogs have been companions of people for thousands of years, it is easy to develop a natural working relationship of mutual love and respect. The truffle dog, though a working member of the business, is also very much a part of the family and truffle-hunting can be a very rewarding interaction between owner and dog, while unearthing these gourmet sensations.
On June Race Day, Saturday 8th June, VRC members and guests can enjoy a delicious truffle-inspired four course lunch, specially designed by Executive Chef, Ryan Flaherty, in The Club Stand’s premium restaurant, The Byerley. Simon Friend will also join us to share his passion for and knowledge of truffles.

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