Robin Powell June 27, 2012
Juicy ... mandarins have a good flavour.
Cold nights might cause many of us to whinge as we hunt up an extra blanket, but the chills of the past few weeks have had truffle farmers smiling. Cold weather builds fragrance in the fungi, improving both its flavour and the ease with which it can be found by truffle-hunting dogs. Australia’s truffle harvest is growing every year, with farms coming online in cold areas through NSW, Victoria, Tasmania and Western Australia. The harvest will continue until spring weather warms the ground and the fungi stop producing. Home cooks can buy truffles online and at some selected stores. To get the most value from the black lump of deliciousness, store the truffle with eggs for a few days and then with rice, both of which take up the truffle’s unique flavour.
The harvest of Australia’s 850 macadamia farms takes place between the end of March and the beginning of September. Most of these farms are in northern NSW and southern Queensland, the original home of the nut. The macadamia is the only Australian native food that is grown on a large commercial scale, and almost three-quarters of the harvest is exported. Once harvested the nuts are dried for four weeks, then cracked and packed. For the freshest nuts choose vacuum packs. Once they are opened, store the nuts in a closed plastic container in the fridge.
This bitter vegetable is a member of the chicory family. There are two main varieties sold in Sydney: a firm round head of purple and green leaves; and the longer leaner Treviso radicchio. The latter variety hails from the Veneto region of Italy and looks like a burgundy cos lettuce. It has a milder flavour than the round radicchio. It’s used in salads for colour and flavour but really shows its cool season value when used as a cooked vegetable. The ruby brightness fades and the bitter flavours round and deepen to become a perfect match for a roast duck. Choose a colourful firm head, with no sign of wilting, and store in the crisper.
Ways with radicchio
To braise Treviso radicchio, cut the head lengthwise, into quarters. Fry in butter and olive oil for a minute or so on each side, then add a splash of stock, a sprinkle of vinegar and sugar. Season with salt and pepper and cook with the lid on until the radicchio is tender.
What to buy
Apples – All varieties are good and crisp.
Avocado – Black-skinned Hass are ready when just soft at the stem end.
Broccoli – Good flavour in broccoli and broccolini.
Cauliflower – look for creamy white heads, or try the vibrant green broccoflower.
Leeks – Look for medium sizes.
Mandarin – Daisy have good flavour.
Mushrooms – Add to winter braises.
Passionfruit – Choose heavy, unwrinkled fruits.
Pears – Packhams and buerre bosc are eating well.
Pumpkin – Gramma, the specialist pie pumpkin, is available.
Strawberries – Buy to eat, not to store.
Swede – Bunches of small roots are a good buy.
Tomatoes – Queensland fruit is boosting the options.