The daughter of the man behind local Turalla Truffles, Willa Robinson

“Getting up on a crisp winter morning, throwing on a coat, calling your dog and heading out in the trufflery to work out your olfactory system. There is a stillness to walking through rows of trees, just you, your dog and a bag of dirty of truffles. I see lots of birds, lovely views across the paddocks and freeze my fingers off.”

How did Turalla Truffles begin?

Two important things happened in the year 1999, I was born, and the first French truffle was grown in Australia from truffle-innoculated oak trees. A few years later my dad sits reading the newspaper, with I’m presuming perfectly behaved children fetching him cups of tea. In this paper was the story of this group of people who had managed to grow Truffles in Australia. Dad with his french heritage and a hundred odd year-old oak tree outside the window, thought maybe I could grow some truffles for the kitchen. Amazing where a passion for cooking with strange ingredients gets you. He contacted a man called Duncan Garvey who through a twist of fate had been looking at the Canberra Region as the perfect climate for truffles in Australia. Duncan came out to our place and pin-pointed two areas that would have suitable drainage for Truffleries. Dad, a city boy with minimal farming experience at the time, pitched this idea to my Mum and Grandfather. My Grandfather was a shrewd, old cattle man and said Dad could experiment on one of the areas but not the other as it was a great spot for the cattle. Three years later Dad stands in the first Trufflery holding our first truffle calling my Grandfather. Two years after that we have a second Trufflery in the other area, and the rest is history…

What is the experience of finding your own truffles like?

Getting up on a crisp Winter morning, throwing on a coat, calling your dog and heading out in the Trufflery to work out your olfactory system. There is a stillness to walking through rows of trees, just you, your dog and a bag of dirty truffles. I see lots of birds, lovely views across the paddocks and freeze my fingers off. From years of walking behind my Dad finding truffles and years of learning, I can’t help but be excited when my fingers connect with that unique truffle texture in the ground. Then there’s the unrivaled joy of finding a cluster and what sometimes feels like a never ending cavern of truffles. Sometimes I get up thinking there is no more and my dog remarks the spot with an expression on her face that is definitely incredulous. Then you must carefully extract it from the ground without damaging it. I’ve broken my fair share. Finding a truffle with your dog is a magical experience. Dad complains of a sore back from the constant up and down yet I complain that the season is only a few months long.

Tell us about your dogs! How do they help?

We use trained dogs to locate the truffles under the ground near the roots of our oak or hazelnut trees. The dogs sniff out the distinctive scent of the truffle from above the ground and then scratch where the truffle should be. Earning a scratch and meaty treat. Then it’s the hunter’s turn. You have to smell your way through the soil and not only locate the truffle but decide if it’s ready to be harvested by the smell in the dirt around it. I find in the truffle season I become much more sensitive to smells which is a blessing and a curse. A well trained dog, usually with more time under its belt, will only mark a truffle that’s ready to pull out. Whilst you’re doing all that the dog sits waiting, has a nap or if her name is Arrow finds the next three.

Favourite truffle dish?

People at the markets are always citing their newest creations, truffle risotto, truffle pizza, truffle scrambled eggs, truffle dumplings, and truffle cheese. But I can’t go past truffle Pasta, I find that the earthy, savory flavor of truffles pairs well with the rich, creamy dish. Cream, salt, pasta, truffle… What more could you want? I’m lucky I’ve grown up with my Dad’s cooking and wacky truffle experiments. All my favourite Truffle dishes are definitely bad for you! I I won’t even mention truffle ice cream.

How can we incorporate truffles into our cooking at home?

I’d say my main advice is to use simple, high-quality ingredients that allow the truffle flavor to shine. The simplest way to use truffle is to make up some truffle butter and use that on a steak, on pasta, on roasted vegetables or to shave some truffle onto your morning eggs. Whilst a very unique flavour truffle is easily overpowered so I would usually stay away from any garlic, onions and spices. I believe there are two avenues to use truffle. The first is visually stunning, the show stopper. Some freshy made pasta, salt, Manchego and cream with truffle beautifly shaved on top. However truffle flavour is released through its surface area in combination with heat. So that truffle shaved on top looks great but you might not be getting the most out of it. Which brings me to the second avenue to use truffle, infusing. The same dish but using cream thats had a truffle sitting in it for a few days will add another depth to the meal. Then cooking that cream at a low heat and microplaning that truffle in will blow the first dish out of the water. Truffle infuses into ingredients like cream, cheese, eggs, butter, vodka and more. The experiments are endless!

What does Turalla Truffles have on offer this Autumn/Winter?

Our season is June to August, with the peak season occurring in July. We have hunts and lunches on the weekends where you can come out and experience first hand hunting for truffles and help us dig them up. Then back into the warmth to get a meal cooked with an absurd amount of truffles by someone who has endlessly experimented with them, my Dad. Throughout the season you’ll find me at Epic Markets where you can get some for your own experiments but be careful they are addictive!

Opening hours and any other details?

Truffle Hunt – Degustations on 6 Sundays from late June to Early August – bookings are through our website We will be selling Fresh truffle available at our truffle stall at Epic Farmers Market ACT from mid June to mid August. We will also be selling truffles through the
Bungendore Art Gallery ‘Water Through Reeds’ at 11 Gibraltar St throughout the season-open Friday to Sunday.

With thanks,
Willa Robinson.