When I lived in North Carlton, I conveniently lived ten steps away from a fish and chip shop. The hidden (read: totally lapsed) Catholic in me didn't feel bad about making a visit every Friday night. A piece of fish, potato cake and minimum chips. Wander home, soak it in vinegar and Bob's your morbidly obese uncle.
A few months and a few kilos later, I began to peel open the white paper to find hidden gems in my order. It might be a fried dim sim or a crab stick - sometimes a couple of extra potato cakes. Smiling to myself, I knew I'd formed a bond with my chippy that went beyond the customer-shopkeeper relationship. He loved me. He really loved me. Then one day, I opened it up and found a giant fried spring roll. This startled me. No, they weren't giving me, a single person, a little gift. They thought they were feeding another person. It was any wonder I couldn't squeeze into my jeans anymore. This was a dependency I had to break.
More recently, I've been visiting my lovely butcher at Skinner and Hackett on a pretty regular basis. Every piece of meat I buy has a history, a story and a great chance of being a memorable meal. I always walk out knowing the best way to handle the meat and usually have new ideas for serving it up. This is a healthy relationship worth preserving.
I wandered in the other day, ready to buy the pork belly I had in my mind for dinner. As usual, I picked up some cured meats and other bits and pieces. When I sidled up (I'm a great sidler) to the counter, the butcher spoke to me in a hushed voice. "Do you like truffles?" "Is the pope Catholic?" was all I could muster. I'm obsessed with the black funghi. I see it on a menu and I'm on autopilot. Ordered. Done. No questions asked.
A container was pulled from the fridge and inside were a few eggs and one brown, nobbly lump. The lid was opened and a strong perfume filled the air. Truffle madness. I could feel it taking over - like a pleasant version of the vapours. "Pass me my truffle salts," she shreiked. Two small eggs were wrapped up and placed carefully into my bag. Free of charge.
This was a little treat for good customers - people who regularly take the time to purposefully buy their meat from a quality butcher. People who share their recipes and pass on tips for cooking success. People who have enough dumb luck to roll in on a Saturday morning when the truffles were on offer. Heck yeah.
And as luck would have it, I'd just been to Essential Ingredient and picked up some truffled polenta. Little black slivers of the good stuff was floating around in the jar of polenta, just begging to be cooked up and devoured. Being the obedient young lass that I am, I did just that.
The eggs had taken on the perfume of the truffle just nicely. The polenta was more overwhelming in it's flavour, but to be honest, the egg had it beat with its subtlety. A few shavings of parmesan and I had a more than decadent breakfast on the table.
The best thing about truffles for your morning mood-breaker? Matty doesn't like them. Mine! They're all mine!
1/2 cup truffled polenta
4 cups chicken stock
1 truffled egg
1 tbsp white vinegar
1 tbsp parmigiano reggiano
salt and pepper
To make polenta, bring the chicken stock to the boil. Slowly add the polenta and cook, stirring for around ten minutes.
Meanwhile, bring some water to the boil in a small saucepan. Lower to a wimmer and add the vinegar. Break the egg into a mug and slowly lower into the simmering water. Cook for around 3 minutes, or until the whites are set and the yolk is still wobbly.
Pour a portion of polenta onto your plate and top with the egg. Shave some cheese over the top and drizzle with olive oil. Eat slowly and think about how good this life is.