As a country with a multicultural modern history, it’s no surprise that Australian cuisine borrows influences and ingredients from all around the world.
But as trends start to shift towards locally sourced ingredients, doors are opening for a whole new range of local produce; namely Australian native fruits, vegetables and herbs.
Trendy restaurants across the country have long embraced our native produce, making delicious creations like cinnamon myrtle sherbet, wattle seed damper and Davidson plum Christmas pudding.
But it’s time us everyday Aussies welcomed these ingredients into our kitchens, and as celebrity chef Darren Robertson from Three Blue Ducks tells Yahoo Lifestyle, it’s only a matter of time before we do.
“It starts in restaurants, and then moves to pubs and clubs, and then our homes,” he says, “it’s inevitable, it’s going to happen.”
“We’re so used to using the same old things - like bay leaves which are such a go-to - but if you’ve got a myrtle tree growing in your back garden, just pick off a few leaves to flavour stocks and sauces and soups instead,” he says.
“It’s so easy and it just makes things a little more exciting and interesting instead of using the same ingredients we always do.”
Australian ingredients are becoming easier than ever to source too, with Darren saying, “a bunch of them are growing on our doorsteps, and there are a lot of businesses also trying to introduce them to more Australians.”
One that’s very easy to incorporate into home cooking is the native alternative to spinach - Warrigal greens. While they may not be readily available in supermarkets, you can pick up a seedling at many mainstream nurseries, and they grow rampant in backyard and balcony gardens, especially after a little rain.
Darren says they just need to be cooked as they’re high in oxalic acid, but that you can easily blanch them as you would English spinach, or chargrill them - the latter of which pairs particularly well with seafood.
There’s also an argument for the nutritional value of native produce, with research into Kakadu plums for example, finding that they are incredibly high in vitamin C (about 50 times more than oranges) and full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatories - not to mention delicious, Darren adds.
“Certainly my generation overlooked a lot of these ingredients,” he says, “but we [chefs at Three Blue Ducks] have been lucky enough to learn from Aboriginal Elders who have taught us a fair bit. We’re very lucky to have had that experience.”
An ingredient that’s really stuck with Darren are our native citrus, the finger limes, which he says are “really easy to use in salads, drinks or even something simple like a grilled piece of fish.”
“I'm a big fan of finger limes, I take my son picking them when they're in season, we eat them straight from the prickly little trees.”
The tiny, finger-shaped fruits, contain pearls of citrus flavoured flesh that look a lot like caviar, and while the trees are easy to grow, they have as many spines as leaves so beware if foraging for them in the wild.
Darren will be hosting a camping weekend in association with Wild Turkey later this month to help Aussies reconnect with the real outdoors. If you’re interested in taking part, it’ll be on September 21-22 in NSW’s Glenworth Valley, more information here.
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