Posted by: Lisa Hill | December 25, 2021

Australian Native Cuisine by Andrew Fielke, and greetings of the season!

The best thing about giving a new recipe book as a Christmas present to The Spouse, is that I soon reap the benefits. This Christmas, I’ve already done so!

Australian Creative Native Cuisine is a beautiful new cookbook from former restaurateur Andrew Fielke, who runs Creative Native Foods and is an advocate for using the wealth of native foods in Australian cuisine.  I bought it for The Spouse because he recently cooked a delicious roast chicken with saltbush, the saltbush which is growing in our garden.  This recipe has a number of recipes using saltbush, so it was a no-brainer to buy it when I came across it at Benn’s Bookshop in Bentleigh.  This morning, we had scrambled eggs with tomato and saltbush, and it was a scrumptious way to start the annual festival of food that Christmas Day brings with it.  (Alas, I forgot to photograph it, so you’ll just have to take my word for it that it was delicious.  You can find a similar recipe here, but it omits the crucial step: adding the cherry tomatoes to the scrambled egg mix so that they don’t break and ruin everything.)

The book begins with the usual ‘chef’s journey’ pages, followed by practical matters such as sourcing and storing the native ingredients, listing the equipment you need and tips for getting the best out of your BBQ or grill. There’s a whole chapter on using Wattle Seed, and there’s also a section on using paperbark which is wonderful for us, because we have a paperbark growing on our very own nature strip — and there’s a very enticing recipe for chicken cooked in paperbark too.

Each chapter begins with a very useful summary table of all the ingredients within the categories of

  • Wild Herbs and Spices;
  • Wild Fruits;
  • Wild Vegetables; and
  • Wild Nuts and Seeds.

Update 29/12/21 Zucchini Saltbush and Rivermint Fritters, with a very tasty yoghurt sauce! Absolutely scrumptious, not like ordinary boring fritters at all.

So for each category there’s a chart with a picture of the plant and its usable parts, its botanical name, which bits are edible, its preparation and use, its flavour profile, and where to get it.  The info in the chart is then amplified with further information and general principles about how to use the ingredients, and then there’s the recipes.  Wild Herbs and Spices begins with Oyster Rivermint Shooters; there’s a Pepperleaf Babaghanoush; a Carrot, Sweet Potato, Lemon Myrtle and Ginger Soup; and Zucchini Saltbush and Rivermint Fritters (very useful right now because even with just one zucchini plant we still have more zucchinis than we can make into muffins!)  I also like the look of gnocchi made with pepperleaf and saltbush but will need to source the sea parsley, and there’s also a vegetarian lasagne made with pumpkin and saltbush. The desserts look divine, and there are also some very nice salads in this section of the book.

Update 31/12/21 Wild herb steeped chicken in a Thai salad

The Wild Fruits section is more of a challenge because with the exception of Lillipillies and Finger Limes, we don’t have any of them growing in the garden.  But supplies of native foods are becoming much easier to find, online at Creative Native Foods and elsewhere, plus also at gourmet greengrocers.  (We have two within walking distance… I think this is how the traditional greengrocer is diversifying to withstand the onslaught of the supermarkets poaching their territory.)  There’s a stunning berry compote which goes with a pavlova, but of course you can have a compote with ice-cream or anything else that you fancy.  Some of the fruits in this chapter are used with proteins including kangaroo, rabbit, duck and seafood, but there’s also a gorgeous pizza made with Muntries, onions and goats cheese.  The desserts in this section are to die for.  There’s a variation on the classic flourless boiled orange and almond cake that I make regularly: this one has blood limes and macadamia nutmeal in the ingredient list, and it’s served with Pickled Illawarra Plums — yum! There’s also a variation on the classic English Summer Pudding which adds quandong and riberries to the usual summer berries.  I keep promising myself that I will try making my own sorbets but have got into a bit of a rut with homemade lemon or lime ice-cream…perhaps the Riberry and Raspberry Sorbet will tempt me to give it a try at last.

In the section on ‘Australia’s Wild Vegetables’ we see bush tomatoes; succulents such as Samphire; Warrigal Spinach; and Wild Celery. Some of these recipes are a little complicated, with step-by-step illustrations, but a feature of this book is that the vast majority of the recipes are dishes that are already in the repertoire of the keen home cook and it’s the native ingredients that make them special, not the artistry of the cook.  The Ratatouille, for example, is much like the one I make from the recipe in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, but it uses bush tomatoes and Creative Native Bush Tomato Balsamic, plus wild basil.  The Spanakopita is much like what I make when asked to ‘bring a plate’, but it uses Warrigal Spinach instead of French Spinach and it has pepperleaf in it as well.

‘Wild Nuts and Seeds’ includes some that I already have in the pantry, but I’ve never seen a Bunya nut from the Bunya Bunya Pine.  They are much bigger than other nuts, growing to 4-5 cm and apparently they taste a bit like chestnuts.  There’s a Hummus recipe using these nuts, and a pizza using potato, garlic and bunya nuts, plus there’s a Tabbouleh using wattleseed and sea parsley.  The Desert Oak Wattle Treacle Bread apparently freezes well, which is good for us because a family of two really can’t eat a whole cake before it goes stale and it’s always good to have something on hand if guests drop in. And how about Malted Wattleseed and Chocolate Brownies?  Yum!!

There’s also a whole chapter on making various condiments including curry pastes, dressings, pizza sauce, bunya nut garlic butter and a number of different sauces, jams and pickles.

The book is lavishly illustrated with full colour, full page photos of the dish, which not only shows you how to do simple plating so that it looks enticing, but also shows you how it’s supposed to look.   Each recipe has a brief introduction, a list of ingredients with potential substitutions if you can’t source the native ingredient, and a clear set of step by step instructions with references to other pages when necessary, e.g. the Cinnamon and Anise Myrtle Crumpets uses the Quandong Compote on another page.  The print is large enough for me to read easily (which is not the case with all recipe books), and the layout is clear.

BTW Australia’s Creative Native Cuisine has just won Best in the World at the prestigious international Gourmand World Cookbook Awards, Indigenous class.

I’m looking forward to some great culinary adventures with this recipe book!

Author: Andrew Fielke
Title: Australia’s Creative Native Cuisine
Publisher: Brolly Books,  (an imprint of Borghese and Adam, Melbourne), 2020
ISBN: 9780987389572, hbk., 272 pages
Source: Purchased from Benn’s Books Bentleigh, available in a good book stores.


It’s Christmas Day here in Australia, so I hope that wherever you are and however you’ve spent the day, that you’ve enjoyed some kind of contact with the ones you love.  In the end, that’s the thing that really matters about Christmas, and that’s why it’s a universal celebration whether you are religious or not.

This year, we’re all a bit anxious about Covid, more so perhaps even than last year, but it’s comforting to know that scientists around the world are working to protect us from being infected and to develop new treatments if we’re unlucky and catch it.

  I want to send a shout out too,
to the wisdom and courage of the politicians who’ve withstood unrelenting criticism to keep us safe;
to the doctors, nurses, pathologists, and other health professionals who’ve worked tirelessly through the pandemic; and
to the ordinary people near and far who’ve stuck with the restrictions through thick and thin to protect their families and communities.

Stay safe and well, everyone!
Best wishes for the festive season!


Responses

  1. I sounds like a great cooking book!

    And now I know that the English for compote is …compote. I was looking for it the other day but I was not happy with the “stewed fruits” the dictionary gave me.

    Merry Christmas to you and the Spouse.

    I hope you had a good day and I share the sentiment about politicians who are on the front line (I was thinking about our Health Minister who’s been in this mess for two years) and of course about scientists who keep running after better vaccines and medications and health care workers who are exhausted. Here they start to be exasperated with anti-vaccine people who fill the hospital intensive care units.
    2022 is going to be a hot mess too but well, we’ll stick to the rules and hope for the best.

    Like

    • Ha ha, that’s another French word we’ve ‘borrowed’ because there really isn’t any better word to use!
      It really is quite extraordinary the way that people of all kinds have risen to the occasion. The anti-vaxxers are more strident because now they realise that they are the minority and that the rest of us despise them. I feel for the people who have to nurse them, I really do.
      Joyeux Noel, Emma!

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  2. You’ve mentioned so many ingredients I’ve never come across before. saltbush sounds to be a seasoning, maybe like a Rosemary bush?

    I share your thoughts on the people who are working so hard to keep us safe, often at personal risk to their own health.

    Like

    • Yes, saltbush is a sort of seasoning, it has a piquant savoury taste but not quite like salt. It’s going to be quite the adventure experimenting with these new ingredients!

      It may not seem so sometimes, but the world is actually full of wonderful people…

      Like

  3. Bravo for having edible native plants in your garden. It’s something I hope to do with our mountains home as we have more time here.

    I say ‘here’ as that is where we are spending our Christmas our Christmas week. Although not exactly as we had planned.

    It was meant to be with the boys and their GF’s, but unfortunately one of them tested positive on Christmas Eve and we are now self-isolating for a week as close contacts, just the two of us. Mr Books & I have both tested negative with a RAT so far.

    So, yes, we too have been thinking about and thankful for all the wonderful medical people who work late Christmas Eve, and all through Christmas Day to process testing results. And I feel so disappointed that this is another Christmas that our hospitals are full of Covid patients.

    I’m glad you had a lovely Christmas Day with the Spouse and hope you can catch up with family soon.

    Thank you for another stimulating blogging year!

    Like

    • Oh Brona, what a shame! I’ve been reading in the media about so cancelled festivities and now I find it’s happened to you. I hope your son is ok and that he recovers well.
      I think the present situation feels worse for a lot of people because we all thought, we just have to get everyone vaccinated and then life can go back to (more or less) normal. And then the normal was just getting underway when it all fell apart and there is a sense that the authorities (at the federal level and in NSW) are not on top of it. This combination can make us feel very anxious.
      I hope at least that the weather is benign for you. Some years ago The Spouse and I took a long-anticipated January holiday in the Blue Mountains and it was shrouded in fog for the whole week. We could not even read the street numbers to find our accommodation and had to get out of the car with a torch to find it!

      Like

  4. I will look forward to enjoying these recipes vicariously through you. 🐧🌴

    Like

    • I was wondering, do they sell anything in the way of these native foods at the Salamanca market?

      Like

  5. A lovely post for Christmas Lisa, especially as I am about to read The Cook!
    NSW is a mess at the moment and our health officer Dr Kerry Chant seems to have been silenced most of the time; men seem to be running our state again here! We have much to be thankful for, but I do worry about two friends of mine in Sydney who are in their 90s, still living at home, and their daughter ( a friend of mine) living in the USA has been unable to visit them for two years now. That is very hard for both her and them. I do miss concerts and live theatre very much though!

    Best of wishes for the holiday season and we look forward to your blog in the New Year! Take care of yourselves there in Victoria!

    Like

    • Thank you, and best wishes for the festive season to you too.
      I think we are all worried about NSW, not just for their sakes but because their laissez-faire attitude means they will inevitably spread it to here in Victoria too as they have before. We just have to hope that our luck holds until the booster program is under way…

      Like

  6. Happy Christmas to you and yours, Lisa – and that book sounds like a treasure! :D

    Like

  7. […] Australian Native Cuisine, by Andrew Fielke  […]

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