Wattleseed, bush tomatoes, warrigal greens and wild basil. Chances are you've heard of many wild Australian ingredients and maybe even tried some, most likely in a restaurant meal. But they're also great for cooking at home – if you know how.
Adelaide chef and food educator Andrew Fielke has released his new book Australia's Creative Native Cuisine, which builds on 60,000 years of First Australians' knowledge and his own work with native foods in restaurant kitchens.
Wiradjuri man and Dreamtime Tuka chief executive Herb Smith, who works with Fielke to bring ingredients to the mainstream, says Fielke has a passion to bring sustainable foods to the family garden and table.
Fielke, who worked with the Adnyamathanha people in South Australia's northern Flinders Ranges and Rene Redzepi from Copenhagen restaurant Noma during the Danish chef's 2016 visit to Australia, hopes the book will help introduce Australian ingredients into more home kitchens.
"Given native ingredients' strong cultural connection, nutritional and sustainable aspects, and superb flavours … this book will support a local industry that is at one with the environment and Indigenous and non-Indigenous people involved in all stages of growing it," he says.
Most ingredients can be sourced from specialist grocers or online suppliers, or if you're having trouble tracking them down, Fielke suggests a few easy swaps and substitutions, or even growing your own. In general, he discourages foraging as it can damage sensitive environments and risks incorrectly identifying plants.
Here are three recipes anyone can cook and enjoy.
Bush tomato and wild basil ratatouille bake
Ratatouille originated in the south of France, although vegetable stews of this type have long been popular throughout the Mediterranean. It makes a superb vegetarian dish and looks spectacular when laid out as a meal to be shared, along with fresh crusty baguettes and salad, or as an accompaniment to a main meal.
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 spanish onions, peeled and chopped into 5-10mm pieces
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
- 700ml passata
- 30ml caramelised balsamic vinegar (or Creative Native Bush Tomato Balsamic, available online)
- ¼ cup bush tomatoes, chopped*
- ½ tsp wild thyme*
- 1½ tsp salt
- 4 tsp brown sugar
- 2 small red capsicums
- 2 small yellow capsicums
- 3 zucchinis
- 2 young, shiny eggplants
- spray olive oil
- 2-3 tsp wild basil*
- ½ cup panko breadcrumbs
- 2-3 tbs good quality Italian parmesan
- bush tomatoes: sun-dried tomatoes
- wild thyme: thyme
- wild basil: basil
- Heat about 2 teaspoons of oil in a large frypan and gently fry the onions and garlic until the onions are translucent.
- Add the passata, balsamic vinegar, bush tomatoes, thyme, salt and sugar. Simmer for 5-10 minutes.
- Halve and de-seed the capsicums and cut them into long, chunky strips. Cut the zucchini into quarters lengthwise (if they are long you can first cut them in half, widthwise). Slice the eggplant into 2cm thick rings (young eggplants will not need salting to remove the bitterness).
- Heat the remaining olive oil then pan-fry the eggplant until golden-brown on both sides. It will soak up lots of oil.
- Choose an enamelled baking dish that's nice enough to serve at the table. Spray with olive oil, then arrange the vegetables in beautiful coloured rows inside.
- Crush the basil over the vegetables, then spoon the sauce over the entire dish. Sprinkle over the breadcrumbs and grated parmesan, then spray with olive oil for extra gloss.
- Bake in a pre-heated 180C fan-forced (200C conventional) oven for 45-50 minutes, then serve immediately. I love to give it one more final drizzle of olive oil just as I bring it to the table.
Chilled tangy labneh combines perfectly with hot roast tomatoes. Photo: Tony Lewis/Brolly Books
Hot roast wild basil tomatoes with chilled labneh
Makes: 4 portions
I love this combination of hot roast tomatoes and the chilled tangy labneh. They are offset nicely by the sweet wild basil from the Northern Territory, which has an aroma vaguely reminiscent of sweet bubble gum – so unique!
- 1 punnet of cherry tomatoes, mixed colours
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tsp dried wild basil, crumbled*
- 4 large slices of crusty baguette or sourdough
- 2 cups soft labneh
- 1 tbs fresh seablite, samphire, sea parsley or other fresh herbs (optional)*
- dried wild basil: fresh basil
- seablite, samphire, sea parsley: flat-leaf (continental) parsley or other fresh edible succulents or fresh herbs of your choice
- Cut the larger cherry tomatoes in half and mix together with the whole, smaller tomatoes. Add the oil and wild basil and allow to macerate for at least 1-2 hours.
- Pre-heat your char-grill or barbecue. Once hot, brush some of the olive oil marinade over the bread, then grill both sides until nicely toasted and slightly charred.
- Heat a non-stick, heavy-based frypan until it is quite hot.
- While the frypan is heating up, spread a large spoonful or more of the soft labneh onto each of the four serving plates. Lay the grilled bread over the top.
- Pour the marinated tomatoes into the pre-heated pan, carefully as it may spit. It is nice if you can char and blister the skins a little bit and just start to collapse the flesh. This will happen very quickly.
- Once done, spoon the tomatoes and oil over the grilled bread and labneh.
- Garnish with seablite, sea parsley, or other herbs of your choice, then serve immediately.
Spice up your eggplant with pepperleaf. Photo: Tony Lewis/Brolly Books
Pepperleaf baba ghanoush
Makes: About 2 cups
This classic Middle Eastern dish is spiced up nicely with Tasmania's native pepperleaf. One of the absolute "must do's" is to really char the eggplant thoroughly, then cover immediately so it cools and traps all that wonderful smokiness.
- 2-3 (about 500g) eggplants
- 4-5 garlic cloves, peeled
- 1 tsp salt
- 5g fresh pepperleaves* stripped from the stem, or 1 tsp ground pepperleaf*
- zest and juice (about 100ml total) of 2 lemons
- 50g tahini
- 40ml extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbs pepperleaf oil (optional, see recipe below)
- sea parsley (for garnish, optional)*
- flatbreads (optional)
- pepperleaves: green chilli or green peppercorns
- ground pepperleaf: ground pepper
- sea parsley: flat-leaf or curly parsley
- Set a wire cake rack over a gas flame hob on the stove, or crank up the barbecue grill outside to maximum heat.
- Sit the eggplant directly over the flames and adjust so the flame is not so big that it is wasted up the sides. Instead, aim for a more even heat all over the base of the eggplant. Char over the flames, turning occasionally. It should be char-black all over, and the inside flesh soft and cooked right through. This can take 10 minutes or more.
- Once completely charred, immediately place in a bowl and cover tightly with kitchen film. Allow to cool thoroughly.
- Split the charred eggplant into quarters and scrape out all the cooked flesh and smoky juices with a knife. Discard the charred skins, but keep all the flesh and juices, which should now weigh about 300g.
- Using a food processor, pulse the eggplant, garlic, salt, pepperleaf, juice, zest, tahini, and oil into an even, chunky puree. Check seasoning and adjust as required.
- Scrape the puree onto a large serving platter and spread in a rough circle about 2.5 centimetres thick.
- I like to drizzle some spicy pepperleaf oil generously over the baba ghanoush to give an extra peppery zing and a lovely gloss to the dish, but you can also just drizzle with some more extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle with fresh chopped sea parsley, if desired (as shown).
- Serve with flatbreads.
Makes: 1 cup
Pepperleaf oil itself is a simple, flavoured oil that will add spice and heat to any sauce, grilled meat, fish or vegetable, or can be used to drizzle over curries, salads and other dishes. The heat in Australian native pepper comes from the compound "polygodial", but cooking causes it to lose its characteristic heat. As this oil is cold-processed, the heat is preserved.
- 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
- ½ cup of Tasmanian pepperleaves, stripped from the stalk*
- 1 tsp salt, or to taste
- Tasmanian pepperleaves: fresh chilli, Dorrigo pepperleaves
- Simply process all the ingredients to a fine puree in a food blender (like a thin, runny pesto). For a thicker oil or paste, just add more leaves.
- Store the oil in a jar in the fridge until required. It will keep for a month or two.
This is an edited extract from Australia's Creative Native Cuisine, published and distributed by Brolly Books. Recipes by Andrew Fielke; photography by Tony Lewis. RRP $49.99, available now.