Yesterday I sold books at the Goulburn Reader Writer Festival, and met Fiona, who was selling a range of Australian native foods from Bent Shed Produce.
Naturally I was deliriously excited and I tasted several different things before settling on buying lemon myrtle (which I already know is delicious; it really is as if lemon has magically turned into a herb), forest berry (which is actually made from a particularly aromatic eucalyptus; the smell is delicious and it’s especially good mixed with sugar), bush tomato, wattleseed (I’d heard people used it to make bread), and finger limes.
I just made tuna mornay (a somewhat bland dish) and sprinkled it with dried and powdered bush tomato. It was incredible! Apparently when it’s dried it’s called Akudjura, so that’s how I described it to the kids (who think they hate tomato). They both said it was great. It’s very similar to sundried tomato in taste, but sweeter (and of course it lasts longer because it’s fully dried). It was utterly delicious simply on it’s own (so I’ll be having it with cheese and crackers very soo—
Well that was delicious.
Cheese and crackers and akudjura = yum! I do believe I’ll have some more once I’m finished this blog. I used water crackers (nice and plain; perfect) and Massaman cheese (ditto, although next time I’ll put much more akadjura on).
I’d definitely recommend akudjura for any cheese platter or dukkah (powdered herbs, spices, and nuts for sprinkling or dipping), or with bread and olive oil (macadamia oil would be even better, if only because macadamias are Aussie too). There are lots of really excellent Aussie dukkah recipes out there, and there are several Australian salts (bizarrely, some are saltier than others) too.
I now wish I had a kilo of this glorious substance in my cupboard. The 20g I have may not make it to the weekend.
NOTE: There are several species of bush tomato and some are poisonous, so don’t pick your own unless you know what you’re doing.
I’d heard a lot about finger limes so I was eager to give them a try. This is what they look like (although different varieties can get a lot bigger, like banana size):
Unfortunately they’re a semitropical fruit so they’re unlikely to become part of my regular diet (unless they show up in shops, which is already happening). But if I’m ever lost in an Australian rainforest, I’ll definitely keep an eye out for these.
Their taste is sour, very much like lemons or limes (or both). Apparently different colours have different tastes, but I couldn’t tell the difference. It’s very cool that the inside echoes the colour of the outside (particularly if one wants to colour-coordinate one’s food). But it’s their texture that really blows my mind. I don’t want to open any right now because I have plans to make finger lime sorbet another day (gonna stir in the finger lime at the last minute to see what happens to the texture; I know they freeze well usually), but you can see a pic (along with instructions on how to grow them yourself) here. A lot of people talk about “finger lime caviar” and that is exactly right. The entire fruit is these tiny, perfect crystals that pop in your mouth with a tiny explosion of juice.
They’d be brilliant on pavlova, on a fruit salad (this recipe recommends sweetening them first, which could be a great technique for all sorts of things), and anything that could do with a zap of citrus. I hear they’re great in drinks, but I badly want to know if they float or not. If they float, that’d be brilliant. If they sink it’d be a waste (you’d have to crush them, which would still have a grand taste, but I’m so in love with the texture I don’t want to do that).
I fed some to several children (aged 3-8) this morning, and they loved how easy it is to break open the limes in the middle (with fingernails or a butterknife or whatever; it’s easy) and then squeeze them (also easy) to get the crystals out. The 8-year old tasted some and said, “It makes my body all tingly!”
I was extremely excited about trying wattleseed because I’ve recently discovered that Australian Aborigines were probably the first bakers in the world—and wattleseed (one of the few plants I know by sight) was one of the possible ingredients. Given that our neighbour’s wattle bush is hanging over our fence (that makes it ours, right?) I thought I might be able to harvest it myself. Unfortunately, there are several species of wattle trees and some are poisonous, so I won’t be picking my own wattleseed anytime soon.
The wattleseed I bought was roasted and dried, ready to go. The process of making any kind of flour is very labor intensive. (You can read a bit about it here.)
It was immediately obvious that if I made “proper” wattleseed bread it would take a lot more wattleseed, would not rise, and would taste incredibly intense. I suspect (given the intensity combined with the wide range of native flours) that it wasn’t used alone, but in combination with several other ground-up foods. The smell alone was like walking into a starbucks: so much coffee, and chocolate too. Unsurprisingly, a lot of people recommend making wattleseed coffee or hot chocolate.
Hold on. I have an idea.
I just heated some milk (400mL) with some wattleseed (three teaspoons) in the microwave for 4 minutes (you can see the milk-covered microwave plate in the pic above), then added four teaspooons full of milo and one of sugar. Finally I put canned whipped cream on the top, and sprinkled a 2:1 mixture of sugar:wattleseed on that.
A lot of recipes say wattleseed should be soaked before cooking, which is why I put the wattleseed in the milk before heating it. Certainly it absorbed a lot of milk.
There’s two mugs because I fed one to Chris, who (unlike me) likes coffee. We both very much enjoyed our drinks. The wattleseeds didn’t dissolve at all, and sunk to the bottom. It still tastes nice, but that wasn’t the effect I was going for. It’d probably work better if I either blended it or strained it before serving.
The sugar-based powder on top of the cream, however, was utter genius. Highly recommended, even for anti-coffee freaks like myself. It’d work on anything that would usually be improved with cinnamon sugar (or just cinnamon).
This morning I made wattleseed “damper” (I’m putting damper in quote marks because damper is bread you cook when you’re walking across Australia… which means buttermilk etc is somewhat unlikely). Plus obviously it uses standard refined white flour (which does made a great bread of course). This is the recipe I used, from here.
2 cups self raising flour
1 Tbspn Ground Wattleseed
1 tspn Ground Lemon Myrtle
1 tspn Ground Mountain Pepper (I used forest berry instead)
250ml well shaken buttermilk (I only had 110g)
1 Tbspn Macadamia Nut Oil (I used peanut oil; a total of 110g to make up for the lack of buttermilk)
Milk for brushing
Preheat oven to 180C
Sift the flour and seasonings into a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Combine the buttermilk and oil and pour into the well. Mix quickly and lightly to a soft dough. Turn onto a floured board and knead until smooth. Shape into a round (or whatever shape you like) and place on a lightly oiled baking tray. Brush with milk. Bake for 40-50 minutes (it will sound hollow when tapped).
Serve with Macadamia Nut Dukkah
I mixed and kneaded it in the thermomix and served it with butter (although it was nice by itself too).
The smell of bread and wattleseed filled the thermomix, and the house. Here it is, raw and cooked:
I sprinkled akudjura on top, which unfortunately just burnt. Other than that, it was great. It had a pleasantly thick texture with a crumbly crust. It’s got a vibe a little like hot cross buns—something that has a distinct flavour, except that the flavour of wattleseed bread is. . . well, distinct. Not much like hot cross buns at all.
It was very good. Someone I fed it too described it as “fresh”—not because it was cooked this morning, but because of the flavour.
I think, generally, wattleseed is too similar to coffee for me (more so the smell than the taste)—but I’ll still gladly buy it anytime I see it, for sugary sprinkles if nothing else.