What do chefs Mark Olive and Kylie Kwong and French President Emmanuel Macron have in common? They are fans of native ingredients, and ambassadors for learning about the bush foods we have in our own backyard.
President Macron on his recent visit to Australia marveled at the unique tastes and textures of our bush foods, such as finger limes, bower spinach, sea parsley and Warrigal greens, introduced to him by Kylie Kwong (who injects native ingredients into her classic Cantonese dishes).
Olive’s motto is bush foods can be for everyone: “It’s okay to eat this stuff. I call it our national cuisine.” He champions their versatility in front of the camera on NITV’s On Country Kitchen and SBS’s The Chefs’ Line, and off camera through his catering business Black Olive.
For Olive, gathering and learning to use bush foods was part and parcel of growing up in the Bundjalung region, on the northern east coast of NSW, under the tutelage of his Aunties.
For most people, though, being adventurous and having the confidence to include bush foods in their usual cooking repertoire is the biggest challenge.
That’s one of the reasons why Olive has joined Grazing Down the Lachlan this year as the culinary director extraordinaire.
Grazing Down the Lachlan is a one-of-a-kind food festival taking place on September 22 in Forbes, Central West NSW, in Wiradjuri country, where Olive will be pairing native ingredients with more common foods, putting a spotlight on the best farmed produce in the region.
For the festival, hundreds of people (local and food enthusiasts alike) – they’re expecting 800 – will make their way to Forbes, where their journey walking along a drover’s stock route following the eucalypt-lined Lachlan River begins. Think of the walk, which stretches over about two-and-a-half meandering kilometres of the Galari – the local Wiradjuri name – as an epic moveable feast of seven courses. The trail along the Galari is believed to be part of an ancient songline (our First People’s ongoing connection to land and culture passed on for millennia orally through creation songs).
“It’s okay to eat this stuff. I call it our national cuisine.”
Olive has been busy crafting the menu, which will feature native ingredients collected from the region only days before the festival. He's sourced cubungi reeds from a nearby pond (yep, that's Olive in the below video jumping out of the cubungi). The reeds will be used in a frittata, giving it a lovely nutty flavour.
He won’t give away too much more about the menu but he does admit, “you might catch me on the barbie flipping a few roo steaks, but I’ll be more talking to the people and engaging them on the trail.”
If you’re scratching your head over cubungi reeds, don’t worry – you can quiz Olive about them on the trail or at a Q&A session, hosted by Olive, on the Friday evening prior to the big day of feasting, where festival goers can tap into his vast knowledge of how to match native ingredients with everyday foods.
“I can’t wait to meander along the ancient avenue of red river gums.”
He will be joined by some of the growers and producers from the region, who are supplying the event’s produce (including pork from Boxgum Grazing, chicken from Grassland Poultry, Kalamata olives from Rosnay Organics, olive oil from Gibson’s Grove Olives, milk and cream from Little Big Dairy Co., goat’s cheese from Jannei Dairy, and eggs from Carbeen Pastured Produce), and the caterers, who will be on the trail keeping everyone well-fed.
The festival is not only about fusing Indigenous and non-Indigenous foods on the one plate (well, seven plates to be exact), but also about bringing together the local Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities.
“I see this as a healing exercise for the region in a non-threatening environment,” says Olive. “I can’t wait to meander along the ancient avenue of red river gums.”
Come along and meander too, and you can say you have something in common with the French President – you’ve both tasted bush foods for the first time!
SBS Food is a proud media partner of Grazing Down the Lachlan, taking place on 22 September 2018 in Forbes, NSW. Unfortunately tickets are sold out. You can read about last year's event here. If you missed out on a ticket, follow Grazing Down the Lachlan and Mark Olive on Instagram and live vicariously.
This is my spin on the classic Chinese salt and pepper squid. I've used native Australian ingredients dried saltbush flakes for their herbaceous saltiness, mountain pepper for its punch and dried lemon myrtle for its zing.
Wrapping the fish in paperbark produces a smoky aroma when heated. You can also cover the fish in baking paper then foil, but you will lose that delicious flavour. This recipe from chef Mark Olive is filled pays tribute to the Australian outback with its use of native ingredients.
Chef Mark Olive puts an Australian twist on the traditional lamb shank by using wallaby and Australian native spices. Kutjera, also known as desert raisin or bush tomato, is a sweet and tangy native spice that works well in stews like this.
This veal dish uses Warrigal greens that are native to the east coast of Australia, but can be substituted with English spinach. Chef Mark Olive recommends flattening the veal out to 5mm thick with a mallet to make the rolling process easier.