Have you ever wondered what the most underused native ingredient in home cooking is?
Well celebrity chef, Mark Olive, who boasts over 30 years’ cooking experience, and even stars in a saucy new cooking show has the answer.
“We need to bloody use more lemon myrtle and wattleseeds in the kitchen.”
Lemon myrtle is an Australian shrub that boasts a fresh fragrance of creamy lemon and lime, and wattleseeds are used as a type of flour. Both ingredients are native Australian produce that Indigenous Australians call ‘bush tucker.’
In fact, Mark says Australia is ‘missing out’ because we’re ‘silly’ for not using enough native Aboriginal produce.
“We need to get out there and embrace our own produce such as kangaroo, crocodile and emu. Overseas is hovering up all of our herbs, spices, fruits and meat,” he said.
“The kangaroo and emu may be our code of arms, but for Aboriginal people it was a great food source, clothing source and integrated into our daily lifestyles.”
“It needs to be called something else. We don’t go to the butchers and ask for a kilo of sheep, pig or cow - it’s actually beef, pork or lamb.”
Mark says in order for wider Australia to jump on board, changes must be made and he believes it all begins with the name.
“It needs to be called something else. We don’t go to the butchers and ask for a kilo of sheep, pig or cow - it’s actually beef, pork or lamb,” he said.
“We’re always disassociating ourselves with what we’re buying, which means not thinking about the animal. In Perth they call Kangaroo meat Yonga, Marloo and in other areas Jeera. So really, it just needs to be given a new name.”
Apart from tasting good, when it comes to good nutrition, kangaroo meat certainly gets the ‘thumbs up’. It’s a terrific source of high-quality protein and low in fat. What’s more, it’s a particularly good source of iron and zinc.
Mark says we need to ‘start a movement’ to get people moving.
“We need our big growers to start thinking about not selling it commercially to cosmetic agencies because a lot of it is being put into soaps, cream - they’re hovering up most of it because we’re not utilizing it,” he explained.
“We’ve got these growers but we just need to start jumping on board and supporting our national cuisine… Not meat pie or a can of Fosters, it’s actually kangaroo, emu and that sort of stuff.”
On Country Kitchen is not only a six-part series but a delicious twist of adventure, following Mark and and West Australian comic and Noongar man, Derek Nannup, who travel throughout Western Australian, as they seek out the freshest produce to create mouth-watering dishes.
For both men, the ability to bring food back to their grass roots was what made this show so special, but Derek says being able to taste new flavours was also ‘pretty great’.
“Going back to an old style of doing things - living with the land, being organic, and seeing native produce that Mark could create unique flavours. So to actually see where it comes from, end up in my belly- was pretty great.”
Derek says the show has enabled him to not only enjoy food, but try produce he’s never eaten before.
“I didn’t know much about abalone and now I got that chance to actually eat it, not just cooked but also raw which is new for me. So the ability to try new things is such a great opportunity.
Mark has a passion for fusing native and Indigenous Australian ingredients with contemporary cooking techniques to create a dynamic and unique gastronomic philosophy.
There’s no doubt that for Mark, creative cooking is his forte, but working with new people out bush was a ‘highlight.’
“Apart from Derek’s constant dad jokes, I get to work in great places, I mean the kitchen we had out bush was really flash compared to some of the places I’ve been.”
Dereksays programs like On Country Kitchen are beneficial for Aboriginal Australia.
“It’s all about our native herbs, spices and traditional bush tucker.”
But Derek says it’s not just about the food.
“Seeing the Indigenous people produce the food, going back to basics and using organic produce to highlight our culture and ideals of ‘living with the land’ is really interesting,” he says.
“It’s something Aboriginal people have done for thousands of years so it’s good to see everyone jumping on board and immersing themselves in Aboriginal culture.”
Mark says his focus on Indigenous techniques and native produce is a bonus, but the main attraction for everyone is recognising talented Indigenous people.
“We have a Koori from the East and a Noongar from the West, who work really well together… But I think the main attraction that people will get from this, especially non-Indigenous people, will see there’s Indigenous people out there doing stuff professionally,” he said.
“Not only professionals in our field, but it also showcases other Indigenous communities, how approachable they and how the produce and everything within these regions are being picked up. It shows that Indigenous techniques are being picked up to produce that produce in a respectful way.”
Derek says one of the best parts about the show is being able to try Mark’s tasty and creative recipes. As for his favourite…
“The lemon myrtle shortcakes were beautiful.”
If you’re interested, you’ll just have to wait until episode four is released on Wednesday 14 June for the full recipe.
Hungry for more? Catch the #OnCountryKitchen premiere this Wednesday 24th May @ 7:30pm on NITV (CH34).