My first experience with Australian native herbs and spices was at a gourmet food market, where I noticed a stallholder selling Lemon Myrtle. At the first hint of its lovely fragrance I was completely bowled over and decided that it would become a permanent part of my daily cooking.
I didn’t realize at the time what an impact it would have on my life. As bit by bit I experimented with more of the herbs and spices that were available, I began to incorporate them into most of my cooking. In the early days I started to make muffins, cakes and friands, taking them to the markets to sell. As more people began to show interest, I expanded my range to include pastries, tarts and flans using the various peppers and Bush Tomato. I discovered that by combining the different herbs, really nice flavours could be achieved. As the demand grew for the actual herbs and spices, I moved away from cooking for the markets and began to develop recipes that were easily made and that most of us would be familiar with.
I have found an enormous amount of interest from people who wanted to use them but didn’t know how, and had many requests for simple recipes. The obvious solution was to put together an easy to use, bright little cookery book and that is what I have done. My aim now is to raise the awareness of Australian native herbs and spices and to increase their inclusion into everyday cookery.
Most people have heard of Lemon Myrtle and many know that Wattleseed is an interesting addition to ice-cream and cheesecakes. However there are so many more lovely flavours that are indigenous to Australia and most of them are very easily used to enhance the taste of our daily meals.
Aniseed Myrtle is beautiful when combined with sesame seed to make biscotti. Bush Tomato has the flavour of sun-dried tomatoes with a slightly pungent caramel taste, lovely in pasta sauces, casseroles and even in some pates.
Cinnamon Myrtle, when mixed with white chocolate or added to allspice or nutmeg gives an old-fashioned spicy flavour to biscuits and cakes. It goes very well with almonds and is perfect in dishes such as apple strudel or pumpkin pie. My favourite way of using Cinnamon Myrtle is in a white chocolate cheesecake.
Dorrigo Pepper, Tasmanian Mountain Pepper, and Pepperberries are a good substitute for traditional pepper and have a fragrant, fresh edge to them. A lovely combination of flavours can be achieved by adding Australian native herbs and spices to the more traditional herbs with which we are more familiar. Bush Tomato and Dorrigo Pepper, when added to Basil and Oregano bring a new dimension to Italian recipes, as does Aniseed Myrtle.
Homemade bread and pasta are an ideal way to use Aniseed Myrtle, Lemon Myrtle, Dorrigo Pepper, Wattleseed and Bush Tomato. Wattleseed is beautiful when added to cakes that have either Poppyseed or Caraway seeds in them, and Lemon Myrtle, undoubtedly the most fragrant of all, gives the most delicate flavour to anything from friands and cheesecakes to salad dressings, fish dishes or stir-fried vegetables. Prawns, lobsters, and many more of the abundance of seafoods that are available to us, benefit greatly from the addition of Lemon Myrtle.
One of the lesser known of these flavours is Native Forestberry, with its hint of strawberry. It is an ideal companion to tropical fruits, especially in fruit salad but is also really nice in biscuits, ice-creams or pancakes. This is another native flavour that works well in sorbets.
I have discovered a whole new world of mouth-watering tastes and hope that many more people will do the same.