Creative Native’s Andrew Fielke sat down with The Adelaide Review to dish out some advice on how to cook with native produce at home.
A pioneer of the native foods industry, chef Andrew Fielke (Red Ochre, Tuckeroo, Creative Native) knows a thing or two about preparing a karkalla salad. Between field trips to explore new ingredients and developing his line of commercial products for Creative Native, Fielke chats about the best ways to incorporate Australian native produce into your home-cooking repertoire.
“Karkalla can be quite watery but is a great crunchy, salty addition to salads,” Fielke says. The succulent green thrives by the coast which gives it a salty mineral flavour. “I recommend buying the wild harvest which is grown by the sea, farmed varieties lose their salty minerality which leaves a nothing taste.” The vegetable works best either raw or warmed lightly in a pan with butter. Be careful not to overcook it or its signature crunch will be lost. The subtle saltiness and citrus-like twang makes a perfect accompaniment for poached chicken, grilled fish and seafood dishes. “In Thai food (like a mine and green papaya salad), it’s an excellent replacement for the saltiness of fish sauce,” he says. In its simplest state, a few fingers of fresh karkalla pair well with raw oysters on the half shell. Best used: light sauté, left raw in salads Pairs with: white meat, seafood, butter sauces, Thai salads Available: Something Wild, Belair National Park Nursery
Samphire and Sea Blight
Though you may use samphire and sea blight in the same way as karkalla, the two boast a denser texture and milder flavour, favourable to cooking. Samphire is sometimes referred to as “sea asparagus”. “I like sea blight for its soft crunch. It also cooks a lot better and holds its texture. Best tossed in a little brown butter and garlic,” Fielke says. A hot sauté will leave you with a side of greens to be paired with meat. Both vegetables are also favourable to frying due to their lower water content. Coat in tempura batter and deep fry for a quick beer snack or prepare the same way you would a zucchini fritter (replacing the zucchini with samphire or sea blight). Aside from using in place of typical greens, both work well as an easy addition/replacement in a stir fry. Best used: steamed or sautéed, in a stir fry, tempura, fritters, raw in salads Pairs with: grilled meat, almost anything Available: Something Wild, Belair National Park Nursery
Sometimes labelled warrigal greens or warrigal spinach, this versatile leaf can be used in place of regular baby spinach. “Water and cultivation has benefited the wild spinach and softened the harsh bitterness,” Fielke says. Usually wild-grown items are favourable for chefs but this is an instance where human cultivation has helped to make the product more palatable. “We’re not sheep” after all. The green looks very similar to baby spinach and has a similar mild flavour, with less of the tooth grit. “I had a warrigal spinach and sweet potato gratin on the Red Ochre menu for years and it was our most popular side dish,” he says. Simple preparation stretches as far as the imagination but tossed through pasta, in lasagne or added to potato bake are good places to start. Best used: raw in salads or sandwiches, wilted through pasta dishes or potato bake, sautéed as a side dish, anywhere baby spinach is used Pairs with: sweet potato, pasta, almost anything Available: Something Wild, Belair National Park Nursery
“Finger lime is an absolute star” according to Fielke. Aside from being fascinating to look at, the little long limes are surprisingly versatile. Though they aren’t great to juice like a typical lime, the caviar-like segments can be scraped away and used for a pop of citrus. “You wouldn’t find a better dessert garnish than a teaspoon of finger lime caviar mixed (just before serving) with a teaspoon of coarse sugar, just over ice cream, fresh fruit or yoghurt,” Fielke says. The lime “caviar” can be tossed through salads, mixed in guacamole, or sprinkled over grilled meat or Mexican dishes. The flavour is not dissimilar to lime but with a slightly sherbert-like twang. Fielke also recommends mixing caviar through kewpie mayonnaise with a little wasabi to top grilled seafood or add to chicken burgers. Best used: raw as a garnish, mixed through salads, in cold drinks Pairs with: sweet or savoury, anywhere lime is appropriate Available: Something Wild, Frewville Foodland or Bunnings (Mile End sells small trees)
Also called lemon verbena, many Australians will find this growing in their gardens. “Infuse into ice cream, cream, jelly or custard” for a rounded lemon flavour without the acidity. If that’s a little too ambitious, the fresh leaves make an excellent alternative to kaffir lime in Thai curries and laksa. Fielke also notes its excellent pairing with chili and suggests adding it to homemade sweet chili sauce. “Or you can even just boil up a bottle of bought stuff with a few lemon myrtle leaves” to spike it. The simplest preparation is to steep the leaves and make a tea. This goes great hot with ginger and honey to treat colds or chilled and served in warmer months. You could even sneak a bit of gin and finger lime caviar in to the glass. Best used: fresh or dried, steeped as tea or in cooking where lemon rind and kaffir lime is used Pairs with: chili, white meat, honey Available: dried from Gaganis, Frewville Foodland, Jagger Fine foods, plants from Bunnings, Belair National Park Nursery, most garden centres