Current Issue #488

Quandong becomes our true taste of Australian Christmas


Quandongs have turned Christmas puddings into a Trojan horse – getting unsuspecting eaters to try a first taste of native Australian ingredients.

A Christmas pudding may become the unlikely device to finally get more families bringing Australian native ingredients into the domestic kitchen. Adelaide chef Andrew Fielke, who has been championing such ingredients since he started the Red Ochre Barrel and Grill in 1992, came up with the idea last year of making an indigenous pudding.

“It was a fun idea that resulted in me cooking up Christmas gift s for friends and clients – but the weight of the reaction showed me that we struck upon something important that really had the ability to translate the value of indigenous ingredients much deeper into the average household,” says Fielke.

This year, Fielke is selling a small commercial batch of his quandong Christmas puddings through his Tuckeroo brand (which mostly sells bulk native ingredients to the food service industry), although next year the puddings will enjoy a more obvious presence when Fielke’s retail food range gets rebranded as Creative Native and introduced to supermarket chains.

Quandong pudding

The idea for the Christmas pudding was sparked by Fielke’s love of quandongs as a versatile cooking ingredient – something he has adapted into his recipes for 30 years. Sometimes known as a native peach, the quandong is a small orange stone fruit that is indigenous to semi-arid areas, and its flesh has a tart bite that overrides its natural sweetness. This provides the magic, says Andrew, for riding the edge of sweet and savoury flavours. “I love using it in sauces for game dishes,” he explains, “but it adds a different dimension to baking.”

Quandong is also a highly nutritious food, with an especially high Vitamin C content, and Fielke’s experience with the fruit has identified that its acidity levels vary according to where it is grown, and whether the fruit comes from wild trees or the elite quality Paringa Gem cultivated variety. He sources quandongs from farms in the Riverland and Yorke Peninsula in SA. They are harvested through late October to November, making the timing ideal for using fresh quandongs in his Christmas pudding recipe.

The inspiration for the new pudding came from Fielke’s grandmother’s recipe – Minnie Sophie Fielke of Loxton – who made a sago and stout pudding that he says made everyone swoon. He thought this could be adapted and after four trial batches, he got the mix right. “The difficult part was getting the right texture, replicating that lovely gelatinous slide of tapioca pearls.”

Instead, Fielke uses tapioca starch, which has resulted in a gluten-free product. The quandong gives more richness and bite than the traditional addition of orange peel.

Fielke’s other trick is creating a sauce in the same bowl that the pudding I packaged in that can be reheated. It’s an orange brandy sauce, with the addition of another native ingredient that introduces an interesting twist. It’s wattleseed extract – a robust flavour marriage of coffee, cashew, Brazil nut and vanilla – contained within the Woolshed Brewery’s Judas The Dark ale, which adds extra grunt and pleasing bass notes to the pudding’s flavour. “This ale is another great Riverland product, which just goes to show people how many unheralded products we have in our own backyard – if only [we] look for them and give these unfamiliar tastes a try.”
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David Sly

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