There has been a boom in popularity of indigenous Australian ingredients being used in everything from chocolate/confectionary to baked goods. The only question is why has it taken so long for these incredible flavours to hit the mainstream?
For the Australian food industry, using native Australian ingredients makes as much sense as buying mangoes in summer. They are environmentally stable, not requiring large amounts of water, fertiliser or pest control and they are often packed with vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants, making them an excellent addition to any dish.
More importantly though, they are varied, abundant, and when you buy native produce from Indigenous growers, you are helping to support entire communities.
We talk to five businesses that have embraced using indigenous ingredients about how they’re using and sourcing them.
Sydney’s Banksia Bakehouse has been celebrating native flavours in some of its monthly special croissants this year, including its January Finger Lime Croissant and its Hazelnut Wattleseed Croissant in February. They also have a Caramel Wattleseed brownie in their current cake rotation.
Banksia Bakehouse marketing and events manager Aileen Zhang said the decision to incorporate native ingredients into Banksia’s product range was inspired partly by the pandemic—specifically the restriction on travel.
“We have so much to celebrate here in Australia, especially now more than ever, with travel out of the question,” she says.
“As part of Banksia, we want to connect and celebrate native Aussie flora and flavours.
Banksia gets its native ingredients through The Australian Superfood Co., which, through its Native Harvest Initiative, works with Indigenous communities and local growers to source native fruits, herbs and seeds.
“We want to be part of spreading the word to promote these ingredients and be part of the movement to make them more mainstream and give them the recognition they deserve,” Aileen says.
Banksia is looking to use different ingredients in their products in the upcoming months.
LusciousKiki Cakes owner, baker and lamington maker Kirin “Kiki” Tipping is no stranger to experimenting with flavours and ingredients, and with a lamington business, adding native ingredients to the mix was a natural progression.
“My ‘modus operandi’ is to always try different ingredients and combining different ingredients/flavours,” Kiki says.
“For a while I had seen Kylie Kwong utilising Indigenous ingredients in her restaurant and I was intrigued and wanted to try something other than wattleseed!”
Kiki has been combining native ingredients with and also substituting the more traditional British/European ingredients.
“For example, I do a lamington called the Great Dame which is based on the Peach Melba,” she says.
“So rather than using Peaches, I swapped them out for Quandong (Native Peach).”
For Kiki, ensuring the source of the ingredients was as ethical as possible was an important part of the process, and she spoke to a number of chefs and industry professionals to find a supplier.
“This became clear right at the outset of the Indigenous ingredient experiments and I was lucky to find some suppliers who were only too willing to point me in the right direction,” she says.
“What I have learned along the way is that through their culture (of which food is a massive part) Indigenous people can become reconnected to country and therefore their ancestry, a large portion of which has been intentionally destroyed by colonisation over the last 200-odd years.
“Plus, less than 1 per cent of Indigenous produce is grown/harvested by Indigenous people. I think we’ve taken enough from them—its time the tide changed.”
Kiki plans to continue to use native ingredients in her products, and regularly features biscuits, slices and lamingtons with Indigenous flavours.
“Thanks to a local Indigenous start-up nursery called Bush to Bowl (run by Adam and Clarence Byrne) I am now growing a lot more of my own ingredients. Native Currant, Lemon Myrtle, Cinnamon Myrtle, Anise Myrtle, Bush Basil, Finger Lime and Lilly Pilly are going strong, and they are so helpful when I ring with silly questions about seasonality of ingredients!”
Monsieur Truffe is an artisan chocolaterie, specialising in quality organic, hand-made chocolate bars which go out to over 100 stockists across Australia and online. They offer a large variety of flavour profiles, which now includes Australian indigenous ingredients.
Monsieur Truffe chocolatier Samanta Bakker says she uses the ingredients to flavour a variety of different chocolate products, some new/limited edition and some that are always available—like the Peach Melba, which won an international award.
“I use many different native herbs, spices and fruits in our products,” Samanta says.
“It’s a good way to showcase products that have a unique flavour, great health benefits, sustainable and helps Australian communities.
“I like using Australian Superfood Co—I started around four years ago. I like their consistency and quality. They also help and support indigenous communities, assisting growers and farmers with their crops.”
The Bakery Lab
The Bakery Lab’s range of savoury crackers is healthy, being dairy-free and gluten-free, and enjoyable. But best of all, they are made using Australian native ingredients like native basil, saltbush, native thyme and wattleseed.
The Bakery’s Lab’s Martine Ah Heng, a pastry chef by trade, discovered native ingredients after migrating to Australia in 2010.
“I’ve had the opportunity to work with renowned celebrity chefs from whom I discovered Australian native ingredients, which I found flavoursome and aromatic,” Martine says.
“When I was looking for snacks with Australian flavours to gift to family and friends, I couldn’t find any at that time so I started experimenting. That’s how the idea of making crackers using Australian indigenous [ingredients] began.”
The Bakery Lab’s crackers are made of Teff, a mix of nutritious seeds such as hemp, chia, flax, pumpkin, sunflower, sesame seeds and Australian native ingredients.
“Eating healthy is hard, and it is even harder to find food that is both good for you and truly delicious,” Martine says.
“Australian bush foods have been used by indigenous Australians for more than 40,000 years for their abundance of flavours and health properties.
“When it came to our choice of Australian native ingredients, we picked wattleseed as is it the hero of Australian native foods. Wattleseed is versatile and nutritious, and is sweet and nutty.
“Another ingredient we use is saltbush, which is one of Australia’s best herbs. It is salty and herby in flavour, which can be a direct substitute to salt. Native basil is a fragrant mix of basil, mint and sage, while native thyme is a strong aromatic herb. All these nutrient-dense ingredients are essential to a healthy lifestyle and can be found in one small bite.”
Martine sources native ingredients from Mayi Harvests Native Foods after meeting Pat Torres (Aunty Pat) at Global Table in 2019 where she was a keynote speaker.
“Her products are ethical and hand harvested. Building rapport and supporting indigenous businesses is very important to us,” she says.
“Our vision is to share Australian Native flavours with Australians and visitors and to support local farmers.
“That’s why we will continue to develop products with Australian native flavours.”
Born in 2019, Tokyo Lamington is a bastard lovechild of Min Chai (Former N2 Extreme Gelato) and Eddie Stewart (Former Black Star Pastry). Originally a concept made for Tokyo, this little venture found its way into events around the world from Singapore’s Gran Prix F1 and World Chocolate Day in Australia, eventually opening its flagship store in Sydney.
Since opening here, Tokyo Lamington has fully embraced Australia and its unique flavours, incorporating some indigenous flavours into its repertoire with its Australian Bush Food Menu initiative—a collaboration with Melbourne Bushfood to create a full range of lamingtons using native ingredients like lemon myrtle, macadamia, pepperberry, strawberry gum, finger lime and Davidson plum.
Pastry chef Eddie Stewart says the range came from a desire “to highlight the versatility and diversity of Australian indigenous ingredients.”
“We used a wide range of ingredients ranging from fresh finger lime (we used the lime morsels in our finger lime meringue lamington) to lemon myrtle leaf powder (to mix with coconut for the coating), to Davidson Plum (made into a jam for the lamingtons),” he says.
“We worked with a company in Melbourne (Melbourne Bushfood) that has great transparency in their supply chain and also very active in supporting the indigenous community.”
Eddie says the products have gone down well, and they will be keeping the flavours in rotation in the foreseeable future.