I read an article the other day, about how Australian chefs weren’t adept at using native ingredients in their kitchens. Although bush foods have had some high profile champions, most notably Kylie Kwong, the article notes that there is still a long way to go in bringing the uniquely Australian flavours to the nation’s kitchens. It seems I may have taken it as a challenge. The macadamia and wattle seed shortbread had been in the making well before I read the article, but I blogged about them at about the same time. Quite some time ago I posted a recipe for wallaby tail and saltbush pies. But this weekend I picked up a kilo of yabbies from the Capital Region Farmers Market. I knew exactly what I wanted to do with them before I even picked them up and my yabby salad with finger lime and pepperberry dressing has since become a serious contender for my most popular recipe yet.
What I failed to realise when I bought the yabbies, is that my partner, who has been suffering badly from gout, would not be able to eat them. I’m not complaining mind you, but it means I’ve been able to come up with a whole range of delicious things to do with the little critters, because they are all mine (and I’m not one to have 3 or 4 serves of yabby salad in a matter of days, delicious as it is). I’m on a roll with these yabby dishes with native flavours. Kutjera has a flavour a bit like a cross between sundried tomatoes and raisins, with a slightly bitter overtone. I thought it would be perfect in this creamy pasta sauce that has a very French style. I was right.
I would like to insert a plug here. Bush foods are an inherent part of the knowledge and literacy of Australia’s ancient peoples, the oldest living culture on the planet. In western societies, we value literacy and numeracy, but I learned the value of different knowledge systems early in life. While I was doing my undergraduate degree, I took an organised tour through Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens. I would commend it to you all should you be in town. This was a tour with a difference. The botanical gardens stand on the ancestral lands of the Kulin nation. During the Aboriginal Heritage Walk, an indigenous guide will take you through the gardens, a very colonial space, and show you the plants from an indigenous perspective; native grass that represented the ‘lawns’ people had in the last millennia. But I was most struck when we were shown the tree whose bark could be fermented in water overnight, then thrown into the stream (water and all) to stun the fish that would rise to the surface. Now that, is a knowledge system I’d like to have. As such, I think it’s important to pay due respect to this knowledge, and whenever possible, if you are buying your bush foods, to do so from a company that supports indigenous communities and enterprise. Outback Pride are an excellent example of such a company, and they have an online store with delivery nation-wide.
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Combine the yabby heads, onion, carrot, pepperberries, and bay leaf in a small-medium sized saucepan. Cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Simmer for about 20 minutes. Discard the solids. Gently smash the shells of the yabby claws so each portion of the claw has cracks in it. Cook the claws in the stock for a few minutes, till they just change colour. Remove from the liquid and set aside. Add the bush tomato and half the passata to the stock and simmer till reduced to a thick syrup.
Meanwhile, remove the yabby meat from the shell, leaving the meat from the very end of the claw in one piece if you can. I found it worked well to leave the tip on the moveable part of the claw, and remove the rest of the shell.
Cook the spaghetti according to the packet directions. Reserve a tablespoon of the cooking liquid, the drain the pasta. Pour the sauce through a sieve, onto the spaghetti. Stir through the yabby meat. Serve immediately, garnished with fresh parsley.