Like many, I am an ardent follower of Masterchef Australia right from its inception. Way back, I wasn’t documenting recipes anywhere, but I loved cooking for as long as I can remember. Masterchef Australia enhanced my cooking skills and I wanted to discover new ingredients and newer cooking techniques. In the last two seasons, there was an increased use of Native Australian ingredients in the show. I wondered how those ingredients would taste and how to cook with them. That’s why, when we received the email from Rushina on behalf of Tourism Australia about this project on Native Australian ingredients, we were thrilled beyond expectation.
The Project with Tourism Australia
So what was the project all about? First, we received this beautiful box of ingredients from Tourism Australia. The box was put together by Himanshi Munshaw Luhar of Foodie Trails, a cultural and food experience curator. It’s a box with Native Australian ingredients, some of which I had heard of and some completely new. Ingredients like old man sat bush, mountain pepperberry, lemon myrtle, kakadu plum, finger lime and so many more just piqued our interest. There was a booklet covering recipes from several renowned chefs using these ingredients. The box also came with a leaflet explaining the individual ingredient and their flavour profile and nutritional value, which was a novel idea.
Part 2 of the project was an online cooking workshop with Masterchef Australia winner Sashi Cheliah. Sashi cooked up a storm with lamb and native Australian ingredients. The interesting part was also learning about the cultural background of Aboriginal Australia. Karen Fitzgerald, GM Experiences At Tourism Australia gave us a thorough understanding of what Australia has to offer in terms of its Aboriginal cultural and food experiences. It differs in every geographical location in the country. Later, Himanshi explained each of the flavour profiles of the ingredients followed by an easy recipe of aniseed myrtle and coconut slice. We cooked along with Himanshi and we will share that recipe in a later post. Sashi cooked a beautiful wattleseed lamb with zucchini puree and lemon myrtle yogurt while talking about his experience in cooking with these beautiful ingredients. He also talked about a vegetarian substitute for this recipe.
You can catch a glimpse of the entire activity and some live cooking here
How to use Native Australian ingredients in Bengali cooking?
After going through the workshop and reading up the flavour profile on the booklet, one thing was clear, we just had to follow the basic principles of taste. Sweet, sour, salty, bitter and savoury – the basic guide to any taste. The minute I opened the packet of wattleseed, I got a whiff of chocolate and something sweet. I put a bit on my tongue and could taste a hint of bitterness too. Since I had already seen Sashi cook lamb with wattleseed, my mind wandered off to cooking lamb chops with wattleseed. A nice rub of coriander and mint leaf paste along with wattleseed and cumin would be a great way to make some lamb chops.
Here are a few examples
- Lemon myrtle- This has a really fresh lemony aroma and a mild lemongrass flavour. I reckon we can substitute any gondhoraj flavoured food with lemon myrtle. Doi er ghol will taste great with this too.
- Mountain pepperberry- It is really sharp and hot but it also has a mild sweet note. It will go very well with prawns, like a ghee morich chingri or morich mangsho.
- Cinnamon myrtle- I tried coupling this with mountain pepperberry and it gave an incredible flavour to the food. Bengali garam masala is anyway quite mild. A little cinnamon myrtle in the oil gives a sweet flavour of cinnamon. So use it to sprinkle over malakari or maacher kalia.
- Quandong – This is a fruit and comes in powder form. It’s really tart and just 1 tsp of quandong gives the sourness of 2 tomatoes or a lemon sized ball of tamarind. It’s a great souring agent. Use in any gravy that needs sourness.
- Aniseed myrtle- It is really aromatic and has a sweetish fennel seed like flavour. Use it for biulir dal or in a malpua or pantua.
- Old Man Salt Bush- This one has a very salty taste. Rub it on fish with ginger and garlic paste. It’s brilliant. Use it for seasoning fish fry or chicken cutlet.
- Desert Lime- It has a piquant lime flavour and a refreshing taste. It could easily be used in any makha or a bhorta, especially with small prawns. It would go really well with mustard oil.
- Finger lime- This has citrus tartness with some astringency, bitterness and slightly fermented notes. On using this with lamb in the marination, it gave a mild malt vinegar kind of taste. So, you can use this in combination with wattleseed while making keema or mutton liver.
Ingredients that I haven’t used yet
The box also has rosella and riberry, both of which can be using in making chutneys or desserts. Riberry is slightly tart and cranberry-like with a hint of clove and honey. So, use it to make sondesh or a pudding. Kakadu plum also should be good in chutney or ambol. There’s mountain pepperleaf, strawberry gum and sandalwood nuts, which I haven’t used yet. However, eventually, I will share whatever I do with these ingredients on our Instagram page.
Do try this recipe and share your feedback. You can reach out to us at our social media handles Instagram, Facebook or any of our personal Facebook (Madhushree and Anindya) and Twitter profiles. Post a picture and tag us.
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Bhetki Fish Curry with Native Australian Ingredients
For the marinade
- 4 pcs Bhetki steaks see notes
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp old man salt bush
- 1 tsp ginger paste use only the juice and leave the rest for the sauce
- 1 tsp garlic paste use only the juice and leave the rest for the sauce
- salt if required
- 2 tbsp mustard oil
- 1 small onion finely chopped
- 1/2 inch cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon myrtle
- leftover paste of ginger and garlic
- 1/2 tsp red chili powder
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp quandong
- 15 nos crushed mountain pepperberry
- 1 and 1/4th cup coconut milk
- 1 tsp lemon myrtle
- 2-3 nos green chilies
- sugar to taste
- salt to taste
- Wash the fish pieces and pat them dry. Make a marinade of the spices mentioned and rub on the fish pieces and leave aside for 10 to 15 minutes.
- In a kadai or a frying pan, heat mustard oil. When the oil is smoking hot, gently place the fish pieces in the pan. Reduce the heat to medium and cook the fish for not more than a minute on each side. We just want a mild colour to the fish and bhetki cooks too fast. Don't discard any leftover marinade. We will use that in the gravy.
- Take the fish out of the pan and keep aside. It is such a soft fish that you have to handle it very carefully.
- In the same oil, add cinnamon and cinnamon myrtle. Stir fry for a few seconds and add chopped onion. On medium to high flame, fry the onions till they are golden.
- Add the leftover ginger and garlic paste and continue cooking till the raw smell has gone.
- In a small bowl, take 1/4th cup of coconut milk and mix coriander powder, red chili powder, turmeric powder, quandong, and crushed mountain pepperberry and make a slurry.
- Add this slurry to the onions and on high heat continue cooking the spices while stirring continously.
- Add any leftover marinade to this and sprinkle some water if required.
- When the raw smell of the spices has gone, place the fish pieces in the pan.
- Take the rest of the coconut milk and mix lemon myrtle in it. Add this to the fish.
- Gently with the help of a spatula, mix all the spices. If needed, add a little bit more water.
- Add salt and sugar as required. You will need sugar to balance the tartness from the quandong powder.
- Add slit green chilies and let it simmer for 3 - 4 minutes. Then turn off the heat.
- Serve immediately with steamed rice.
- You can use any other sea fish or freshwater fish fleshy for this recipe.
- Make it fresh. Reheating this dish cooks the fish further and it doesn't taste nice.
- Also, we noticed that the sauce changes colour and taste overnight and it's not very nice. Perhaps it is lemon myrtle or in combination with quandong that the colour and taste change overnight. So it is best to consume fresh.
- If you don't have access to Native Australian spices, follow our recipe of Bhetki maacher malaikari.