We have a goldmine of amazing ingredients literally in our back yard, and few of us know where to find them, how they can help us nutritionally, or how to use them in our cooking. Like many things Australian, they are unique and cannot be found anywhere else in the world, and so it is with many edible native species. We have been lucky enough to collaborate with our friends at Melbourne Bushfood to bring you a number of recipes that celebrate the unique flavours that natives offer that your family will love, and are super easy.
When I think of the characteristics of Australian food, I can't help think about saltiness: saltiness from the ocean, saltiness in the eucalyptus, saltiness in the earth and in the air. Its "fresh" saltiness rather than old or sour saltiness. One of my favorite salty foods are olives, so for me, the first recipe I thought of were marinated olives with native herbs. Olives somehow capture this essence of this earthy, fresh saltiness, even though the varieties commercially grown are indigenous to different parts of the world. More and more high quality producers in Australia are gaining a solid reputation for superior olive oil that are better than our Mediterranean counterparts, so this is a celebration of what we have achieved in olive oil production, and combing that with the outstanding fresh flavours of pepper berry and lemon myrtle. My favorite olive oil producers are Grampians, Mount Zero, and Kyneton Olive Oil.
About the ingredients
Pepper berry: Comes from the Tasmannia lanceolata plant which grows well in southern parts of Australia where the climate is cooler, and the berries and leaves can be used. It has quite a complex flavour structure, with a number of different layers and dimensions that go well with either sweet or savory. It can be used with curries, cheese, meats, ice-cream or even Christmas cake. Nutritionally, the pepper berry is a wonderful anti-oxidant, is high in Vitamin E and folate, and has antibacterial / antifungal properties. This bush is easy to grow at home and would be a useful addition to your collection of herbs and spices growing in your backyard.
Lemon myrtle: probably one of the most versatile and easy-to-use native herb commercially available at the moment, as its essentially "lemon in a leaf". Its slightly more herby than using traditional lemon, but has been found to have more citral (what gives the lemon flavour) than any other plant in the world, so its unmistakably lemon. This is also a great antimicrobial and antifungal, and can help against the spoilage of food, as well as being a strong antioxidant substance. The leaves can be dried and used whole, or ground, or can be used fresh to infuse in to liquids during cooking. An absolute must-have for the backyard herb garden.
- 1 cup high quality olive oil
- 300g whole mixed olives, either from a pouch or jar in brine.
- 1 tablespoon pepper berry, crushed with a mortar and pestle
- 6-10 dried sage leaves
- 4-6 dried lemon myrtle leaves
- 2 dried bay leaves
- 2 cloves garlic (optional)
Steps and Method
- Drain the olives and pat dry so there is no moisture left on the olives. Allow to air dry for approximately half an hour
- Place all the herbs into the olive oil, and in a small saucepan, slowly heat the olive oil to a simmer. It shouldn't boil, but just be bubbling slightly for approximately 10 mins. The heat will help to release flavours. Take it off the heat after 10 mins and wait for the olive oil to cool so its comfortable for you to place your finger in.
- While you are waiting for the infused olive oil to cool, place your olives in a clean jar so its about 3/4 full. Add in the garlic cloves if using, and pour over the warm olive oil.
- The olive oil should cover the olives and most of the herbs. Push down the herbs to ensure that they are under the olive oil.
- This can be kept on the bench for a few days, and then placed in the fridge for longer storage. If you are placing it in the fridge, the olive oil may solidify, so allow for it to come to room temperature before serving.