The Adelaide Hills region is a prodigious food basket. I am fortunate and very proud to live in an area which produces so much and such fantastic quality food, of both the farmed and artisan-made varieties. A few weeks back Mikyla Gilbert, of the Adelaide Hills Magazine, and I escorted most of the chefs from the Hilton Adelaide on a tour of just a few of these passionate producers. Our first stop of the day was at Tumbeela Native Bush Foods - a spot I have inexcusably failed to visit in the past, even though I always have their products on hand and they are just around the corner from my farm!
Established way back in the last century (actually it was in 1995) by teacher-couple Warren and Ewa, Tumbeela produce a unique, boutique range of native Australian spices which are all grown on their property at the back of Verdun in the Adelaide Hills. Most of the trees they grow here are, in fact, not native to the region, coming from Tasmania and rainforests. The facts that this had not been done commercially before, that there was no-one to turn to for advice and that this undaunted couple had no farming experience was never going to hold these two back.
Today Warren and Ewa nurture and care for 300-400 trees which are intensively planted on a gloriously picturesque 3 acres of their property. They grow and supply Lemon Myrtle, Riberries, Wattleseed, Aniseed Myrtles and the ancient Mountain Pepper to restaurants, caterers and the general public, drying the leaves simply in domestic food dehydraters in their shed. A tribute to the singular quality and distinctiveness of their product is the fact that you will find it in a variety of food products and on the menu’s of both the Hilton Adelaide hotel and Adelaide’s new and much-talked about Restaurant Orana, which specialises in native ingredients.
Tumbeela’s native flavours are extraordinarily diverse, while being truly distinctive. Lemon Myrtle is, as it’s name suggests, characteristically lemony and sometimes referred to as the “Queen of the lemon herbs”. It’s uses are both culinary and medicinal, as it possesses some antimicrobial properties. I use the crushed, powdered leaves in my cooking wherever I want a fresh, lemon flavour. Mountain Pepper berries come from the bush of the same name and are high in antioxidants. The berries impart a sophisticated warmth with a hint of spice to dishes and can also be used in a pepper grinder as an alternative to black pepper corns.
You can buy the spice from Tumbeela’s website and if you’ve never tried using these spices before, let me suggest this very simple little cookie recipe which uses another native Australian food – macadamia nuts - to start you off. These are not too sweet and deliciously crunchy. I’m sure you’ll be able to come up with lots more ways to incorporate these delicious native flavours into your culinary efforts.
- 200 gms plain flour
- 100 gms semolina
- ½ tsp baking soda
- 100 gms butter
- 200 gms caster sugar
- 1 egg + 1 egg yolk
- ½ cup chopped macadamia nuts
- ½-1 tsp ground Lemon Myrtle leaf
- pinch of salt
- Demerara sugar
- Using a stand mixer or hand beaters, cream butter and sugar until light and pale. Add egg and yolk and mix well to completely combine.
- Add all dry ingredients and mix to make a stiff dough. Roll into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 180C.
- Taking walnut-sized pieces of dough, roll into balls and place on lined baking tray. Press dough balls down firmly with a fork, then sprinkle with demerara sugar.
- Alternatively, you can roll the dough out thinly and cut with a cookie cutter, then sprinkle with the sugar.
- Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden.
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