When it comes to food, Australia truly is the lucky country. From Afghanistan to Zimbabwe and everywhere in between, we have the culinary world on our doorstep. Yet ask most Australians if we have a national cuisine and their answer will likely be no.
Chef Mark Olive begs to differ. Affectionately known as “The Black Olive”, the SBS Chefs Live star said he had made it his mission to teach people about the wealth of ingredients unique to this country.
“We do have a cuisine in this country, we just don’t seem to see it that way,” Olive said. “Bush Tucker is our national cuisine, and we should be very proud.”
Bush Tucker is the term given to the huge variety of native herbs and spices, fruits, seeds, insects and wildlife that Indigenous Australians have been eating for tens of thousands of years. To non-Indigenous Australians, the plants and cooking methods have remained a mystery. Until now.
Ayers Rock Resort has launched its Bush Tucker Journeys, a comprehensive program celebrating Indigenous food and culture, with Olive at the helm as ambassador.
“We want to make it accessible to everyone,” he said. “We want to teach this country what we have, and this desert is the perfect place to come to experience Bush Tucker.”
While non-Indigenous Australians may have been a bit slow on the uptake, Olive said our herbs, spices and foods were being exported by the bucket load to feed an insatiable curiosity overseas. He said he hoped Bush Tucker Journeys would help inspire the same curiosity at home.
“People overseas are really interested in what this country has to offer,” he said. “We have these amazing herbs, fruits, meats, and we just don’t use them, which is sad. Every Australian kitchen has Chinese five spice, why not some dried lemon myrtle?”
The ancient flavours will take centre stage at Uluru’s Weekend Feastivals, a quarterly culinary event of open-air fine dining, Bush Tucker tastings and master classes. Visitors will taste dukkha seared kangaroo loin on Quandong cous cous with native mint yoghurt at the magical A Night at Field of Light, and house-smoked crocodile on mini dampers with dessert lime preserve at the award-winning Sounds of Silence. The pinnacle of the outdoor dining experiences will be Tali Wiru, a magical evening of fine dining on a remote sand dune overlooking Uluru, limited to 20 people.
The next Feastival Weekend is on November 3-5.
Stay: Ayers Rock Resort offers a variety of accommodation, including the premium Sails in the Desert hotel, award-winning Desert Gardens Hotel, Emu Walk Apartments, Pioneer Hotel and Lodge or Ayers Rock Campground.
Taste: Combine drinks, canapes and sunset views of Uluru with the award-winning Sounds of Silence three-course Bush Tucker dinner under the outback sky, a star talk and a self-guided tour of the installation with A Night at Field of Light ($245 adults, $122.50 children).
See: Field of Light Uluru at night with a Star Pass, which includes transfers, outback-style canapes and drinks, and a 45-minute self-guided tour ($85 adults, $57 children); by camel ($189 adults, $119 children); at sunrise ($69 adults, $35 children); or by helicopter ($615 adults, $495 children).
Learn: Visit the Wintjiri Arts and Museum, listen to bush yarns, watch the Putitja Dancers perform, hear an astronomy talk, or take a guided or self-guided garden walk to learn about the local bush foods and medicines.
Try it at home: Wattleseed shortbread
- 200g unsalted butter, softened,
- 90g icing sugar,
- 1 egg yolk,
- 250g plain flour,
- 2g baking powder,
- 5g wattleseed.
- Lightly cream the soft butter and sugar,
- Mix in the egg yolk,
- Fold in the flour, baking powder and wattleseed,
- Roll into small balls,
- Preheat over at 190c and bake for 15-18 minutes until golden brown.