A very Australian mix of wild and traditional
The Produce Chef by Matt Clark
By Kerry Scambler
If you’d like to get a taste for Australia's wild side, then The Produce Chef is worth perusing for some inspiration. Wild ingredients, now more widely available than ever, are at the heart of this book and but there’s also some more traditional Australian fare included which gives it an even broader appeal.
Author and chef Matt Clark tells us that 'The only limit is your imagination' and he certainly leads by example: from Crocodile Pizza with Lemon Myrtle and Warrigal Greens, Gourmet Snails, Orange and Macadamia Nut Crusted Barramundi to Red Bull Granita Oysters and Vegemite Soup, there are clear signs that Matt’s own imagination knows few bounds.
Matt grew up in Tasmania and was inspired by the abundant natural produce. After spending his initial culinary years in this state, he decided to move on and after some creative time in Perth, Western Australia where this book was created, he's now based in Brisbane. His latter travels are certainly reflected in the recipes - after all, Tasmania's renowned for its fresh, local produce but you’re not likely to find Kakadu or Illawarra plums, macadamia nuts or even crocodile readily available!
The Produce Chef starts with a section on the common wild ingredients used in the book with a bit of background, food matches and some rules about how to use them. It would have been a bonus if a photo of each ingredient was also included but as it’s hardly likely I’ll need to identify them in their natural environment, it's not really an issue.
Some of the ingredients covered are riberries, Warrigal greens, pepperberries, quandong and saltbush. Whilst I know of green rosellas (they appear in our bird bath on a daily basis), not being a Queenslander I’d never before heard of rosella the plant.
Next is an section on wild meat which includes ostrich, crocodlie and kangaroo, various fish and blue swimmer crab, including location and flavour details. Included elsewhere in the book are recipes for camel, snails and witchetty grubs with background covered off in varying detail in these sections.
From the ingredients it’s into the logical order of starters, something light, mains and, of course, The Great Aussie Barbecue. This latter section includes some great, simple marinades and tips for beer infused onion rings as well as recipes for various meats all in the great Aussie outdoor tradition.
The chapter on sauces and dressings has already been ear-marked for reference in coming days – the recipes look easy enough to follow and should spark the taste-buds of friends with their more unusual ingredients.
Some recipes may at first glance may strike you as overly simple, but it’s always handy to be reminded that some of the best flavour combinations can often be the simplest. It can also be that they have a different slant than usual – eg roasted beetroot sounds simple but this has a sugar and balsamic glaze.
The Produce Chef is certainly very Australian – both in content and style, from the recipes for witchetty grubs and barramundi right down to the traditional meat pie (which apparently should always be eaten from the left hand – very sensibly to keep the right hand free for one’s beer), lamington and pavlova.
Matt says that “Australia holds a backyard of amazing flavours that are unlike anything you will find anywhere else and most of us are still missing out.” Hopefully The Produce Chef will help to introduce a few more of us to our own backyard surprises. Not sure about the availability of crocodile in Tasmania or the concept of Vegemite soup though, perhaps I’ll start with the kangaroo pizza with mountain pepper and bush tomato, or maybe the Bundy and pineapple glazed ham with seeded mustard potatoes…
The Produce Chef is published by New Holland. RRP A$45.
Winepros Archive and VisitVineyards.com subscribers can purchase The Produce Chef from our book parters Seekbooks at 12.5% discount off RRP (postage extra).
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