Plate Up Ballarat will give guests the opportunity to indulge in a whole range of flavours from the western region, not excluding bush foods and spices.
Every country has certain herbs, spices and flavours that make their native dishes exclusively theirs. So when Brigid Corcoran was researching a business concept centred around Australian foods and spices, she wondered about the offerings that defined her own homeland (and that went beyond meat pies).
“In Australia we have a rich cultural and culinary history that dates back over thousands of years so I (started to) source different bushfoods and experiment and learn more about our culinary history,” Brigid says.
“I started baking for family and friends and they loved it – even more so because the flavours were Australian.
“It’s because of the shared knowledge and experience from our indigenous people that we are able to enjoy all these beautiful bushfoods today.”
And so began Saltbush Kitchen – a Ballarat-based venture that aims to provide everyone with the opportunity to discover, enjoy and “get hooked on” Australian foods.
Brigid says people are almost always surprised at the variety of herbs and spices native to Australia.
“There are so many ways to introduce the spices into your cooking; in your roast, your pasta, your stir-fries, your desserts – it’s endless,” she says.
“Some spices can also be easily substituted. Pepperberry, mountain pepper and saltbush can substitute (ordinary) salt and pepper while other spices like wild thyme and wattleseed can introduce a whole new flavour to your table.
“Overall I think there is something really special about creating a meal for your family that is packed full of flavour that finds its home in the Australian landscape.”
With a background in hospitality and community development, Brigid says her passion for food has rapidly evolved over the years to the point that she can’t imagine creating a dish without native ingredients.
She says her mantra is to keep it simple; keep it Australian and keep a sense of humour.
“I want people to have a unique Australian experience,” she says.
“My aim is to feed people delicious Australian flavours, get them passionate about our foods and send them home with a bag full of Australian native spices and ingredients to use in their own kitchen. To eat it, love it, use it, and spread the word.”
Brigid will be teaming up with Sara Kittelty of Kittelty's Cafe for a one-off event hosted as part of the inaugural Plate Up Ballarat festival. Entitled Eat the 'Rat, the event will feature a food and cocktail menu representing the chefs' hometown of Ballarat and showcasing a plethora of local producers including Ballarat Mushroom Farm, Spring Creek Organics, Tuki Trout Farm, Buninyong Bush Foods, Yendon Tomatos, Inglenook Dairy, Green Eggs, Burrum Bio Dynamics, Mount Zero Olives, Kangaroo Hill Farm, Grounded Pleasures, Buninyong Winery and Blue Pyrenees Estate, Dollar Brewing Company.
In preparation for the event, Brigid and Sara are asking guests to submit their favorite photos of Ballarat to Instagram using the hashtag #eattherat. The pair will then select 12 images and design canapes and cocktails to match. Not on Instagram? Pics can also be emailed through to email@example.com. Submissions to be made before April 25.
"Inspire and challenge us with Ballarat street-art, rural landscapes and quirky corners," Brigid says.
Plate Up Ballarat will be held between May 1 and 31 and will include close to 40 food, wine and beer related events as well as the citywide pie competition.