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 cafe that aims to provide everyone with the opportunity to discover, enjoy and “get hooked on” Australian foods.
The cafe opened about two years ago, prior to which Brigid was selling the native bushfood products at regional farmers markets.
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.”
The Saltbush menu features a range of native, gourmet and locally-sourced food offerings including Vegie Smash with bush-spiced vegeables, Sweet Hot Wattle, and Mushroom Pastry. The cafe also stocks a huge range of Saltbush Kitchen spices and blends such as wattleseed, strawberry gum, and rivermint.
And for those who manage to visit the cafe during the winter months, the team will be creating a gum-smoked chicken and wattleseed pie with house-made pastry and seasoned with mountain pepper and saltbush.
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.”
Saltbush Kitchen is located at the Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka, Stawell Street, Ballarat. For more information, visit saltbushkitchen.com.au
This article was first published in Slow Magazine online.