AUSTRALIA: GOING BUSH IN THE RED CENTRE

En­joy­ing a feast is not re­stricted to just the restau­rants at Ay­ers Rock Re­sort.

Vacations & Travel - - Contents - BY SUE WAL­LACE

En­joy­ing a feast is not re­stricted to just the restau­rants at Ay­ers Rock Re­sort.

Lush suc­cu­lents vir­tu­ally “pop” in your mouth, desert limes have a sharp cit­rus flavour, small young bush ba­nanas taste like crunchy snow­peas and salt­bush lives up to its name – wel­come to the world of Aus­tralian bush tucker.

In­dige­nous celebrity chef, Mark Olive also known as the “Black Olive”, is mad about nat­u­ral in­gre­di­ents found in the bush and can’t un­der­stand why they aren’t used more. As am­bas­sador of Ay­ers Rock Re­sort’s new ‘Bush Tucker Jour­neys’, the most com­pre­hen­sive pro­gram of na­tive flavour ex­pe­ri­ences and tast­ings cel­e­brat­ing In­dige­nous food and cul­ture in Australia to­day, Mark is ded­i­cated to spread­ing the word about the fab­u­lous tastes, tex­tures and flavours.

“Bush tucker has so much going for it and there’s a vast va­ri­ety of na­tive herbs, spices, fruits, seeds, in­sects and wildlife that in­dige­nous Aus­tralians have been eat­ing for thousands of years – it’s all out there and it is ex­cit­ing,”

Olive says.

“The new Bush Tucker Jour­neys pro­gram brings these an­cient flavours into mod­ern cui­sine and I hope guests that ex­pe­ri­ence these tastes will in­clude them in their home cook­ing.”

Olive demon­strates just how good bush tucker is at the in­au­gu­ral Uluru “Feas­t­i­val”, tast­ing din­ner un­der starry night skies with a menu that high­lights the rich­ness of na­tive Aus­tralian pro­duce and in­gre­di­ents.

Menu high­lights in­clude canapès of smoked wal­laby with wa­ter­melon and wat­tle­seed crum­ble, and cider-poached croc­o­dile with pick­led muntries, lemon myr­tle blini and crème fraiche, fol­lowed by an en­tree of emu pro­sciutto with Illawarra

plum and beet­root mousse, salt­bush lavosh, fin­ger lime caviar and war­ri­gal greens. For main course, it is a toss-up be­tween na­tive thyme braised Pa­roo kan­ga­roo or bar­ra­mundi served with bunya nut puree, shaved fen­nel, beach suc­cu­lents and lemon myr­tle-scented beurre noisette crum­ble. The grand fi­nale is a dessert of Lime Petit Gateaux with green ant and co­conut snow, poached quan­dong and whipped yo­ghurt panna cotta. It’s unan­i­mous – bush tucker is amaz­ing.

The “Feas­t­i­val” events will be held quar­terly com­bined with food tast­ings and mas­ter­classes.

Mark is con­fi­dent the word is spread­ing about the tastes and flavours of bush tucker and hopes in­gre­di­ents such as wat­tle­seeds – de­scribed as the un­sung hero of the Aus­tralian na­tive food in­dus­try – Mun­trie berries and quan­dongs will find their way into home kitchens and in­no­va­tive restau­rants.

Ayer’s Rock Re­sorts’ 10 restau­rants spread across the var­ied ac­com­mo­da­tion op­tions now fea­ture menus that cel­e­brate boun­ti­ful bush in­gre­di­ents. The ex­clu­sive ‘Tali Wiru’ gourmet culi­nary ex­pe­ri­ence, which of­fers a mag­i­cal evening of fine din­ing on a re­mote sand dune over­look­ing Uluru and the domes of Kata Tjuta for just 20 peo­ple nightly, fea­tures a fab­u­lous bush tucker menu.

Tali Wiru trans­lates as “beau­ti­ful dune” in local Anangu lan­guage, and is an amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. It is a culi­nary feast that also im­merses you in in­dige­nous cul­ture.

Lis­ten to the didgeri­doo play­ing while you sip bub­bles and nib­ble on canapès such as pan-seared scal­lop with gul­gulk beurre noisette and smoked kan­ga­roo and kut­jera cros­tini, fol­lowed by an en­tree of pressed wal­laby with fer­mented quan­dong. For main course, pan-roasted tooth­fish with car­rot and gin­ger puree, baby heir­loom car­rots, sea greens, spiced ac­ti­vated lentils and can­died lemon aspen is de­li­cious. For dessert, the Tex­tures of Choco­late with David­son plum, lemon myr­tle and quan­dong is to die for.

For more casual din­ing, head to the Out­back Pioneer’s

BBQ Bar where there’s a croc-dog on the menu while at Desert Gar­dens Hotel’s more so­phis­ti­cated Arn­guli res­tau­rant, dishes fea­ture na­tive in­dige­nous pro­duce along with a sig­na­ture grill se­lec­tion.

For an­other un­for­get­table din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, the award-win­ning ‘Sounds of Si­lence’ din­ner fea­tures mini dampers with desert lime pre­serve and other great dishes.

Now into its sec­ond year, the fab­u­lous ‘Field of Light’ has its own award-win­ning mag­i­cal din­ner un­der the stars as Bruce Munro’s im­pres­sive 50,000 stem light in­stal­la­tions shine bright – it’s been ex­tended un­til 31 March 2018. Taste dukkha-seared kan­ga­roo loin on quan­dong cous cous with na­tive mint yo­ghurt and other treats.

The re­sort also of­fers a free daily Bush Food Ex­pe­ri­ence, a 45-minute free ses­sion held in the Re­sort’s Town Square lawn area, where guests learn about na­tive in­gre­di­ents, an­cient food prepa­ra­tion tech­niques and taste wat­tle­seed short­bread.

Daily guided gar­den walks also show how in­dige­nous peo­ple tra­di­tion­ally lived by us­ing the bush for food and medic­i­nal pur­poses and you can take home a wide range of bush tucker in­gre­di­ents now avail­able at the re­sort.

Like Mark Olive says, “it doesn’t take long to be­come a bush tucker fan”. I’m now ad­dicted to pressed wal­laby, quan­dong cous cous, and wat­tle­seed short­bread. •

Be­low, clock­wise from top: Taste and smell bush tucker on the Bush Tucker Ex­pe­ri­ence; Red Centre din­ing in Uluru – Kata Tjuta Na­tional Park; Local flora is ed­i­ble at Ay­ers Rock Re­sort.

Op­po­site page from top: Wagyu Beef Fil­let; Learn­ing about what you can actually eat dur­ing a bush tucker tour.

Open­ing im­age: Guests on the Bush Food Ex­pe­ri­ence learn about na­tive in­gre­di­ents, an­cient food prepa­ra­tion tech­niques and taste wat­tle­seed short­bread.

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