Paddock-to-plate workshop explores ways to use native ingredients for the future of food

Australian plants provide a largely unexplored opportunity for unique flavours and a new home-grown industry.

Food and agricultural scientists, marketers, chefs and community members explored the presentation and foods incorporating several native Australian ingredients at a recent workshop.

The workshop was a collaboration between the Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences at the University of Melbourne, William Angliss Institute and the Downs Estate Community Project, funded by the Helen McPherson Smith Trust.

This project aims to reintroduce Australian native plants into mainstream cultivation and establish these crops in the paddock-to-plate value chain.

It seeks to promote the health, environmental and business benefits of Australian native plants to growers, restaurants, suppliers, consumers and retailers, and build necessary seed stocks and supply chains.

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Chef Dale Lyman prepares smoked trout pâté with Australian ingredients. Photo: William Angliss Institute.

The project has benefited from the expertise of the William Angliss Institute, a specialist training provider for the food, tourism, hospitality and event industries.

Chef Dale Lyman, a professional cookery instructor at William Angliss Institute with a long and distinguished professional career in hospitality around the world, designed a menu to showcase ingredients including warrigal greens, saltbush, karkalla, lemon myrtle, cinnamon myrtle and finger limes. Previously, he worked with the University on introducing dry-aged sheep meat to consumers, taking advantage of the richer flavours infused in the meat by that process.

Take a closer look in the gallery, or watch Chef Lyman prepare two dishes in the video below.

Chef Lyman says the Australian ingredients provide unique new flavours and alternatives to familiar introduced plant ingredients that invite chefs to explore their creativity.

Dale Lyman, William Angliss Institute, prepares cured ocean trout and san choy bau incorporating native Australian ingredients. Video: William Angliss Institute.

“These ingredients offer chefs an opportunity to have a point of difference to their menus while supporting local communities and sustainable crops,” he says.

“The ingredients used in this project brought distinctive and exciting flavours to the dishes, whether it was new recipes or replacing ingredients from tried and tested recipes, giving chefs a great deal of creativity and room to experiment.

“In addition to uses in the hospitality industry, these ingredients will offer the home cook similar creativity and the opportunity to use easily-grown foods from their garden or purchase them from local communities.”

Dr Dorin Gupta, a Senior Lecturer (Sustainable Agriculture) and crop scientist at the Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences, leads the project. She presented on the role of native crops in diversified food production and diets and the nutrient quality of these vegetables and how they can deliver for public health.

Sustainability is another important focus of the project.

“The increasing human population and demand for more and nutritious food, and the disconnect of consumers from diversified diets have changed the way we produce our food,” Dr Gupta says.

She says meeting the dietary requirements of a growing global population has led to intensive food production that relies on a few staple crops and heavy fertiliser and chemical use. This has proven to be unsustainable in the long term, particularly as the effects of a changing climate and declining soil health in many farming systems around the world jeopardise agricultural productivity.

“One of the ways we can mitigate these challenges and sustain our environment and food production is through diversification of our food production systems,” she says.

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Left to right: Research Assistant Colette Day, the University of Melbourne; professional cookery instructor Dale Lyman, William Angliss Institute; and Senior Lecturer (Sustainable Agriculture) Dr Dorin Gupta, the University of Melbourne.

“Australia has many environments and a wide variety of flora adapted to successful and sustainable growth in them. By incorporating these long-forgotten native crops into our diets, we can explore options for foods that not only grow well in Australia but also celebrate our unique ecology and environment.”

Success in the development of a homegrown native crops industry will require managing supply and demand. The native crops were provided by the Downs Estate Community Project, situated on the traditional lands of the Bunurong and Boon Wurrung people in Seaford, Victoria.

Its members are creating a free, welcoming, natural and sustainable place for people to connect with each other, the natural environment and Australian food.

Banner image: A William Angliss Institute student serves ocean trout pâté to workshop participants. Photo: William Angliss Institute.