Australian native spices

Other Names: Wattleseed: Arrilya, juntala, or nyurrinpa (Aboriginal); colony wattle; prickly wattle. Akudjura: Akatyerre or akutjera (Aboriginal); bush tomato; desert raisin. Tasmanian pepper: Australischer pfeffer or Tasmanischer pfeffer (German); bergpeper (Dutch); mountain pepper; mountain pepperleaf; native pepperberry; poivre indigene (French).

General Description: Australia has a variety of unusual and delicious native spices that season bush food, creative cookery using native Australian foods. Akudjura (Solanum centrale), native to Australia’s arid regions, yields tiny tomato-like berries that are yellow when fresh. They taste similar to sun-dried tomatoes with an added sweet tone of caramel. The spice is usually sold in its dried form either whole, resembling raisins in size and texture, or as a brownish red powder. Akudjura works well in place of sun-dried tomatoes and is used to flavor sauces for meats and poultry.

Tasmanian pepper (Tasmannia lanceolata) is a dark blue to black dried berry that resembles black peppercorns in size and color, with a distinctive woody aroma. Its hot peppery taste is a cross between chile and peppercorn. The berries, hand picked from a shrub that grows in the cool, wet climate of Tasmania, are dried and milled. Their complex flavor is initially sweet, followed by a quick, intense pungency that gives way to a numbness similar to that induced by Szechuan pepper, with a mineral-like aftertaste. Because Tasmanian pepper is quite potent, use only about 10 percent as much as you would black pepper.

Dorrigo pepper (T. stipitata) is closely related to Tasmanian pepper and has a unique sharp, hot, spicy flavor reminiscent of black pepper and cinnamon. Dorrigo pepper flourishes in the Dorrigo Mountains of northern New South Wales. For hot flavor, add Dorrigo pepper at the end of cooking; for milder flavor, add during cooking.

Wattleseed (Acacia victoriae and A. murrayana) comes from several of the more than seven hundred species of _Acacia_—most of which are poisonous—that grow over much of central Australia. It has a flavor that combines coffee, chocolate, and hazelnut. These small brown seeds are in high demand in Australia for their delicious flavor; they appear in pastries, breads, and other desserts and are used to make a coffee-like beverage. To prepare it, wattleseed is roasted in a process similar to roasting coffee and then ground to a dark brown, grainy powder that resembles coffee grounds.

Purchase and Avoid: Although the color of akudjura can vary according to the amount of rain when it was grown, this has no effect on quality. Look for akudjura with a consistency no softer than a raisin. Purchase Tasmanian and Dorrigo pepper whole, ground, or blended with black and white peppercorns. Wattleseed is relatively expensive because it is mostly gathered from the wild and requires time-consuming processing.

Storage: Whole akudjura will keep well for several months; buy small amounts of ground akudjura as it is more perishable. Powdered akudjura may form clumps from the oils present; as long as the powder feels dry, it’s fine. Whole wattleseed is best used within 2 years; ground wattleseed is more perishable.

Serving Suggestions: Use wattleseed to flavor cakes, chocolates, and cream desserts, such as panna cotta or crème brûlée. Add akudjura to tomato sauce, pizza, or tomato soup to enhance the flavor of tomatoes. Marinate meat with a mixture of crushed Tasmanian pepper and vegetable oil before grilling or frying. Season long-cooked stews and pasta dishes with Tasmanian pepper just before serving. Use Dorrigo pepper to season pasta, salty cheeses, vegetable and cheese dips, mustards, pâtés, sauces, and soups.

Food Affinities: Akudjura: Antipasto, beef, bread, cheese, pesto, potato, salads, salmon, soups, tomato. Tasmanian pepper: Beef, emu, hamburgers, kangaroo, pasta. Dorrigo pepper: Cheese, dips, mustard, pasta, pâté, sauces. Wattleseed: Brown sugar, chocolate, coffee, cream, custard, hazelnut, praline, sugar, vanilla.

from Quirk Books: www.quirkbooks.com