Thursday, August 26, 2010

'Bush Tomato' aka desert raisin aka yakajirri (Solanum Centrale)

I am not a bush foods expert. I know very little about bush foods.. I have cooked with bush foods a few times (bush coconut, bush potato, bush banana, wattleseed) and eaten a bit of flesh (witchetty grubs, goanna, emu, bush turkey, kangaroo, turtle - under sufferance) and raw foods (bush apple, bush banana, bush tomato, yakajirri...) I have even purchased Peter Latz's 'Bushfires & Bushtucker', and am wondering why I didn't make better use of my 7 years in Yuendumu... possibly preoccupied with Indigenous media matters..
But now I am starting to take a culinary interest.. wondering what bush foods could be used in cooking or replace other ingredients....
I am pondering the yakajirri.. known as the 'Bush Tomato' by bush foods industry pundits, but by locals in Alice Springs and beyond by a miriad of names: desert raisin, bush sultana, yakajirri... etc.. I have read that this fruit, is one of the most important foods for Aboriginal people in Central Australia. Looking not unlike a sultana, its flavours are typical of the complexity of Australian bush foods.. It's sweet and bitter with an amazing after taste..
I tasted a roasted parsnip and bush tomato soup at Olive Pink last year.. and it was a wonderful homage to this food.
You also find bush tomato in condiments like: bush tomato chutney, bush tomato dip, there's a Sticky Bush Tomato Balsamic..

I'm about to try adapt some recipes for this ingredient. I am wanting a recipe that celebrates the bitterness and sweetness of this fruit, and I am tending towards Italian, as usual. Not just because I know and love Italian cooking, but because the Italians celebrate bitterness... radiccio, chinotto... I'm sure there's more..
So, my intention is to try out Yakajirrin in panneforte and a Roman ricotta cheesecake. Right now, I'm soaking some in a sugar and pomegranate syrup to see what happens to the bitterness... Watch this space for more reports...

Let's get it right:
What is sold in shops as Bush Tomato is not the bush tomato I've eaten on the side of the road around Yuendumu back roads. This was a fresh green fruit (Solanum chippendalei), locally known as a bush tomato, in contrast to the 'Bush Tomato/aka/Desert Raisin/Yakajirri I have written about... But, it seems, for the sake of consistency one name must dominate... and so we have Bush Tomato. A point of interest I discovered today, is that the Solanum chippenadei is now officially called the Tanami Apple.