The other day I was driving past a thick grove of eucalyptus trees in the Noosa hinterland, marvelling at their beauty and thinking about what inspires me to cook and then it struck me - Australia. If you've been following along here for a while then you'll know I love cooking modern Australian food with a rustic twist. You'll also know that I love cooking with native Australian ingredients. I recently bought ground native Bush Tomato from The Australian Superfood Co and have been thinking of ways to incorporate this unique native ingredient into different yet easily approachable recipes. While the native Bush Tomato is closely related to the regular garden tomato, it has a distinctively raisin and caramel flavour initially, followed by a subtle spicy aftertaste. It's earthy, peppery and robust, and I immediately knew pairing it with beetroot and making a pasta would be a match made in heaven.
How to make Beetroot & Native Bush Tomato Pasta
The hero of this dish is undeniably the beetroot, but every superhero has a sidekick and this is where we welcome native Bush Tomato with wide open arms. In this dish you will fold beetroot powder and ground native Bush Tomato with "00" finely ground Italian flour and flaky salt. You may be surprised that the flour doesn't really change colour initially, but as soon as you add the room temperature eggs and begin to knead, it turns to a pastel pink dough, and after a further 10 minutes of kneading, you'll have a rich and opulent fuchsia pink dough that smells of a single beetroot freshly dug up from the earth, and when you dust the dirt off with your hands, you'll be reminded of the subtle notes of native Bush Tomato.
Wrapping the dough tightly in cling film and letting it rest in the fridge, you'll move onto making the tomato passata. It's made fresh by scoring ripe tomatoes and letting them rest and steam in a tightly covered bowl of boiling water. After 10 minutes, the skins will easily peel off the tomatoes and you'll simply bounce them between your hands (they'll be quite hot) and squeeze the tomatoes in your hands to make a rustic tomato pulp. Following this, you'll infuse extra virgin olive oil with slices of fresh garlic in a pan on medium heat, then cover them with the tomato passata and let the sauce reduce, stirring occasionally. In another pan, you'll crisp up slices of pancetta with salty butter and set them aside on a small plate until the final dish is ready to be plated.
By now the passata will have been reduced, so you'll turn the heat off and take the pasta dough out of the fridge. Fettuccine is the preferred pasta of choice for this dish because you will want to coat the pasta in as much passata as possible. This is lovingly made in a pasta machine, and then cooked in salted boiled water for just two minutes. Instead of straining the beetroot and native Bush Tomato pasta with a colander, you'll get some tongs and pull the pasta out and place it straight into the pan with the passata. This is to ensure you add a touch of sacred salty pasta water to the dish. Toss the pasta around making sure to coat it with the passata, then crumble the crisp pancetta in your hands and drop it into the pasta. Toss one last time with tongs all while being careful not to break the fettuccine, and then serve onto plates. You may add flaky salt if you like, but it's not needed. Neither is cracked pepper. Or parmesan.
What is native Bush Tomato?
Bush Tomato, also known by its Aboriginal name akudjura, is a small round fruit. As I mentioned earlier, while it has a distinctively raisin or caramel flavour initially, native Bush Tomato has a subtle spicy aftertaste and is closely related to the regular garden tomato. Rich in antioxidants and minerals including selenium (a rare mineral found in soil, water and some foods that play a key role in metabolism), native Bush Tomato is considered one of the most important of all the Central Australian plant foods. It far outshines the renowned blueberry, and it is also rich in iron, vitamin E, folate, zinc, magnesium and calcium. It also has a high potassium to sodium ratio.
Where does Bush Tomato grow?
Bush Tomato is a fast-growing shrub native to the very arid desert regions of central Australia. The small round fruit turns from green to yellow as it ripens, and then to red as it is sun-dried on the bush. While the mature yellow fruit can be eaten fresh, native Bush Tomato is usually used in its dried form with mthan 80 per cent of harvesting is done by hand by Aboriginal wild harvesters.
How can I incorporate Bush Tomato in my home cooking?
Start with this recipe, my Beetroot & Bush Tomato Pasta. You can also use it in chutneys, jams and salsas, in curries and on red meat. Native Bush Tomato can also used in its ground form in bread mixes, herb blends, pasta, relishes, dressings, sauces and dukkah. Expect to see more recipes here using native Bush Tomato!
What equipment will I need to make this recipe?
You don't need a pasta machine for this recipe. You can hand roll the pasta sheets, then fold over and slice to make fettuccine. I prefer using a pasta machine, and they are not as scary or expensive as you may think. This is very similar to the pasta machine I use and this one is also really good.
Where can I get native Bush Tomato?
You can get native Bush Tomato from The Australian Superfood Co. If you don't want to use native bush tomato, simply leave it out.
Where can I get beetroot powder?
Most health food stores will now have beetroot powder. I bought mine from iHerb. You can roast beetroots in the oven, mash, strain and use the pulp (by mixing it with the eggs before you drop them into the flour to knead into pasta dough), but I have yet to try this method.
Information about the native Bush Tomato has been obtained from The Australian Superfood Co website, which I consider to be an essential resource for native Australian ingredients.
I recently bought ground native Bush Tomato and have been thinking of ways to incorporate this unique native ingredient into different yet easily approachable recipes. While it is closely related to the regular garden tomato, it has a distinctively raisin and caramel flavour initially, followed by a subtle spicy aftertaste. It's earthy, peppery and robust, and I immediately knew pairing it with beetroot and making a pasta would be a match made in heaven.
200g "00" flour
2 eggs, room temperature
4 teaspoons beetroot powder
2 teaspoons The Australian Superfood Co ground Bush Tomato
1 teaspoons flaky sea salt
4 large ripe tomatoes
3 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced finely
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon salted butter
50 grams sliced pancetta
2 teaspoon flaky sea salt, to season
In a large mixing bowl, gently stir flour, beetroot powder, bush tomato and salt with a fork to combine.
Place flour onto a clean surface, make a well in the centre with your fingers or spoon, and drop in the eggs. Gently whisk the eggs with a fork. Combine the ingredients together using your fingers, then knead the mixture vigorously for about 10 minutes. At first it will look crumbly and stick to your fingers, but once your body heat activates the starch in the flour, the dough will change in texture and turn into a smooth firm ball. Wrap it tightly in cling film and let it rest in the fridge for at least 20 minutes.
Bring a full kettle of water to boil. While this is happening, cut a small, shallow "x" across each tomato skin using a sharp knife. This process is known as scoring, and will help you remove the skin quickly later. It's ok if you score the skin a little deeply. Place the tomatoes in a large mixing bowl and when the kettle is boiled, pour the hot water over the tomatoes and make sure they're completely covered (one or two may float to the top and that's totally fine). Place a lid on top and let the tomatoes steam in the hot water for 10 minutes. Strain the water and set aside to cool for a couple of minutes. Gently squeeze the tomatoes in your hands to create a rustic tomato pulp.
Bring a large frying pan to medium heat. Add butter. Crisp the pieces of pancetta on both sides until golden in colour. Set aside on a plate.
Reduce the heat of the same large frying pan down to low heat. Add olive oil and cook garlic for two minutes. Add the tomato pulp and reduce the excess tomato juice for 10 minutes. Turn the heat off and set the tomato sauce aside in a large bowl.
Bring a large pot of water to boil and add a 2 teaspoons of flaky salt to the water.
Lightly flour your clean work bench. Take the pasta dough out of the fridge and cut it into four pieces. Shape each piece into a rough rectangle then flatten using a rolling pin to approximately half a centimetre thick.
If you are using a hand cranked pasta machine: Set up your pasta machine. Feed each piece of dough once from setting number 7 to setting number 2. Sprinkle with a little extra flour if the dough is feeling sticky, then feed it through the cutting side to make fettuccine. Set aside on a lightly floured plate. Repeat for each piece of dough.
If you are hand rolling the pasta: Continue rolling the pasta dough to your desired thickness for fettuccine and into a rectangular shape. Roll the pasta from top to bottom 4 times. Slice the dough vertically 1 centimetre in width, lightly dust with flour and set aside on a lightly floured plate. Repeat for each piece of dough.
Cook the pasta in the salty boiling water for 2 minutes. Pull the pasta out using tongs (do not strain with a colander) and place the pasta in the bowl with the tomato sauce. Reserve one piece of crisp pancetta, and tear up the remaining pieces of crisp pancetta in your hands and throw it into the pasta. Gently toss the pasta using tongs and make sure the fettuccine is covered in sauce. Divide the pasta into two bowls and garnish each bowl with the remaining piece of crisp pancetta (tear it in half and place it on top of the pasta). Tomatoes love salt, so season with flaky sea salt and enjoy!