Beetroot and Native Bush Tomato Pasta

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.

 

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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.

 

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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! 

 

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FAQs

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.

 

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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.

 

 

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