For Brigid Corcoran, understanding and using indigenous bushfoods is about connection – connection to food, to people and to our land. “Learning about bushfoods, their flavour and their heritage means learning about our land, environment and our Aboriginal heritage and how it can influence Australia today,” Brigid says. Brigid is the founder of Saltbush Kitchen – a Ballarat enterprise that showcases the abundant foods and flavours of native Australia through the creation of unique products. Brigid’s fascination with bushfoods began about eight years ago when she started researching a business idea involving spices and their origins. “After a while I realised everything was international. So I set about trying to find out more about Australian food and flavours and I haven’t stopped learning,” she says. “Without-a-doubt my work over the last eight years has led me to have a deeper connection to Australia.”
Just over a year ago, Brigid opened the doors to the Saltbush Kitchen store in Buninyong, stocking her entire range of food products as well as the chance to dine-in for lunch.
The store is located underground in a beautiful historic stone cellar, providing customers with a one-of-a-kind shopping and culinary experience. Brigid says the Saltbush Kitchen lunch is designed to be tasty, enjoyable and a little bit inspiring. “I was raised in Buninyong and love the town and I was lucky enough to find a very special location that has allowed me to build a unique experience,” she says.
“My intention is for each guest to discover one or two Australian ingredients on their plate that they love and will be inspired to use at home in their own cooking. “In addition, I provide little aroma jars at each table for guests to smell the ingredients as they taste them in the food. I find this helps in understanding how they can be used in cooking.
“Saltbush Kitchen is an immersive Australian experience and the store is packed with bushfood ingredients and products that reflect my love of Australia.” With a background in hospitality, there’s no doubt Brigid has been able to harness her industry knowledge to innovatively tell Australia’s bushfood story and bridge the gap between the Australian food industry and Australian native food.
In addition to the Buninyong store, Saltbush Kitchen works with the Ballarat Tech School to deliver innovative food programs, and also partners with food businesses to introduce bushfoods into their offerings. For Brigid, native foods and flavours have become an integral component of her cooking. Steak is always cooked with pepperberry, roast spuds are saturated in mountain pepper, and her summer champagne is accentuated by strawberry gum.
“I recommend people find a common ground with the flavours and simply substitute with bushfoods into dishes you already love to cook,” Brigid says. “For example, use pepperberry where you would black pepper and use kunzea where you would rosemary. “Food is such an important part of a nation’s identity and I believe bushfoods should sit at the very heart of our Australian food identity.”