Sourcing local ingredients for the menus at Longitude 131° in the remote Australian outback would appear to be a significant challenge for a chef heading up one of Australia’s most luxurious lodges.
However, this seemingly harsh environment is in fact abundant with native produce. Grasses, plants and berries thrive and have been sourced by local Indigenous Anangu people for eons as ingredients for menus and bush medicine, and they’re not found anywhere else in the world.
The Indigenous Anangu people are the traditional owners of the land surrounding Uluru-Kata Tjuta, custodians of one of the oldest living cultures in the world. They continue to preserve their age-old traditions and heritage today, including those related to local bush ingredients.
Longitude 131°’s Executive Chef Mark Godbeer and his culinary team have a passion for translating this desert experience to the plate, where flavours and techniques found in Anangu culture are woven into the menu. A modern take on the use of wild spices, muntries, quandong and native berries is paired with premium produce sourced from around the country to offer even the most seasoned guests a unique taste of Australia.
A selection of select, sustainably-produced ingredients such as Cape Grim beef from Tasmania, Kangaroo Island honey, Murray River sea salt, South Australian king prawns and Davidson plums from the Daintree Rainforest are brought to the Red Centre and seamlessly combined with the local flavours and textures of the Australian bush. In this way, guests dining in the Dune House restaurant at Longitude 131° experience the flavours of Australia with a view to the country’s spiritual heart, Uluru.
“I’d like to fully disclose that I am not of Anangu descent,” Mark explains. “However, over the last two years while at Longitude 131°, I have made myself very familiar with the local bush ingredients. Every day I try new applications with bush produce to improve my knowledge, as well as of those around me.”
Mark learned to incorporate local ingredients into his menus with an experimental ‘taste-and-evaluate’ technique. He was determined to normalise the use of the unique bush flavours so as his team would feel confident cooking with them, and guests would be prepared to try them!
Guests at Longitude 131° are invited to sample these flavours as part of the dining experience during their stay, learning what each ingredient brings to the table and how their flavours can vary according to the way they are prepared.
Pepperberry is sampled both fresh and in its roasted, ground form. It’s an aromatic spice used at Longitude 131° mixed with hollandaise sauce in the house-made eggs benedict. The Pepperberry leaf is also used to cold-smoke items such as Tasmanian Petuna ocean trout.
Lemon myrtle is an Australian shrub naturally occurring in the wetter subtropical coastal areas of New South Wales and South Queensland, with a fresh fragrance of creamy lemon and lime. Guests will taste the native herb with Cone Bay barramundi, or in Chef Mark Godbeer’s popular lemon myrtle sorbet served with blueberry, river mint and poached riberry salad, Quandong puree and butter tuile. Find the recipe below.
Quandong is immediately native at Uluru, a bright red fruit with leathery texture and tart flavour, they are known as a desert peach and are an important food source to the Anangu. Made into a delicious relish or incorporated into various desserts.
Wattle has been routinely used by Indigenous Australians for a wide range of purposes; from food and medicines to weapons and instruments. Breads are baked in-house at Longitude 131° and are kneaded with native wattle seeds and grains, whilst accompanying condiments include native berry jams, single-origin honey and house-made dukkah. Wattleseed and cinnamon scrolls are a staple at morning tea.
Muntries can also be sampled, small native green berries with a reddish tinge and the flavour of spicy apples. Served as a jam with fresh bread at breakfast, or with apple cider pork at dinner.
Daily changing menus are created with a genuine outback influence by following the Indigenous seasons as recognised by the local Anangu people:
Kuli – The Hot Time – December to March
Nyinnga – The Cold Time – April to July
Piriakutu – The Windy In-Between Time – August to November
In following these seasons, ingredients are prepared according to the climate. An example is ‘Karkalla’, also known as pigface, a succulent most commonly found among sand dunes, in clay and on salt flats throughout Australia. In the Kuli season, Mark highlights the refreshing aloe-like texture by pickling it with spices and serving it chilled with hot chicken for a refreshing contrast. In Nyinnga, he sautés the Karkalla with salt and brown butter, rendering it hot without losing the aloe texture.
A professional chef for more than 15 years, Mark spent a decade travelling the world whilst working onboard privately-owned motor yachts, gaining a useful skill in catering to the palates of elite clientele in remote locations. “Being a yacht chef for so long meant delivering five-star cuisine on a yacht very far from fresh produce – and for weeks at a time,” Mark said.
For Mark: “Guests come to Longitude 131° for the beauty of the landscape, and not everyone who arrives is a foodie. I try to find a balance in our menus so as to persuade the less adventurous to sample new flavours, and in the best-case scenario have them come back to order seconds!”.
Here’s Mark’s Lemon Myrtle Sorbet to try at home, using bush ingredients desert limes, lemon myrtle and finger limes*.
Lemon Myrtle Sorbet
1.4 Lt x Distilled Water
150ml x Lemon Juice
50g x Desert Limes
100g x Lemon Myrtle Leaves (Fresh, with Stalks)
500g x Castor Sugar
1 TbSp x Lime Zest
5 TbSp x Finger Lime pearls (deseeded)
1. In a heavy-bottomed pot, add the water, lemon juice, desert limes and lemon myrtle leaves. (Tie the lemon myrtle leaves into a bundle for easy removal). Simmer for 15 minutes.
2. Strain the mixture into a jug or another pot/bowl and then transfer back into same pot, add the sugar and dissolve on low heat for 5 minutes.
3. Remove the mixture from the stove and allow to cool for 15-20 minutes, transfer to a blender and blend on high for 2 minutes, pass through sieve into bowl, add lime zest and stir.
4. Refrigerate till chilled.
5. Once chilled place in an ice cream/sorbet maker and churn until ice crystals forming begin to thicken the sorbet. Add the finger lime and churn for a further 1 minute until finger lime has been evenly distributed throughout the sorbet. Transfer to freezable storage container and freeze for 4 hours before serving.
6. I serve this dish with a blueberry, river mint and poached riberry salad, Quandong puree and butter tuile.
*Bush ingredients are available from various online stores including The Bush Food Shop for delivery in Australia: http://www.bushfoodshop.com.au/