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July 16, 2024

Karkalla at Home: 110 recipes using native foods

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Author of Karkalla at Home, Mindy Woods.

Karkalla at Home is a vibrant cookbook that brings Australia’s wonderful bounty of unique native foods into the home kitchen with more than 110 easy and inspiring recipes, including everything from breakfasts and weeknight mains, to special occasion centrepieces, along with a vivid array of drinks and desserts. Author, proud Bundjalung woman and Northern Rivers resident, Mindy Woods features stories and profiles on more than 40 of the continent’s most readily available, yet underutilised native ingredients.

‘Meat pies and sausage rolls are not our native Aussie food’, says Woods. She has written recipes that include the iconic macadamia, citruses, berries, plums, myrtles and seeds, coastal greens and succulents, and a host of exceptional native seafood. Woods explains: ‘These native food ingredients do belong in our own homes. I just touch on a small number of the 6,500-odd native ingredients in my cookbook, I chose ones which are more widely-known and accessible, but there’s a lot more, which is something that excites me for the future. I can walk down the main street of Byron and discover native food that is growing all around – if we can embrace something as terrible as kale, what about Warrigal greens which are a wonderful food? This stuff is growing in our own backyards.’

Mindy, who is appearing at the Byron Writers Festival on Saturday, 10 August told The Echo last week, ‘the biggest thing for me was the realisation of how much we, as modern Australians, have been robbed of connecting with this culture. Food is a central expression of culture; we have such an abundance of delicious, abundant, rare native food – people overseas are so interested in this, but it hasn’t dawned on us in Australia yet.

‘As Aussies, we love to travel and enjoy the food of other countries and cultures, but we forget to explore this in our own backyard – while there’s the desire to do so, there’s a lack of accessibility to our native-food and First Nations culture. I believe it will be part of our Australian reconciliation, once we discover what we have in common it will unite our country in a beautiful and genuine way.

‘Food is the greatest connector in the world’, says Woods. ‘To experience a culture, you need to experience its foods, some of which are unique and rare. I want to connect people with First Nations culture through food, which also involves a connection to Country and to environment, because nothing operates in isolation. The end result is, hopefully, that people are as inspired by nature as I am – by spreading the joy and the love, with ancient ingredients used in dining. By using these native ingredients, we build the community of people who are protecting our Country for future generations.’

‘My restaurant Karkalla in Byron Bay started this for me’, says Mindy, referring to the native-ingredient-driven restaurant, critically acclaimed with 14 hats in the Australian Good Food Guide, that closed in April 2024. ‘It was heart-warming to see people’s response in the restaurant, but these foods belong in the kitchen – it’s about accessibility of ingredients, and versatility, and how to use them.’

Woods is taking a new step in her journey soon. ‘I’m relocating to Karkalla on Country – to a beautiful place on Country, to expand on this immersive experience, which will welcome community and give them a true sense of culture. I have Aunties interested in giving a taste of Country.’

A captivating cookbook featuring First Nations foods, Karkalla at Home champions not only First Nations ingredients but offers greater connection to Indigenous culture and country. Featuring photography shot on Bundjalung land by Rob Palmer and artwork and illustrations from First Nations designer Jenna Lee, this gorgeous hardback celebrates the gifts from this rich and ancient culture and Country. The book is now available online and at bookshops in the Northern Rivers.

See Mindy Woods at the Byron Writers Festival. Mindy Woods will be in conversation with Annabelle Hickson in the Coolamon on Saturday, 10 August between 11.30am to 12.30pm.

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