What to Bring Back From Australia

It is a universal truth that, however hard you try to clear the table before you take a trip somewhere, you will come home to several pressing deadlines. Add to that the general vertigo of readjusting to your own continent, time zone, hemisphere, language, driving side, and opposing season — the latter is probably the most disorienting –, and an entire week may slip by before you find your footing and report back on said trip.

Let me first express my gratitude to the C&Z readers who took the time to answer my request for edible recommendations in Western Australia: thank you! Your tips and notes proved immensely helpful, not to mention fun to collate.

They really built up my anticipation, too, and I’m pleased to say the actual experience managed to surpass my expectations: WA (pronounced “double-you-ay”) has a lot more going for it than most people realize, and during my stay in both Perth and Albany, I was impressed by the variety and quality of local foods.

Here are a few highlights, in no particular order. (Not everything I sampled was strictly local, I should note, but when you’ve come all the way from France, the notion of “local” can span four thousand kilometers.) Here we go.

Things I’ve tasted

[View pictures on the moblog.]

~ Kangaroo meat: because it is super lean, it is best cooked super rare. The good people at Little Creatures make a mean marinated and grilled version, served with bush tomato chutney and a view out onto the harbour. This alone may be worth the twenty-hour flight.

~ The last of Gabrielle Kervella’s biodynamic goat’s milk Rondelet cheese. She has sadly stopped producing it, but it is still served — while supplies last — at Must Winebar.

~ Plenty of seafoodmarron and yabbies (two varieties of freshwater crayfish), Australian salmon, gigantic tiger prawns, soft-shell crab, trout, beefy mussels

~ Some of the best mangoes I’ve ever had — juicy, soft, floral, acidulated, and not in the least stringy. (The ones sold in Paris are okay, but they’ve been flown in from Pakistan or Peru, poor things, and this obviously has an impact on their flavor.)

~ A lemon poppyseed friand, cute as a button and the ideal plane snack, purchased from David Jones‘ food hall. Friands are to Australia what financiers are to France, i.e. butter-rich almond teacakes, only they’re baked in high-sided oval molds, as opposed to shallow rectangular ones. And this, believe it or not, changes the personality of the cake entirely.

~ I’ve sampled (perhaps more than) my share of excellent, excellent wines, chiefly from the Margaret River and Great Southern regions. I’ve also had the opportunity to try some sparkling shiraz (E&E from the Barossa valley), an Australian exclusivity that takes some getting used to — “Waiter! There is red mousse in my wine!” — but quickly grows on you.

~ And, let’s see. There was also some very tasty lamb and duck, superior olive oil and artisan bread, and yes, a few Tim-Tams: with so many supporters, how could I pass? But I regret to report that, without the magic pinch of childhood nostalgia, well, they’re just supermarket cookies — sorry. (You would no doubt feel the same about the Pépitos and Barquettes à la fraise that fueled my teenage days.)

Things I’ve brought back

French customs agents couldn’t care less what edibles you’re bringing back into the country — bless their chocolate-covered hearts — but, had they been curious about the contents of my luggage, here are some of the things they would have found, in between clothes and an unreasonable number of books purchased during the writers festival:

~ Roasted ground wattleseed (extraordinary coffee/cocoa flavor) from the Bush Tucker Shop,
~ Ground lemon myrtle (v. lemongrassy, not unlike the handwipes you get with seafood platters, and I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it — homemade handwipes?) from The Grocer,
~ Dried and ground bush tomato (tangy and sweet), also from The Grocer,
~ Murray River pink salt flakes,
~ Dukkah, an Egyptian mix of ground nuts, seeds, and spices that was new to me, but seems very popular in Australia (“Yeah no, it was really big fifteen years ago,” Melbourne restaurant critic Stephen Downes informed me with a grin),
~ Pistachio butter (not particularly Australian, I know, but oh-so-tempting),
~ Unrefined macadamia oil,
~ Raw macadamia nuts,
~ Crystallized ginger,
~ Dried muscatel grapes (with seeds, and still attached to the stem),
~ Delicious dried “fruit salad” from Whisk & Pin (also a great plane snack),
~ Elixir raw honey — I got the smallest jar available and it happened to be wildflower honey,
~ Rose-flavored pashmak, a.k.a. Persian fairy floss (not particularly Australian either, but just as irresistible),
~ Organic chocolate-covered macadamia nuts from Chadwick’s,
~ A few bars of Carmel Valley chocolate,
~ Shiraz chocolate from Cocoa Farm,
~ Organic cow’s milk feta from Over the Moon,
~ And a stack of magazines — Spice Magazine, Vogue Entertaining + Travel, Delicious., Donna Hay Magazine, and Gourmet Traveller — that have proved quite inspirational.

Things you can’t eat

~ Spending ten fun-filled days in the company of writers, festival organizers, and bloggers,
~ Going on a mini-cruise down the Swan River, drinking white wine on the deck of the boat, and jumping in for a swim,
~ Having Pam Lincoln show me around her organic vineyard, Oranje Tractor, and considering spending the rest of my days in her orchard (if you’ve been searching for the Garden of Eden, look no further),
~ Attending a performance of The Moth,
~ Learning new words and expressions (capsicum, eschalot, over East, good on ya, Sunday sesh…) and finding solace in the fact that Australians, unlike my American friends, use the word “entrée” correctly, to mean first course, not main (hint hint),
~ Visiting the Perth art gallery and being transported by the early settlers’ paintings and the Roger Ballen exhibition.

  • Debbie

    I always use the dried lemon myrtle as a herb crust for a roast of pork. It is absolutely delicious. Fabulous on bar-be-qued fish (or fish cooked any way really…). Delicious in a stir fry, or as a marinade ingredient or coating for chicken.

    Also added to desserts for a lemony tang, or brewed as a tisane.

    Lemon myrtle and wattle seeds are the things which I always have in my cupboard here in Paris and use on a regular basis.

    Bush tomatoes are really nice in a sauce, or just crushed over meats.

    The Murray River salt flakes are important as they are produced as a byproduct of the attempts to decrease the salinity of the Murray system. A very different flavour to normal sea salts.

  • Lilia

    Welcome back from a long trip, Clotilde! Loved to read all the things you habe brought back. Can’t help salivating about new things I don’t know what to do with. Then, comes Debbie with all the explanation and what she does with it. You will have a ball using up all your new collections!

  • Why does everything Down Under sound so fantastical?!

    Pink salt flakes, marron and yabbies, Tim-Tams, wattlesead.

    This post blew my mind. Also, I want to try all of this.

    Clotilde someday you must come to the South and try cracklins, johnny cakes, boiled peanuts, she-crab soup, Little Miss Debbie Cakes…

  • Wow, it sounds like you threw some clothes away to make room for all that booty! Can’t wait to see what you cook up with it.

  • molly

    clotilde did a wonderful spread on the delicacies of the american south: see here.

  • gingerpale

    Ah, welcome back, it’s nice to have you writing again. (I wouldn’t mind hearing a little more about WA before Spring comes to Paris!)

  • Welcome back! Looking forward to what you’re going to make with those Aussie goodies.

  • Joan

    It wouldn’t surprise me at all if the WA Tourist Board snapped Clotilde up!!!!

    What a stunning round up of a trip…don’t think I’ve ever read so fast..so excited was I to discover what came next…a pageturner without pages…

    yes yes yes to the Art Gallery…have only had the opportunity to visit once..it made a great impression on me…

    Am tickled pink you enjoyed your stay…fingers crossed the eastern side of Oz gets to meet you one of these fine days…

    again, thanks for a truly wondrous travel tale

  • Jeddah

    I have a small jar of Wattleseed and I have added it to a classic Aussie recipe – Anzac Biscuits – Brilliant!
    Good to hear about all your travels!

  • Niliac

    We are very lucky in aus I’ll admit it! Next time you visit us I hope you can make it to the east!

  • Lord Daniel

    “Yeah no” Do anyone else but Australians do this, out of curiosity. We all do it, even me and I try not to.
    I’m exceedingly glad you enjoyed your time here in Austalia, and you are right, tim tams are not anything particularly special.

  • welcome back! would love to see what you create with the goodies you brought back :)

  • Inspiring list indeed – thank you for sharing your list. I enjoyed reading especially about your discovery of the friand. Interesting how the shape of a cake can make all the difference.

  • Oh I love how you captured that “yeah no”. And hurrah for the entrée as first course! I am glad you had a great time in merry old Oz :)

  • I wanted to add that ‘Yeah no’ needed to be added to the list of new words and expressions, but am glad to see fellow australians picked it up too.

  • Carol

    God I feel homesick now.

    An aussie in Geneva

  • Ahh…if only American customs agents were so lienient. I lost a fair bit of booty my last time through. It sounds like a wonderful trip and a great haul. The vinyard looks amazing.

  • Wow. To think that the things I take for granted here in Australia seem exotic on the other side of the world. Thank you for reminding me that I live in a country that is blessed with wonderful produce, a rich range of fare and an open mind when it comes to cross cultural eating.

  • So glad to hear you enjoyed yourself. Hope you’ll make it to the “Tuscany of Australia” next time: The Adelaide Hills and Barossa Valley. Adelaide has a brilliant produce market. Greetings from “SA” (Ess Ay), South Australia.

  • I invite you the try Philippine mangoes, if you’ve the opportunity. In particular, carabao mangoes from the Guimaras.

  • Quel voyage et que de découvertes gourmandes! Bon retour parmi nous.

  • shelli

    Welcome back, it seems like it’s been ages. What an interesting trip it seems to have been.

    Lucky you had enough yummy snacks for the plane on such a long flight; and of course you brought enough for Maxence as well, right? Right? ;-)

  • Perhaps you are right about the childhood nostalgia, but I once had an Aussie friend show me the “proper way to eat a Tim-Tam”, and I must say, though it remained a grocery store cookie, it surpassed the Oreo by leaps and bounds: You have to bite the end of the Tim-Tam, then dip it into hot tea with milk and suck the tea through the cookie. It melts the interior as you sip. Then, you have to shove the quickly dissolving mess into your mouth. It really is quite an experience :)

  • Malcolm

    I am glad you enjoyed your stay here in WA, my boss and I would have loved to have come to hear you speak while you were here but sadly all the tickets had sold out. It was she who introduced your wonderful site to me. I see you also managed to buy a couple of products from my place of employment, good choices I say.

  • It is always interesting to see how ones home town is seen by others. I’m glad you enjoyed your stay Clotilde. I hope you had a swim in the ocean at one of the beautiful beaches. The mangoes are just the best aren’t they. I’m dreading the end of the season. A suggestion for the lemon myrtle is to use it flavour a sugar syrup and combine with fruit. A favourite cafe of mine here serves it with an iced green tea. The flavoured syrup sits on the bottam of the glass and the green tea floats on top. It is delicious.

  • Melissa

    Hello, glad you enjoyed WA.. You can use lemon myrtle basically like you would use lemon. I have used it in chocolate, biscuits especially shortbread, as a crust on fish, kangaroo, beef and pork.. Lemon Myrtle is just one of the many things we have in Australia.. If you want to learn more try http://www.renaissanceherbs.com.au

  • gerard poirot

    Dear Clotilde,

    après tous ces bons vins australiens, il serait temps de se mettre à déguster un peu sérieusement les vins français (et les autres…), non ? Un prochain bouquin sur les pinards ?


  • eamcl2

    Lemon myrtle and wattleseed are both used to great effect by my favorite chocolatier in the US– Vosges. She mixes lemon myrtle into white chocolate–I have been wanting to try it in a white chocolate mousse by steeping the lemon myrtle in the cream. Let us all know what experiments you conjure up!

  • Oh, I loved reading about your trip! I love culinary tourism, and its sounds like this trip was a delight! Really, I can’t say that one thing fascinated me more than another because it’s all so different from the produce and offerings here in Seattle. How lucky to have experienced all of these delights, from Wattleseed to Shiraz chocolates…oh my.

  • Angela

    I have heard that the citrol oil in lemon myrtle acts something like tea tree oil: anti-viral and anti-bacterial. My favorite organic fair-trade tea company makes a lovely Lemon Jasmine Green tea with lemon myrtle. Many claim it works wonders on colds and sore throats (including me:).

  • Welcome Home
    Boy, I’m SO jealous of all the “illicit” goodies that you brought back…LOL I’ve never been to Oz, but it’s on my “bucket” list along with parachuting and spending some quality time in the Outback. Sounds to me you love to explore, forage and really get a real “hands on” experience with everything. My kind of gal.

  • What a wonderful post on this Monday morning in sunny Sydney. So lovely to hear you enjoyed yourself if our beautiful country. Come back soon!

  • Mg

    So nice to read your food experiences as they brought back many good memories of my travels to Sydney! Loved it–and the course work at the Sydney Seafood School! Awesome. But, I fell in LOVE, like you, with the native sweet–the with the Friand! Came back to the U.S. and tried to find the “molds” and nothing. I finally have them, have done tons of research for recipes, and tons of baking. Everyone loves them too! Can’t believe you did not give us your recipe so I can add it to my collection. Hope you send it along soon.
    Love your book..Congrats on the French Version!

  • Katie Pepper

    So impressed that you swam in the Swan River! Brave girl!

  • Lady jicky

    I am a Aussie and I do not see what is so wonderful with Tim Tams either! LOL

    A Bowen Mango is a hard act to follow – best in the world.
    Next time you come over – Melbourne is waiting for you!

  • cath

    I once had a lemon myrtle panna cotta .. it soaked up the flavour well. But they may have used fresh leaves because it was on Fraser Island where there are plenty of lemon myrtle trees.
    Hurrah for yeah no! (anyone remember Diver Dan?) nah, yeah, no, yeah, she’ll be right.
    The edition that I was able to find of the C&Z book is in American so I have a constant reminder of the strangeness of “entree” meaning main.
    Are the cup measures close enough to the same? what about the teaspoons? Donna Hay’s mag reckons they won’t make a huge difference and also informed me that a stick of butter means 125g.
    Great to have you back Clotilde, please write again soon!

  • How wonderful to see Australia praised so warmly! Glad you enjoyed your trip – and you are lucky the french customs officers are far more lenient than those in Australia. I hope you get to visit my hometown Melbourne some time soon as it has lots of fantastic foodie offerings (as you probably have already heard lots of others claim)

    Wattleseed is fantastic with chocolate – I have used it in chocolate cake and chocolate truffles instead of coffee because I don’t like the taste of coffe but I love the depth of flavour in wattleseed. I have used lemon myrtle in a damper (sort of like a big scone if you haven’t heard of them).

  • You lucky thing! Everything sounds fabulous :) I will keep your list for when I go visit my cousins there (I have never been yet!)…

    I love Australian food magazines :) Especially Donna Hay!

  • Swedoz

    Feeling very homesick reading this from the gastronomic desert of sweden (unless you are a super-mega-rich).

    Can’t wait to see how you use some of the local ingredients. My Swedish girlfriend (hey there have to be some benefits) complains that lemon myrtle tastes too lemony. Hmmm, isn’t that the whole idea. Bush tomato makes a fantastic risotto as pointed out by the Aussie spice/herb guru Ian Hemphill in his Spice Notes book (a must for anyone interested in Aussie herbs/spices).

    Feel like a need to jump on a plane right now. You capture the essence of Aussie food and wine.

  • Magali

    This is not related to your post, but congrats on being in the Gardian’s World’s 50 most powerful blogs!

  • Good onya Clotilde – sounds like you had a fantastic time. Looking forward to reading about how you use all your wonderful new Aussie ingredients and ideas. Come back soon, and come to SA and Adelaide next time!

  • Angela

    Try the dried lemon myrtle in a cheesecake – delicious!!

  • j.turner

    Wonderful blog. I’m surprised dukkah is not more commonly known in France as it is found all over North Africa and the Near East. We used to buy it wrapped in a paper cone from a street vendor & dip fresh hot bread in it. My God, the memories this brings back!

  • I live in Queensland – way over the other side of Australia – I’ve never been to WA but would love to go. I’m always amazed at the information we get from people from overseas about our own Country. Great insight into the food too by the way. Great blog!

  • kinou

    Must admit we do have some of the best food magazines of anywhere. Check out http://www.taste.com.au for recipes from Delicious magazine – because of taste.com.au website I now have a laptop in my kitchen!

    Love your blog. Love your cookbook. Love your story. kx

  • Friands are Asutralian?? Who knew! I always assumed they were French.

  • Mmmm to Aussie wine and seafood. Sounds like heaven. Glad you could bring a piece home with you!


  • random

    sorry, i just came across your site and am from Australia… WA is Western Australia.. West Australia sounds a tad too weird :P

  • Melanie

    No one mentions melting moments – they’re those lovely vanilla cream filled shortbread cookies you buy at coffee places. Mmmm…

  • All — Thanks for your thoughts on the things I brought back, and for the lemon myrtle suggestions!

    Cath – Actually, I never use “entree” to mean main course, so unless my editor slipped one in, there shouldn’t be any occurrence of this in the book.

    As for American cups and spoons, they are equivalent to 240 ml and 15 ml, and a stick of butter is 4 ounces, or 112 grams. If you want to check specific weight equivalents, you can take a look at my conversion page.

  • Sounds like a wonderful list! Can’t wait to read about what you make with these ingredients.

  • Sharon

    Wonderful to hear you enjoyed your trip I must admit to a passion for Little Creatures on a hot balmy WA Sunday afternoon their fries with garlic mayo and a glass of icy cool bright ale…..yummmmm
    we are so lucky to be able to live the things that visitors to this State can only dibble their toes into……love your blog :)

  • Oh thank goodness, someone else who finds Tim Tams just a supermarket biscuit – and I’m Australian! I completely don’t get the over-adoration of this chocolate biscuit.

    Sounds like you had a lovely time and indeed those WA wines are some of the best. Come back anytime :-)

  • Yay! Good ol’ WA.

    Glad you enjoyed your trip down under to Oz. What a great deal of booty you brought back. No vegemite?

  • Most times when I make the Gateau au Yaourt batter, I bake it as friands. It’s a perfect recipe for friands, I bake them for 12 – 15 minutes depending on what ‘extras’ I put in the batter.

  • cath

    Ah thanks for the measures.
    What I meant was strange was the absence of the word “entree” in the book! “Starter” is used instead, you’re right – just unfamiliar to me.

    To the other Cath – not only do we have the same name, but the first time I ever heard of friands was in France! So I also thought the name French. I was living with a French family in Poussan, near Montpellier, and the mum made friands with the egg whites and custard/creme anglaise with the yolks.. yum.

  • Evan

    Thanks for the blog! We’ve nearly crossed paths, I’m in Freo just now and I’ll be using your blog for ideas for my travel. You can find my blog of Australia at:
    good on ya,

  • Rita

    Donna Hay Magazine is my absolute favorite. I buy all the issues and drool over the wonderful pictures. I wish it arrived faster in the U.S. It seems that there is a 4 or 5 month delay. I would consider subscribing to it to get it faster, but I cringe at the thought of the magazine being all marked and scrunched up during the delivery process.

    Thank you for sharing your wonderful travel adventures!

  • ceviz

    The trick with lemon myrtle is not to overcook it, as it releases a bitter taste. Best to add it in the last minute. It works even better in salads. I go through heaps. Dukkah: a great recipe in Stephanie Alexander’s book, and the homemade version is the best. Again goes well sprinkled over salads and perfect on boiled eggs.

  • I am glad you had a lovely time in Australia. There is so much to see due to the size of the land.

    If you do venture this way again, I can recommend produce from South Australia….King Island, Maggie Beer , Barossa Valley for eg.

    melbourne is wonderfully rich with a variety of restaurants.

    I’m just about to venture over to Brussels and paris this weekend for some days….i’m looking forward to rewarding my taste buds.

  • Tania

    Thanks for your most entertaining post.

    Just an idea for you – my favourite ice-cream ever was wattleseed flavoured – which to me tasted just like a cappuccino.. yum, yum, yum (I’ve heard that the Italians import wattleseed for their gelati!)

  • You seem to have explored more Australian tastes than I have, and I’m Australian! But clearly you didn’t try Chocolate Mud Tim Tams, or you’d understand they are the finest of (supermarket) biscuits.

    The “Tim Tam drinking straw” experience is best enjoyed with coffee, not tea.

    Lemon myrtle is exquisite stirred through yoghurt, perhaps with a little honey. Wattleseed can be sprinkled on, believe it or not, ale.

  • Great to see you enjoyed Australia…but you neglected to put in your case some Haighs chocolate (from South Australia) and next time please visit my home state of Tasmania for some great food and wine :)

  • Angela

    My best memory of wattleseed was as gelato. I used to get one scoop of wattleseed and one scoop of rich dark chocolate gelato from a shop on the wharf at Circular Quay, Sydney to have as dessert as I wandered with friends around to the Opera House late at night.

    And I agree, even though I am in Queensland now, Tasmania has the most phenomenal fresh food in Australia!

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