“We can all play a role in supporting and strengthening our communities through First Nations foods,” writes Damien Coulthard in the introduction to First Nations Food Companion, which he co-wrote with his partner Rebecca Sullivan.

“Over the past decade there has been a rapid growth in the native foods industry: First Nations foods are now front and centre at gin distilleries, featured on menus at local cafes and top restaurants in most major cities. Native botanicals that have provided health and wellness for diverse nations over many generations are new-but-old flavours for some,” he says.

The Adnyamathanha man founded native food business Warndu with Sullivan in 2014 to help introduce ingredients such as Davidson plum, wattleseed, finger lime, quandong and pepperberry to the wider Australian population.

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The couple lives on a 38-hectare property on Ngadjuri Country, in the Clare Valley, where they grow their foods and “learn about these amazing native plants every day,” writes Sullivan. “These are the oldest foods eaten – but also the newest foods in the sense that they are finally getting the attention they deserve.”

Foods such as saltbush, which you can use “like you would Swiss chard”, can be bought fresh from specialist supermarkets such as Harris Farm – or pepperberry (“use like you would pepper or chilli”) from Indigenous-owned businesses such as Indigiearth or Warndu.

In this classic cob loaf, Coulthard and Sullivan suggest wilting warrigal greens instead of spinach. “Warrigal” means “wild” in Dharug language, and European settlers were known to use it to help prevent scurvy. It can be bought fresh – the younger the leaves the less bitter – and you can think of cooking it like silverbeet or bok choy.

If you don’t want to use warrigal greens, or can’t access any, simply substitute for spinach or bower spinach. The same goes for saltbush; if you can’t source any, use capers, caper leaves, karkalla, seablite or samphire to create the same salty bite to cut through the creamy filling.

Warrigal greens and saltbush cob
Serves 4–6
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes

1 cob loaf
1 tbsp olive oil
4 spring onions, thinly sliced
250g bacon, diced
2 sprigs saltbush leaves, finely chopped
10 warrigal greens leaves, finely chopped
2 tbsp chives, thinly sliced
250g cream cheese
160ml (2/3 cup) pure cream
160g (2/3 cup) sour cream
200g cheddar, grated
Salt and ground pepperberry
1/2 baguette, sliced
Sea parsley, native thyme, saltbush and seablite

Preheat the oven to 160°C. Cut the top off the loaf and reserve, then pull out the bread from the centre, leaving a 2cm shell. Tear or chop bread into coarse pieces.

Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add spring onion and bacon and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until bacon is browned and onion has softened. Add saltbush and warrigal greens and toss quickly until wilted. Remove from the heat.

Add chives to the pan, stir in cream cheese, then add cream, sour cream and cheddar. Stir to combine. Season with salt and ground pepperberry.

Spoon dip mixture into cob shell. Arrange the lid, bread pieces and sliced baguette in a single layer on a baking tray around the loaf.

Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly toasted.

Top dip with herbs, replace the lid and serve warm.

This is an edited extract from First Nations Food Companion by Damien Coulthard and Rebecca Sullivan, photography by Josh Geelen, Murdoch Books, $49.99. Buy it here.

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