Chef Analiese Gregory on Tasmania's eclectic produce and what to try
From abalone to wallaby, Analiese Gregory champions the eclectic produce of Australia’s island state.
Before moving to Tasmania, chef Analiese Gregory had only ever been a holiday diver. Now she rarely goes anywhere without a wetsuit, hood, gloves and boots. Why? Because the island is beautiful and pristine, and you can dive for luxury ingredients like abalone, wakame or sea urchin.
Analiese has become so hooked as a diver she says she’s renowned for “doing stupid things on [her] own”. Like driving down to the southernmost tip of Tasmania, diving off rocks for abalone or scaling cliffs to collect seaweed to make seaweed jam.
For many years in Tasmania, people learned to cook at home. Most Tasmanians had a cow or a quince tree in their backyard, snared possum or shot kangaroos in the bush. Isolated from the city, without a local supermarket and with few cafes, life would often come down to creative self-sufficiency.
“It might be called foraging now, but it’s still just collecting stuff,” says Analiese. It’s ‘farm to table’ in the sense that farmers bring in produce that’s fresh and seasonal, including wallaby and possum, and the kitchen works with it. But, she says, the approach is not unique to Tasmania.
“Goat’s milk, skirret, blackberries, celtuce (originally from China) and seablite are all available somewhere else,” she says. “Sea urchin and cray are available everywhere. So are pine mushrooms… people think they’re niche Tasmanian, but it’s really just how you see things. By looking at where you are in a different way, these are things you might find in your environment.”
This is an edited extract from Hilary Burden’s introduction to How Wild Things Are, by Analiese Gregory, published by Hardie Grant (RRP: £22).
Analiese’s top three must-try ingredients
Known locally as muttonfish, this large, grazing sea snail has a meaty texture and white flesh. They’re plentiful in the cold waters of Tasmania and most locals grew up eating them. My current favourite way of cooking them is by steaming in the shell, slicing and frying in brown butter with capers, parsley and lemon, before wrapping in a cos lettuce leaf.
Also known as mountain pepper, these are the berries of the endemic tasmannia lanceolata shrub. With a flavour somewhere between sumac and Sichuan pepper, they work equally well in sweet and savoury dishes. The entire plant is edible; the small twigs make amazing skewers for grilling with, adding flavour to meat and seafood.
Tasmania is the only state in Australia where it’s legal to harvest wallaby, a delicious, environmentally friendly meat. I enjoy it as a tartare or grilled on skewers, but a chef friend mistook it for lamb one day and successfully pot roasted a loin.
Published in the April 2021 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)
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