Wild food dinner reconnects cooks with the environment

By Rachael Andrews
Thursday, 3rd March 2011

Taking food from the wild and turning it into a gourmet dish is a full-time job for native food chef Andrew Fielke, who was behind some amazing creations at the first annual Wine & Wild Food Dinner in South Australia in 2010. The native food chef created a five-course degustation dinner matched with wines by Angove winemaker Tony Ingle for more than 100 guests at the Sanctuary Restaurant in the Adelaide Zoo.

The old saying goes that if you give a man a fish, you will feed him for a day, but if you teach a man to fish, you will feed him for a lifetime. The Conservation & Hunting Alliance of South Australia (CHASA) took this adage quite literally when it began organising a dinner showcasing wild meats cooked in new and exciting ways. The dream became a reality at the sell-out Wine & Wild Food Dinner.

The five courses for the evening were all part of a story Andrew was trying to tell his guests. The first course was based on South Australia’s Coorong, with mullet accompanied by muntries terrine, sea parsley and cockle salsa verde with coastal saltbush leaves. The second course was based on the plains environment, and featured wild rabbit, desert limes and dates with couscous and coriander salad.

The wild duck’s traditional home in a wetland was the theme of the third dish, which included wild duck leg samosa, seared duck breast, spiced river mint and pea purée. The final meat dish of the evening was a rare venison loin from the Adelaide Hills with a sweet potato spring roll, stir-fry warrigal greens and a native currant glaze.

The rainforest-inspired dessert course consisted of a coconut lemon myrtle sago pudding, Davidson plum coulis and mango macadamia gelato.

Andrew said he attempted to give guests a real feeling for the food and its environment through each course by using locally found ingredients to accompany each wild food.

“I felt it was important to get a sense of where the wild food came from,” he said. “It is so often true that things that live and grow together go really well together on the plate.”

Native Australian food is a passion that began for Andrew while working in restaurants many years ago. During his time in the food industry, Andrew has seen wild meat such as duck, rabbit and venison rise and fall in popularity, with rabbit meat popularity peaking in the 1990s.

“The Australian psyche with food is changing with the MasterChef phenomenon,” Andrew said. “There are more and more people out there looking for interesting food to cook than ever before.”

The evening was a true representation of how you can take food from the wild and turn it into a gourmet meal. Dinner organisers were delighted with the evening’s success and CHASA chairman Tony Sharley said it was hoped that those who attended were inspired by the exceptional quality of the dishes that were created from wild food.

“This is a great opportunity to promote the fact that healthy food comes from a healthy environment,” Tony said. “This dinner showed how exceptional game meat can be when it’s cooked by a world-class chef and it has hopefully inspired the people who attended to think beyond supermarket meats and to consider new ways of preparing the meat.”

The wild meat for the event was supplied by members of the South Australian Ferret Association, Australian Deer Association, Working Gundogs Association of Australia, Hellenic Shooting Sports Association of South Australia, and Field & Game Australia.

Tony Sharley said it was dinners such as the Wine & Wild Food Dinner that would help feed this interest as diners were made aware of the origins of their food.

“Today, what we eat has been genetically modified and we really only enjoy a much smaller range of food than what our ancestors did,” Tony said. “Eating wild food is maintaining a much stronger connection with the environment and natural, healthy foods.”