Arika Errington is a Wakka Wakka and Wulli Wulli woman who runs Tukka By The Bush, a bush foods business designed to get people cooking with culture.
Arika was part of an Indigenous catering business with Ngunnawal man Richie Allan and Wiradjuri chef Alexander Latham. Their business, Dyurra Yhurramuulan, which means star dreaming in Ngunnawal language, wasn’t able to continue during COVID-19, but Arika wanted to keep working with native ingredients.
Arika was growing a native edible garden in her own home, and as the trend for homemade sourdough started to take off, she realised she had a business opportunity she could do from home.
“People were trying to make sourdough which is extremely difficult, but damper is so simple. You just add water!” Arika told Region.
Arika started to sell damper kits flavoured with different native ingredients. Her kits became popular, especially with families who shared the activity with children. As well as damper kits, Arika also makes tea blends with a hardenbergia base and flavoured with native herbs like river mint, native lemongrass, and peppermint gum. She also occasionally sells spice kits, depending on availability.
Arika hopes that by making native ingredients more accessible, more people will feel confident using them in everyday cooking.
“You can replace pretty much everything with bush food. I replace salt with saltbush and mountain pepperberry for pepper, and I also use a lot of native thyme, which adds such a delicious flavour.”
Arika often posts on her social media about different ways people can use native ingredients in their everyday cooking, and she’ll even come to your house and work with your family to make a meal and help you make bush food substitutions with everyday pantry items. These in-house demonstrations are a great way to gain confidence using new ingredients and learn new recipes you can make regularly.
She acknowledges that bush foods can be expensive but stresses the importance of sourcing from Indigenous-owned businesses where possible.
“Buy from Indigenous businesses or allied businesses where the money goes back into communities because that’s where all the knowledge is coming from,” she said.
She’s pleased to see that Indigenous ingredients are becoming easier to find in local shops rather than being sent for export. Her daughter’s school also grows and uses native ingredients; Arika recently donated a bunch of warrigal greens that were growing abundantly in her garden.
She also encourages people to try planting their own native garden to take advantage of the many delicious native plants that are drought tolerant and well suited to the landscape.
Arika’s top tip for using bush foods in your everyday cooking is to take a recipe that you’re familiar with and find a native ingredient substitute. For example, in a bolognese sauce, simply substitute some tinned tomatoes with bush tomatoes. She recommends tasting and smelling the ingredients first, then adding them gradually to the dish until you can really taste the flavour.
Her damper kits are really easy to use and the native ingredients are delicious. I tried the lemon myrtle damper, and the citrusy flavour really shone through. It made a delicious breakfast with butter and honey, accompanied by Arika’s delicious homegrown tea.