Mai Contemporary Kaurna Food

Mai Contemporary Kaurna Food is a local Indigenous food project based in the Adelaide Plains of South Australia. The word Mai means “food” in the Kaurna language and is pronounced “may”. The idea behind the project was to create a series of recipes that draw from Kaurna culture and the unique environment of the Adelaide Plains. The seasonal recipes are named after regional ecosystems and emphasise the biodiversity of these areas. They use a specific selection of local Australian Indigenous ingredients. Mai is designed to be affordable, local, healthy and environmentally friendly, but most importantly tasty.

Mai has been served as part of the exhibition Plenty at ACE Open in Adelaide and was served during the 9th Asian Pacific Triennale at the Queensland Art Gallery cafe.

Maramurdumurdu. Photo courtesy James Tylor
Maramurdumurdu. Photo courtesy James Tylor


Maramurdumurdu [Wholemeal flatbread]

Serves 2 people

Maramurdumurdu is a unique style of johnnycake flatbread made from whole grain flour. The name maramurdumurdu translates as “hand bread”: mara “hand” and murdumurdu “bread”. It is held like a taco in your hand.

The maramurdumurdu is made by mixing boiling hot water and wholegrain flour together to create a soft dough. The dough is rolled flat with a unique rolling pin called wirri mai that is purposely designed for making the maramurdumurdu.

The flattened dough is embossed with a zigzag design from the handle of the wirri mai. It is then cut to size in a circle shape with the kurruru mai and cooked on a flat hot cooking surface on each side.

The maramurdumurdu is then ready to be filled with a regional selection of mai vegetable food and pardu meat. If you want to make a more fancy maramurdumurdu, you can blend different Australian food grains into the murdumurdu flour such as wattleseed, kangaroo grass seed, purslane seeds, Australian millet, sandalwood nuts or macadamia nuts for flavour and texture.

Australian Indigenous spices, herbs and salt can be added to the maramurdumurdu to further enhance the flavour. If you are gluten intolerant you can use brown rice flour in the same way as wholemeal wheat flour.

Ingredients

1 cup murdumurdu [wholemeal wheat flour]
1 cup murdumurdu [white wheat flour]  
2 cups kauwi [water]  

Equipment

kampakuru [saucepan]
kuru [bowl]
kurruru mai [15cm circle biscuit cutter]
wirri mai [rolling pin]
pakitarralyi [kitchen bench or chopping board]
tadli tadli [frying pan]

Preparation and cooking

1. Boil 2 cups of water in a saucepan.
2. Add 1 cup of wholemeal wheat flour into the boiling water and stir the flour until it is mixed through well.
3. When the water and the wholemeal wheat flour is mixed together and looks like a thick paste. Remove from heat and let it sit and cool down to room temperature.
4. Once the mixture has cooled it is ready to knead. On a board or a bench top take the white flour in while kneading the wholemeal dough.
5. Knead until the dough is firm and stretchy.
6. Take the wirri mai rolling pin and using the smooth shaft roll out the dough until it’s about 3mm thick. Using the handle of the wirri mai emboss the flatten dough with the zigzag design.
7. Using the kurruru mai in the same way as a biscuit cutter press out the maramurdumurdu flatbread. It should be 12–15 cm in size. You can lift the maramurdumurdu off the board using the wedge tip of the wirri mai which can also be used to flip the maramurdumurdu in the frying pan in the same way as you would use a spatula.
8. Heat a frying pan on the stove without oil. Place maramurdumurdu with the design side on the hot frying pan first. Cook the maramurdumurdu until the bread zigzag design turns to a light brown colour and then flip it to cook the opposite side. If the maramurdumurdu is cooking correctly it should puff up with air on the second side. Using the tip of the wirri mai press the air out of the maramurdumurdu to flatten it back to the pan so that it can cook evenly.
9. Once both sides are golden brown remove from the heat. It is now ready to fill with food. The maramurdumurdu should be soft and flexible, not rubbery or hard, with a texture similar to a cross between a Mexican tortilla and Middle Eastern pitabread.

Mai Tarni [Surf]. Photo courtesy James Tylor
Mai Tarni [Surf]. Photo courtesy James Tylor

Mai Tarni [Surf]

Serves 2 people

Prawns cooked in sea parsley and macadamia oil served on a bed of blanched seablite and round leaved pigface with a Australian river mint, finger lime and seablite mayo topped on a maramurdumurdu wholemeal wheat johnnycake.

Ingredients

12 prawns tails
4 tsp dried seaweed sea lettuce  
1 tsp sea parsley  
1 cup round leaved pigface  
1 cup seablite  
½ cup samphire  
½ cup bowers spinach  
2 desert limes (optional)  
2 finger limes  
4 tbs egg mayonnaise
½ tsp sea salt  
2 river mint leaves
1 tbs macadamia oil  
4 maramurdumurdu mai  

Equipment

kampakuru [saucepan]
kuru [bowl]
tadli tadli [frying pan]
pakipakiti [knife]
pakitarralyi [chopping board]
karnkarnkati [spoon]
pardupamamati [fork or strainer]

Preparation

1. Pre-make the maramurdumurdu before making the filling. You can make the maramurdumurdu 1 or 2 days before, but it is always nicer fresh and warm.
2. If the prawns are uncooked, place them in a sauce pan of boiling water. Cook the prawns in the boiling water until they turn orange. Remove the cooked prawns from the boiling water and allow to cool down. Once the prawns are cool enough to handle, de‑shell the prawns and remove the entrails from the tail. Now the prawns are ready.
3. Pre‑make the mayonnaise dressing. In a bowl mix 4 tbs of whole egg mayonnaise, 2 diced river mint leaves, 1 tbs of diced seablite, the pulp of 2 finger limes and the juice of 1 desert lime. Mix the contents together well. Add extra lime or mint to taste. The desert lime can be substituted with any Australian lime, blood lime, non‑Indigenous lime or lemon juice.

Cooking

1. For the filling, prepare the coastal vegetables by picking the soft leaves and remove the hard woody stems from the round leaved pigface, seablite, samphire, bowers spinach.
2. Take the soft coastal vegetable leaves and blanch them in boiling hot water for 20–30 seconds. Remove the coastal vegetable leaves from the boiling water with a strainer or a fork and place in ice cold water for 1–2 minutes. Blanching the vegetables will turn them bright green and remove the slight irritant in the bower spinach and the round‑leaved pigface. It is okay to under-blanch the vegetables but don’t over-blanch them, because they become soft and soggy.
3. After blanching the vegetables, drain and remove them from the water.
4. Dice the fresh sea parsley. Heat the butter in a frying pan on a low heat. Place the diced sea parsley and garlic with the butter in the frying pan. Cook until the butter has melted and the parsley and garlic is mixed together well, but make sure not to burn the butter or the garlic. Add the prawns and a pinch of sea salt into the hot butter and fry until the prawns are golden brown. Once the prawns are golden brown and cooked remove from the heat.
5. Finally, to serve, fill the warm maramurdumurdu with the blanched coastal vegetables and the prawns. Top the prawns with the mayonnaise and garnish with dried seaweed. Add lime juice or salt to taste. Enjoy!

Mai Tarnta Wama Tarnta [Southern Plains]
Mai Tarnta Wama Tarnta [Southern Plains]. Courtesy James Tylor

Mai Tarnta Wama [Southern Plains]

Serves 2 people

A fillet of kangaroo, seasoned bush tomato, Indigenous thyme, Indigenous basil, sea salt, mountain pepper, grey saltbush on a bed of grey and old man saltbush, quandong jam served in a maramurdumurdu wholemeal wheat flatbread.

Ingredients

1 large fillet of kangaroo  
1 tsp Indigenous basil  
1 tsp Indigenous thyme  
½ tsp ground bush tomato powder
1 tsp ground mountain pepper berries
1 tsp ground mountain leaves  
½ tsp Murray River salt  
1 cup grey saltbush leaves
1 cup old man saltbush leaves  
4 tbs quandong jam  
2 tbs macadamia oil  
4 maramurdumurdu  

Equipment

kampakuru [saucepan]
kuru [bowl]
tadli tadli [frying pan]
pakipakiti [knife]
pakitarralyi [chopping board]
karnkarnkati [spoon]
pardupamamati [fork or strainer]

Preparation

1. Pre-make the maramurdumurdu before making the fillings. You can make the maramurdumurdu a day before, but it is always nicer fresh and warm.
2. You can buy quandong jam or you can make your own jam. To make quandong jam, you will need a clean jam jar with a lid, spoon, a saucepan, two cups of de-seeded fresh halved quandong fruit, half a cup of white sugar and 1 cup of water. Place the fresh quandongs in a saucepan with the water and simmer for 15–20 minutes until the quandongs become a soft sauce. Add the half a cup of sugar and stir until the sauce becomes thick and sticks to the spoon. While the sauce is still hot, pour the sauce into a jam jar and seal the jar with the lid. When the sauce cools it will set as jam. The jam should keep in a sealed jar for 12 months. If you open the jar keep it in the refrigerator.
3. Pre-make some saltbush chips by frying ¼ cup of saltbush leaves in a hot frying pan with macadamia oil until the saltbush chips are crispy.

Cooking

1. For the filling, prepare the saltbush by picking the soft leaves and removing the hard, woody stems from the grey and old man saltbush. Take the saltbush leaves and blanch them in boiling hot water for 20–30 seconds. Remove the saltbush leaves from the boiling water with a strainer or a fork and place in ice cold water for 1–2 minutes. Blanching the saltbush will make them turn bright green. It is okay to under-blanch the vegetables but don’t over-blanch them because they become too soft and soggy. Drain the saltbush leaves to remove the water.
2. In a bowl add the Murray River salt, bush tomato powder, dried native basil, dried native thyme, ground mountain pepper berries and leaf and blend the Indigenous spices.
3. Take the kangaroo fillet and coat the meat in the Indigenous spices. Let the meat marinate in the spices for an hour or more in the refrigerator.
4. Heat some macadamia oil in a frying pan until hot and place the kangaroo in the pan. Cook the kangaroo until it is golden brown on each side and the kangaroo is cooked through. Slice the kangaroo fillet into thin strips.
5. Finally, to serve, take a warm maramurdumurdu and fill it with the blanched saltbush and the sliced kangaroo. Top the sliced kangaroo with the quandong jam and garnish with saltbush chips. Season with mountain pepper and Murray River salt to taste. Enjoy!

James Tylor is an Australian artist of Nunga (Kaurna), Māori (Te Arawa) and European (British, Irish, Dutch and Norwegian) heritage. The Mai Contemporary Kaurna Food recipe book will be published in 2020.

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