From Bush to Plate with Aunty Dale Chapman

Aunty Dale Chapman is a celebrated and award-winning chef, and founder of My Dilly Bag.
We caught up with her to find out why she’s passionate about sharing some of the oldest foods in the world with each and every community.

What inspired you start My Dilly Bag?

I started sharing my knowledge of Australian native bushfoods two decades ago. My aim was to encourage the celebration of our incredible Aboriginal culture. And while bush tucker is a brilliant way to share food and wisdom, I saw a need to help keep these flavours in use - in everyday meals and on the menu in restaurants around the world!

Being a qualified chef, the exploration of flavours is an absolute delight. So, I put together a cookbook and held many events where native botanical flavours could be incorporated into everyday recipes.

I also found bush food ingredients were inaccessible and that Aboriginal people were not benefiting from the few brands on the market. I wanted to change this! I set out to work with Aboriginal communities to establish a sustainable supply chain of native Australian spices, herbs, nuts, and grains. These relationships and fresh, high quality products are still on my pricelist today.

Over the years, I found some ingredients were unavailable through Aboriginal communities so I set up great relationships with wonderful non-indigenous farmers to supplement the range. With such a variety of ingredients now accessible to the general public, chefs and food manufacturers, I quickly became the go-to for Aboriginal bushfood ingredients on the Sunshine Coast and Queensland, as well as a pioneer educator in how to enjoy them.

Can you share what products and services My Dilly Bag offers?

My Dilly Bag offers a range of off-the-shelf high grade Australian native spices and herbs which are ready to use with my cookbook, Coo-ee Cuisine.

We also offer a unique range of soul-warming food products, including pastas, biscuits, jams, chutneys, infused oils, infused drink syrups, sweet and savoury dukkahs, and much more.  They taste sensational and celebrate the incredible culinary assets our native botanicals can bring to a meal. 

We’re also launching online cooking classes in 2021 so I can teach others how to use these wonderful indigenous flavours. We’ve developed an educational program, along with a sensory learning kit to allow educators to take their students through a bush food journey – smelling, tasting and exploring the herbs and spices.

I also present to groups at conferences and events, as well as garden walks with Veronica Cougan at Witjutigrub Nursery in the Sunshine Coast hinterland or in local community gardens. And at our new bush food shop in Forest Glenn on the Sunshine Coast (opening February 2021) we’ll be running informative workshops and yarns.

My team and I also travel the Queensland south east corner sharing My Dilly Bag’s delicious food products and Aboriginal artisan range, and often participate in events by presenting ancient wisdom cooking demonstrations.

Do you find your customers enjoying lemon myrtle in your cooking workshops?

Lemon myrtle is definitely a favourite! My Dilly Bag customers are always amazed at the variety of uses lemon myrtle has in both sweet and savoury meals, treats or straight up as a tea. It also has wonderful medicinal benefits, being high in antioxidants and having antifungal and antibacterial properties.

How do you encourage people to use lemon myrtle?

At workshops I take a fresh bunch of lemon myrtle so people can experience the leaf’s texture and smell. When crushed, they have a distinctively pleasant lemon-lime scent. And to help them connect with the tree as the source, I explain how to pluck and use it straight off the shrub. It’s very special and I encourage them to use it fresh, dried, infused in oils, or in salad dressings. I have a number of great recipes in my cookbook aimed at helping customers make the jump from in-class or online demonstrations to incorporating lemon myrtle into their own cooking at home.

I also make it easy for everyone by supplying: ready-to-use dried lemon myrtle leaves for cooking, lemon myrtle biscuits which customers adore with a cuppa, lemon myrtle soap from the My Dilly Bag well-being range and lemon myrtle bush lollies that disappear far too quickly! It’s a fantastic, versatile, and ultra-aromatic Aboriginal ingredient that I adore to see celebrated.

What's your favourite meal to make with lemon myrtle?

It would absolutely have to be my Lemon Myrtle Custard Tart from my cookbook Coo-ee Cuisine. It has a zing, slurp and a crunch that transforms an ordinary moment into one you want to live in forever. This simple recipe offers great (and delicious) reward.