Dancing grass crumpets
I’m making a huge assumption but, due to last year’s Covid-19 lockdowns, I figure most people now have access to a sourdough starter/mother. If you don’t have your own, I recommend sweet-talking a friend into lending you some of theirs and building it into a workable quantity.
These crumpets are made using about 60 per cent starter, and you will end up with a much more sour result than if you’d made them using yeast. Because of this it’s appropriate to serve them with savoury accompaniments such as smoked fish, or eggs with loads of pepper. If you do go with the suggested honey and butter, I’d suggest using more butter than seems appropriate in order to balance the flavours.
Mandadyan nalluk (dancing grass) is a native Australian millet that is beginning to be commercially harvested after more than 200 years lying dormant in our landscape. Dancing grass, together with several other grain and grass varieties, is harvested by Black Duck Foods, a social enterprise founded by Bruce Pascoe, the author of Dark Emu, which examines the inherent benefits of pre-European Aboriginal agriculture and aquaculture.
Small quantities have been harvested in the Mallacoota region since the Black Summer bushfires ravaged Black Duck Foods’ original kangaroo grass stocks. Dancing grass, and the flour that results, has a deep rye-like flavour and structure that is truly unique, and trials have produced incredible results with long fermentation and grain soaking.
Slowly introducing indigenous varieties of grain into simple baked goods such as crumpets and flatbreads seems to be the best way to learn about the edible grasses used by generations of First Nations people. The properties are definitely different to most commercial varieties, so some adjustments are required, but the benefits in flavour are worth it.
Grains from endemic grasses present an incredible opportunity to work alongside the existing grain industry. Perennial grasses have potentially huge soil benefits and have been managed on this land by First Nations people for thousands of years. It is wonderful to see the benefits starting to return and to be able to use a product that represents both our history and our future in food on this land.
Dancing grass crumpets
300ml sourdough starter/mother (active)
200g dancing grass flour (or other)
2g baking powder
salted butter to serve
natural honeycomb to serve
Feed the sourdough mother with the flour, water and sugar and let stand for three hours.
Once the mother becomes active and begins to bubble, add the baking powder. Let this sit for a further 20 minutes.
Heat a pan with greased crumpet rings in the base. Once the pan is warm, spoon the crumpet batter into the rings until they are three-quarters full. Cook the crumpets on a low heat for 15 minutes before removing the ring and finishing for a further five minutes.
Cool on a cake rack for five minutes before serving with a generous amount of butter and honeycomb.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on May 1, 2021 as "Grains trust".
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