Outback spirit

28 Apr 2016
POSTED BY Alvin Thomas

Chef Clayton Donovan uses natural ingredients found in his own Aussie backyard to create culinary masterpieces.

While crocodiles, snakes and kangaroos may be perceived as unapproachable wild beasts, Australian chef Clayton Donovan envisions them well done and garnished in herbs and homemade ranch sauce, using ingredients picked from the bushland.

For the outback forager, the bush is very much his backyard. Clayton spares nothing. If it is edible, it will be eaten.

Today, Clayton remains one of only a handful of chefs in Australia who preserves the true “outback spirit” in his culinary creations.

He is currently the host of his own cooking show, Wild Kitchen, which is aired on Australia’s ABC TV, and formerly had a restaurant, The Jaaning Tree in Nambucca Heads, New South Wales. Clayton now focuses on pop-up restaurants around Australia.

He was recently in Oman to recreate his culinary masterpieces for more than 90 guests at the Grand Hyatt Muscat hotel, in association with the Australian Business Group Oman. During his short trip, Clayton says he stumbled upon bushes and shrubs that reminded him of those he knows from home.

“Improvising is all about throwing to the table whatever is available,” the chef says. “And in native Australian cuisine, we use ingredients such as herbs, bush tomatoes, lemon myrtle, anise, native pepper and cucumber among various others to get flavour.”

He’s currently working with native mint cucumber to smoke various meats such as lamb and beef to achieve various intensities in flavour.

The chef also incorporates native pepper –  a purple-coloured bell ground to powder –  for seasoning and known to possess health benefits.

For desserts, Clayton suggests the use of caramelised sweet bush tomatoes as a substitute for caramel that could, for example, accompany chocolate puddings. He also recommends a white chocolate substitute of dried seaweed, berries and oil.

His barbecued kangaroo makes use of lemon myrtle and ground pepper for seasoning to achieve an “Aussie campfire flavour”.

Macadamia Nut and Cheese Beignets with Native Reductions

Macadamia Nut and Cheese Beignets with Native Reductions

For the beignets

  • 150g sifted plain flour
  • 4g baking powder
  • 65g of partly ground (rough ground) macadamia nuts
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2g dill, finely chopped
  • 2g parsley, finely chopped
  • 25g finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 10g LSA (linseed, sunflower, almond ground mix) – to decorate plate
  • 5g semolina
  • 25g of grated Parmesan
  • A little water to bind the mix (100ml)
  • 25g butter
  • 1g roasted ground fennel


  • Heat the water, remove from heat and add the butter to melt it.
  • Mix all the ingredients together until combined.
  • Make small balls of mix (dessert spoon size) and fry until lightly browned in hot oil, then finish off in the oven for 4-5 mins at 150 degrees.
  • The following need to be prepared ahead of plating up the beignets.

Carrot and Fennel reduction

  • 200ml fresh carrot juice
  • ½g fennel seeds
  • 15g castor sugar
  •  Put all the ingredients in a pan, bring to the boil and simmer until thickened, then strain.

Balsamic and wattleseed reduction

  • 200ml balsamic vinegar
  • 1g wattleseed
  • 50g caster sugar


  • Put all the ingredients except the wattleseed into a pan and boil till they simmer and thicken.
  • Remove from heat and add the wattleseed.

Davidson plum syrup

  • 200ml fresh Davidson plum juice
  • 1tsp Sesame oil
  • 200ml sugar syrup
  • 2g fresh ginger
  • ¾ tsp xanthe gum    


  • Infuse the ginger into the sugar syrup with the sesame oil – in a pan – then bring to the boil. 
  • Strain the sugar syrup into the Davidson plum juice. Add ¾ tsp of xanthe gum; stir, then strain the mixture again.
  • Serve the beignets with roasted seasonal baby veg, topped with Parmesan cheese. Dress the plate with the three reductions.

Apple foam

  • 450ml apple juice
  • 1tbs lecithin
  • Linseed, sunflower and almond mix to decorate the plate.

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