Forgotten Foods

Putting Australian native flavours back on the plate

Tales from Garden to Table

Lemon Myrtle - a little tree with a big future

Posted on 17 August, 2015 at 3:00

Lemon Myrtle – Backhousia citriodora – is undoubtedly one of the most versatile of bush food plants. Its lemon scented leaves can be used to flavour both sweet and savory dishes, they can be used fresh or dried and as an infusion for a subtly flavoured yet very refreshing herbal tea. In addition to its culinary prowess it is also very high in Vitamin E, calcium and folate. Its unique lemony scent is also finding its way into cosmetics, soaps, scented candles and laundry detergents.

Despite being a subtropical rainforest plant it does surprisingly well in Melbourne, ours having come through this winter with no sign of frost burn or stress. Personally I think it would make an excellent street tree where passersby could pick a few leaves for their dinner or dessert. A small to medium evergreen tree it also puts on a lovely flower display in summer and if you’re looking for something to bring in the bees to pollinate your pumpkins then this could be just the ticket.

This recipe is an adaptation from and Italian ricotta cake that is, in my opinion, one of the best cheesecakes ever. It is light and luscious and very, very moreish. One thing I love about the Italian food philosophy is the way it embraces whatever ingredients are available. The Italians have never been scared to try new things and adopt new ingredients into their cooking. It is a cuisine that lends itself very well to experimentation with novel foods and its natural simplicity means it is easy to replace one ingredient for another as I have done here. I simply replaced walnuts with macadamias and a spoonful of ground wattle seeds, and the orange rind with lemon myrtle and you have a cake with Italian origins but a uniquely Australian flavour.

Lemon Myrtle and Macadamia Ricotta Cake


150g unsalted butter softened

150g caster sugar

5 eggs separated

250g ricotta (fresh if possible)

1 tbsp finely chopped lemon myrtle leaves

40g plain flour

115g macadamias toasted and roughly chopped

1 tsp roasted, ground wattle seed (optional)


Preheat oven to 180°C, grease a round baking tin and line with baking paper.

Cream the butter and 115g of the sugar until light and creamy. Add the egg yolks one at a time continuing to beat between each addition.

Beat in the ricotta, then add the lemon myrtle, flour and wattle seed (if using) and stir to combine.

In a separate, clean bowl beat the egg whites until soft peaks form then beat in the remaining sugar.

Add 1/3 of the egg whites to the ricotta mix and mix in gently using a large metal or wooden spoon. Add the remaining egg white in two batches and stir just enough to combine being careful not to overwork or you will lose the air in the mixture.

Poor into the prepared baking tin and bake for 30-40 mins. until fork comes out clean and the cake is springy.

Allow to cool in tin then spread with a little warmed jam (use lillypilly if you can to continue the Australian theme).

Serve with wattle seed tea or coffee.

ENJOY (I bet you can’t stop at just one piece).


Categories: Bushfood Recipes, Lemon Myrtle, Backhousia citriodora

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