Two of our Zea Team, Hamish and Jade, had the opportunity to chat to one of the finalists of the Great Australian Bake Off 2022, Nurman Noor!
You may have seen our social media post a few months ago sharing two delicious recipes that Nurman prepared on television; “Nurman’s Lemon Myrtle Octopus” and “Nurman’s Wallaby Gallette”. Our favourite thing about these two delicious recipes… he used our favourite Australian Native ingredient; Kunzea!
Our Zea Team loved talking to the man behind the recipes, and we’re excited to be able to share the interview with you below!
HAMISH AND JADE TALK TO NURMAN NOOR
Zea: Let's start with you and how you came into cooking and creating with food.
Nurnan: I didn't realise that I loved cooking until I got to med school, but I suppose the history of cooking has been a little bit longer than that.
My mum actually had a catering business and they used to bake stuff and then supply to different stores. From there, I used to be the one helping in the kitchen because my oldest sister didn't really have any interest in cooking.
My younger brother was way too young to help me in the kitchen. So I started helping in the kitchen. I didn't realise that I enjoyed it until I got to med school, and I used to procrasti-bake a lot.
I've always had an interest in the arts and also design and architecture. So I really enjoyed that creative part of it where you can actually draw how something's going to look and then create it.
Zea: When it comes to your senses, smell and taste is such a huge thing, but do you visualise what the end product is going to look like? Or are you just super organic and see what happens?
Nurman: I tend to draw. I like to think about how it's going to end up as, in saying that, when it comes to flavour, I try to think of flavours in terms of five basic tastes for human beings. So that'd be sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami, and I just tried to fulfil all of them when it comes to creating.
Zea: Did you grow up in Tassie?
Nurman: No, I grew up in Indonesia. I lived in Indonesia until I was 14 and then moved to Hong Kong, lived there for four years and then went to the States. Then I lived in America for four years and then Australia since 2009.
I really enjoy tasting something that's completely new, something that's different. And I pull a little bit of my flavours from the flavours that I knew from my travels or from living in other parts of the world. So my flavours are often reminiscent of something, but not necessarily that thing, because I don't do traditional.
Zea: In Tassie is that where you got started with Australian natives?
Nurman: Well it certainly started in Tassie. Going bushwalking and then you see different things and you start tasting stuff. I've tried quite a few things and I wanted to try something that was different.
I tried Lemon Myrtle and Davidson Plums. They’re almost a normal flavour to me now. So that's when I actually discovered Kunzea, and I was like, ooh this is different - I can't really pinpoint what it is. I mean, it tasted a little bit like Rosemary, a little bit of Thyme, a little bit of that Lemon Myrtle flavour.
What I like to do is taste the raw ingredient and try to sort of think of it in terms of those five basic flavours. It didn't really remind me of anything specific - so that was the exciting part.
Zea: How does working with a new ingredient inspire you?
Nurman: The thing is I don't like to be put in a box. I don't want to be in a box and it excites me to play with something that's not supposed to work or something that's not expected.
It's the same thing with using savoury ingredients in sweet things. I worked a little bit with - I love using miso paste, for example, in desserts or black sesame and things like that. It's the same way, when something comes up it’s just like the brain is firing and getting so many ideas.
Zea: What was your Great Australian Bake Off journey like?
Nurman: I applied in 2018. Actually I got to be the 13th person out of the 12 (laughs). I was almost there. That experience was interesting because I've always liked the challenge.
I can't sit still and being able to challenge yourself and get out there… it's really exciting.
So that's why I attempted again - I applied again last year. I didn't think that I was gonna make it, but I got on. I really wanted it. I really wanted the challenge of it.
I think that being able to push myself and being able to surprise people, I didn't necessarily want to win - I wanted to shock people.
Zea: What's your favourite thing to cook or bake?
Nurman: I love making choux pastry. It's the thing that my mum used to make and it reminds me of her, I have a lot of memories of baking with mum. She's still with us, but she's actually in Indonesia and I haven't seen her for three years now and it's been able to connect to her in that way.
And the other thing is that she stopped baking - well she stopped cooking in general - because she had an accident with bleeding in the brain and she lost her sense of taste and smell, so I feel like I'm doing it for the both of us.
Zea: Are there any other Australian natives that you've worked with?
Nurman: I love working with little finger lime powders or finger lime in general. So, if I do lemon meringue, for example, I would put a little bit of the finger lime powder on the meringue itself - because meringue is often quite sweet. I like that first burst of sourness more than lemon.
Other than that, I do like doing some foraging, and I've worked with saltbush before. It's really nice as a salty component in steak or something that's savoury - or even in a pie. I think it's sort of replacing something in a conventional or normal dish, with something different.
Zea: We’d love to hear more about the med school to cooking transition. In that journey, have you found that people have wanted to pigeonhole you as a certain type of cook?
Nurman: I think it's human tendency to want to put things in, in a box. I don't think it's just cooking. I think it's just in life, in general. There is a tendency to want to put labels. And once you get a label of something, it's hard to remove that label.
It's the same thing with the doctor title, which is the title that I don't really like to use. Yes, that's my job, I'm a GP, but I don't like being called Dr. So-and-so because once you're in that - that becomes your personality. When that's your personality, it's really hard to get out of it.
It's the same thing with cooking. Like I don't think anyone is a traditional cook because there's always something different. Like what is traditional? Someone's tradition is different from another person's tradition. So I don't think it's helpful to actually put labels on something. It's always nice to be able to just step out of it and try something different. So that's my view on it.
Zea: What would you say, like for somebody who is cooking dinner and wanting to do something new?
Nurman: My advice would be starting with the non-essential part of the dish. If you're using the kunzea, and making a sandwich and you're making caramelised onion, as part of it - add it to the caramelised onion. You don't have to add it to the steak part of it if you're making a steak sandwich. So if you like it, you can include it.
But if not, the essential ingredients are still there. It's the same thing with… maybe if you’re making tomato sauce, just try to add the bush tomato into it. So, yeah it's always nice to experiment. If you're not sure, add a small amount - little by little. I think that's probably my approach really.
My other way is also finding ingredients that are similar. So, for that galette that I did with the wallaby. So that wallaby was replacing lamb cause I've done it with lamb before. Then I thought about salt and pepper combinations, but instead of using the pepper, I used the Tasmanian pepperberries, because they've got similar flavour profiles. So if you actually try to find similar flavour profiles, they usually work well.
Zea: On your Instagram, the boat-rocker and chaos-maker. What does that mean?
Nurman: That was a discussion about not being in a box and also sort of trying to not be labelled.
I'm a bit of a devil's advocate and that's in my veins to actually cause a little bit of chaos.
When it comes to being in the kitchen, it's more about challenging perceptions and challenging ideas. So that's why I've put “boat-rocker” and “chaos-maker” in the kitchen, but also I think someone just needs to push the boundaries and maybe step on the boundaries occasionally, because otherwise things won't progress.
Zea: What does wellness mean to you? Like when I say the word wellness, what does that look like in your world?
Nurman: I think everyone has got different ideas of wellness, and for me - it's the ability to switch off. So I think that's where having that creative side and having that organised side is really helpful because I can actually switch off from one mode to another mode.
When I think of wellness, I also think about my garden and doing the most boring things like lawn mowing -that's my idea of my wellness - seeing everything in order. So I think for everyone, wellness means so many things. It's not just the physical sense of being physically active or something like that. It's also the sense of being present.
Zea: And I've got one last question for you. What is the one recipe or the one thing you want to make that you haven't been able to yet?
Nurman: I've got this idea of creating a dress out of baked goods. If you remember from the second episode, I made the biscuit chandelier. I actually want to do something similar except with a fringe dress.
Zea: Amazing! Thanks Nurman.
We cannot wait to see what is next on Nurman’s journey! You can connect with Nurman here @nurman.bakes and if you want to try his suggestions around how to cook with kunzea, come and take a look at our gourmet range here!