Meet Kooking with a Koori creator Nathan Lyons

To celebrate NAIDOC Week this month, Kooking with a Koori creator Nathan Lyons spoke to us about all things food and what being an Indigenous Australian means to him.

Nathan Lyons

For Nathan, learning to cook is all about trial and error: “I was always burning stuff, that’s the way we learn”

Spend a minute in the presence of Nathan Lyons, or on his social media profiles, and you’ll be in stitches. Combining his brilliant sense of humour with a love of food, Nathan shares easy family-friendly recipes via his Kooking with a Koori TikTok and Instagram pages – the videos are short, sweet and full of character. “My cooking style is a bit different from everyone else’s,” Nathan says. “It’s just home cooking, but with a little bit of a spin on it. I like the technical side of cooking and using my hands to make a dish from scratch, such as meatballs.”

Nathan’s recipes have resonated so much with the community that he brought out his own cookbook, Kooking with a Koori (pictured left), published by Simon & Schuster Australia. It’s full of the budget-friendly family recipes Nathan is so proud of.

 

Growing up Koori

They say it takes a village to raise a child, which is true of Nathan’s upbringing. “My mum, dad, nan, uncle and aunties all taught me to cook,” he says. “My mum had a rule in the house that the cook doesn’t clean, and I sure as hell hated cleaning, so I made sure I cooked.”

The meals in their family home consisted of what Nathan calls ‘soul food’ – think curried sausages or damper bake, a rich gravy sauce of beef and veggies with damper on top. “I also ate lots of devon growing up,” he adds. “It’s soft and delicious. I still eat it to this day – devon and tomato sauce sandwiches are just amazing.”

For Nathan, learning to cook is all about trial and error, finding out what works and what doesn’t work. “I was always burning stuff, that’s the way we learn,” he says. “It’s okay to burn the toast or burn the roast. It’s all good! You just found out how not to do it.”

 

Cooking for his family

These days, Nathan enjoys cooking for his own kids and finding empty bowls at the end of the meal. Watching his family enjoying the food he’s created keeps him hungry to continue making recipes. His favourite dishes to cook for his family? “I love a good curry, made with fish, chicken or sausages. It’s soul food, when you can feel the warmth radiating through your body just from eating a home-cooked meal,” he says. “It’s fun getting the kids involved and teaching them how to cook, too, passing on knowledge from generation to generation as we go along. It’s fun, which is what cooking should be.”

 

Connecting with the community

In a culture that thrives on sharing and coming together, it’s no surprise that food is important in Indigenous communities. “I could turn up in any town, form a mob and offer around devon sandwiches and I’d be the most popular bloke in town,” Nathan says with a laugh. “We’ve always shared food. It’s just what we’ve always done. If my neighbour doesn’t have a cup of rice, I’m gonna give him a cup of rice.”

With NAIDOC Week being celebrated from 3-10 July and the theme of Get Up!, Nathan is looking forward to coming together with all generations to acknowledge Indigenous Australians, past, present and emerging. “NAIDOC Week is about acknowledging our successes and where we’ve come from and where we’re going,” he says. “The way I explain it to the kids is ‘we’ve come from there, we are now here, and this is where we’re going’. It’s our job to celebrate those that were, acknowledge those that are, and plan for those that will be.”

For anyone wanting to get involved during NAIDOC Week, Nathan says that they should just show up. “I encourage the non-Indigenous fellow brothers and sisters to go down to local sites and get involved with the celebrations,” he says. “There will be concerts, art exhibitions and heaps of other things happening. Buy some food or art and listen to some music.”