Tag Archives: bush tucker

Camel pie

   Thousands of camels were imported into Australia between 1840 and 1907 to be used as transport in this country’s vast arid inland regions. In the 1920’s there were estimated to be 20,000 domesticated animals here, but by 1930, improved rail and motor transport made them redundant and they were released into the bush, where they bred prolifically. The estimated population of one million feral camels in 2009 (and increasing by 10% each year) has a major impact on outback Australia’s native vegetation. Australia has the only wild population of one humped camels in the world.

So, what’s my point? This is a food blog after all. My point is, with all these camels roaming the country, eating native vegetation, damaging waterways, knocking down fences, colliding with cars etc. why is it so hard to buy camel meat? Well, finally, after a year-long quest, a local butcher got in some camel mince and sausages. I missed out on the sausages this time, but there was one pack of mince left.

I’ve written elsewhere on this blog about a kangaroo and emu pie (Coat of Arms) and for the camel pie I used the same recipe, although I only cooked the camel in a pot for about 20 minutes before thickening it a bit with cornflower and filling the pie. A pie looks like a pie, so I didn’t bother with photos, it looked just like the other pie but without the coat of arms. I even resisted the temptation to bake humps into it or make it toe-shaped………….

Camel pie is good. I like strong flavoured pies and the camel meat has a gamey flavour without being overpowering. It is meant to be low in fat, but it had a fatty taste to it (not a bad thing). Was it worth the wait? Yes, although it wasn’t as good as the kangaroo and emu pie. I would certainly like to try the sausages, or some other cut of camel if it becomes available. And it might make an interesting burger.

 

Advertisements

Coat of Arms (emu and kangaroo) Pie

I have heard it said (by people opposed  to killing and eating kangaroos) that Australians are the only people who eat their country’s coat of arms. So when I bought emu meat, which is rarely available, what better way to eat it than in a pie with kangaroo. Kangaroo meat (I used mince)  is 98% fat free, high in protein and very rich in flavour. Emu meat is also claimed to be 97% fat free and high in protein. So the pie should at least be healthy! The emu meat came diced and  frozen.

I browned the kangaroo mince, an onion and the emu meat in olive oil in a pan. At this stage the emu meat broke up into smaller pieces, not much bigger than the mince. I then put it all in a slow cooker with water, and cooked it for 3 hours on high, at which stage it was all beautifully tender and tasty.

Then it was time to make pastry (my first time). I decided on shortcrust pastry which I prefer to flaky pastry. My pastry recipe was 3 cups flour, salt to taste, 200g butter, 2 egg yolks and 75ml water. After mixing the flour with salt and butter and working until there were no lumps of butter, I added the egg yolks and water to make a dough that wasn’t sticky. I rolled out the base and blind baked it. Then it was time to thicken the emu/roo mix with a little gravox and cornflour and put it into the base and then roll out more pastry for the top. A little decoration in flaky pastry courtesy of my son was added , and into the oven for about 30 minutes to cook and brown the top.

It looked almost too good to cut and eat!

Served with a dollop of Outback Spirit Kakadu Plum Sweet Chilli Sauce, this was possibly the nicest, tastiest pie I have ever eaten. The pastry was delicious and the filling had so much flavour, a real meat lovers pie. I’m not sure how much of the flavour was from emu, I think the strong kangaroo meat overpowered the emu. When I tried a little bit of emu before combining the meats, I thought it was quite mild and maybe even had a slight fishy flavour. I’ll just have to try it again on its own. And I will certainly make kangaroo pie again.

Wildfoods festival Hokitika NZ

For someone interested in throwing all kinds of weird stuff down their throat like I am, the Wildfoods festival in New Zealand’s South Island seemed to be a ‘must visit’.  So for 2011 we made the effort, flew to Queenstown for a few days, then drove to Hokitika for the festival on March 12.

                       One of the first stalls encountered was the huhu grub stall

 Huhu grubs are the  larval stage of a native beetle. The huhu grubs live in rotting logs, and were being harvested from a wood pile in front of the stall. They were available fresh and alive from the log: 

or cooked:The live grubs were a bit leathery and popped when bitten, but the cooked grubs are delicious, crunchy with a sweet nutty flavour.

Seafood next, with a mix of delights in the platter.Kina (sea urchin) roe is an acquired taste which I love, the taste of the ocean, and I really enjoyed the shot.

The poor mans paua (abalone) and sea cucumber both had an oceany taste similar to the kina, but were rubbery.

Smoked eggs were something new to me, so I tried a raw egg shot. Manuka is a NZ tree (where manuka honey comes from) and the smoke imparts a strong, lovely flavour.

The manuka eggs were delicious, one of the highlights of the day.

Next up was pigs braun. I have eaten braun a long time ago, but I think back then it was made from the entire pigs head, this may have just been the brains. No matter, it was nice, maybe just not as dense and with less pork flavour.

 

                      Back onto the seafood with a couple of……um…..unusual delicacies?

                           Paua tit is the stomach of the NZ abalone (paua).

As paua eat only kelp (seaweed) which I like to chew on at the beach, I thought it would be okay, but I guess the digestive juices were doing their work and the taste was quite bitter, very similar to the Kaio which is a NZ sea squirt.

I ate these two one after the other so I’m not sure which one did it, but I had a bad taste in my mouth for some time. But hey, thats why we try these things. Definately the worst things I ate at the festival. I returned to this stall some time later and tried a seagull egg and a paua pattie.

 Seagull eggs are bigger than hens eggs, and these were hard boiled. The yolk tasted just like a normal egg, but the white was semi translucent, seemed to be in two layers, and I didn’t much like the texture of it. On the other hand, the paua fritter (and these are very popular in NZ) was spectacular, one of the stars of the festival for me. The nicest paua I have tasted in years.

Next it was into insects.

Scorpions (I had a raw one) had a strong unpleasant chemically flavour, maybe they were imported into NZ in ethanol, or maybe that’s what scorpions taste like.

I didn’t try a raw grasshopper, I can get them at home, but did try a chocolate coated huhu beetle from the crouching grasshopper stall.

They tasted like ….. chocolate, no discernable insect flavour at all, but like the scorpion, left my mouth full of crunchy bits of shell to dispose of.

Worm sushi and worms on toast were nice, but any worm flavour was overpowered by the other ingredients.

Next it was time for a drink and dessert.

Some people may be a bit turned off by the thought of colostrum, but it tastes like watered down milk. The worst part is putting on a silly hat, getting down on your knees and getting the shot squirted into your mouth. 

The mastitus mousse was strawberry, and again like light milk, but tasty and refreshing.

There were stalls with more mainstream foods, some of the yummiest pork belly I have ever eaten, a plate of beautiful tuna,

both raw and cooked. And all washed down with a glass of honey mead.

There were a lot of other choices, too many to eat, but one of the best was a West Coast icon, the white bait fritter.

Unlike most fish and chip shop whitebait fritters I have had in recent visits to NZ, these were more whitebait than egg batter. The way they should be, and absolutely delicious.

WARNING. If you have a weak stomach, it might pay to skip through the next part of the story. I wanted to go to Hokitika to challenge myself, eat outside my comfort zone and find out just how far I will go with extreme foods. I think I know now.

No prizes for guessing that these are sheep testicles or mountain oysters. Cooked with onion and pepper they were tender, moist and fairly mild in flavour.

I know they are considered a delicacy in some countries, but testicles are rarely eaten in Australia. I would certainly eat them again.

And the ultimate test of a cast iron stomach?

Yes, for the first time here, shots of horse semen! I heard about them a couple of weeks before the festival, so I had time to get used to the idea.

And thats yours truly shooting horse semen, au natural of course, not the flavoured variety.It surprisingly tasted not unlike milk. So after that, I think I can eat anything!  The stallion shot stall was very popular, but I think it was mainly people hanging around waiting for someone willing to try.  The festival was a great day out, if you can get there next year, do it. I sure hope to.

Eating limpets

I was at the beach today and decided to gather a few limpets. I have previously written about eating chitons and thought limpets may be similar. I know they are eaten in Italy, usually with pasta, so I thought I would cook and try a few. The local limpet is Cellana tramoserica, the Variegated Limpet, and is common on rocky foreshores here on the Sunshine Coast.

Limpets, like chitons, are quite difficult to get off the rocks, a thin blade and a quick action are necessary, once they clamp down on the rock they are nearly impossible to dislodge. I decided to just get half a dozen as I had no idea what they tasted like and I didn’t plan to cook them as a meal, only a taste. Just before cooking I removed the flesh from the shell by running a knife around the inside of the shell.  An Italian friend had given me a few tips on recipes which involved garlic, tomatoes, onions and wine, but I doubt I could have tasted the limpets, so I just quickly pan fried them.

The limpets tasted very much like mussels, which I love, and I think could be used as a substitute in many dishes. Unfortunately, similar to chitons, the feet of the limpets were quite rubbery, but not so bad as to be inedible. Perhaps a different cooking method might tenderise them. I will certainly eat them again.

Crocodile casserole

Tonight I used the left over 250 gms of uncooked crocodile meat from yesterday’s BBQ to make a casserole. In a hurry (it was late and I was getting hungry) I sliced a couple of small potatoes and an onion and put them in the casserole dish. I then added a clove of garlic, a teaspoon of crushed ginger, some ground cummin seeds (1/4 teaspoon) and a similar quantity of shrimp sauce (very shrimpy, very salty). I laid the crocodile meat pieces on top, and then added water (out of stock) to half cover the meat. I cooked this in the oven for about an hour at 180°c and then another 20 minutes or so with the lid off. And the result? Crikey this crocodile is good. The crocodile, which was rubbery yesterday, was melt in your mouth tender, and the delicate taste of the meat was enhanced rather than overpowered by the small amount of seasoning that I used. A much better result than yesterdays BBQ, a meal I will happily cook again if I can get more crocodile.

Crocodile and kangaroo mixed grill for Australia Day

For Australia Day today, what could be more appropriate than a mix of kangaroo and crocodile, both fairly iconic animals of Australia. While a small selection of kangaroo meat is readily available in supermarkets now, crocodile is a different matter, and it took some finding on the Sunshine Coast. I ended up buying 500 grams of crocodile and kangaroo sausages and mince meat, all suitable for the traditional Aussie BBQ. Kangaroo is a very red meat, low in fat and cholesterol, high in minerals and protein and very environmentally friendly to produce. It is what we should be eating instead of beef.   The sausages were good, but not spectacular, I normally prefer a pork sausage, and these kangaroo sausages were much more like beef, maybe a stronger flavour and a bit gamey. I made rissoles from the mince, just adding some finely chopped red onion, an egg and a bit of flour. The rissoles were delicious, again similar to beef but stronger. Great for use in hamburgers.

Crocodile meat is low in fat but apparently higher in cholesterol than other meats. Because of the low fat content, it can be tough unless cooked very quickly or slow cooked. I only cooked half of the meat today and chose quick cooking, simply searing it on the BBQ, cooking for a few minutes and serving medium rare. Even so, the meat was slightly rubbery. Croc is a white meat with a very mild flavour, not unlike chicken, very nice to eat. With a little potato salad, lettuce and tomato added, this was a very different and tasty lunch.