Thursday, 22 April 2010

My Northern Territory Holiday - Bush Food

Today's post is the second in my series of blog posts about my recent holiday.  I have been a big fan of "bush food" for quite some time now, so whenever I head to areas of Australia where the Australian Aboriginal culture is quite strongly cultivated, I go in search of bush food.

Bush cucumber, Cucumis melo sp. agrestis.  Supposed to be very good for quenching thirst in the desert.

For those of you who aren't familiar with this name, the term "bush food" generally encompasses both "bush tucker" (food which the Aboriginal people found in the wild, including nuts and berries from native plants) and more modern cooking which uses the flavours and ingredients of bush tucker.

Models of the witchetty grub, Endoxyla leucomochla, being examined by my mum.  I have been told these taste like "scrambled eggs with butter".

Our first encounter with bush food was at a talk about Aboriginal life and survival in the bush at the Alice Springs Desert Park.  We were told about various fruits and seeds used by Aborigines for food, including seeds which were ground up to make a kind of flour for cakes and breads, as well as various plants used as bush medicines.

Bush fig, Ficus racemosa (I think)

As a past medical research scientist, I was extremely fascinated by the bush medicines used by the Aborigines.  Bush remedies were derived from plants and animals and ranged from cures for warts (by inserting phyllodes from the Acacia tetragonophylla around the wart) to plants which could be used for chest congestion (described as the equivalent of Vicks chest rub by an Aboriginal park ranger) and headaches.  In fact, one remedy for headache, the native lemongrass (Cymbopogon ambiguus), has been found to contain eugenol, an aspirin-like chemical.

Bush meat mixed grill

Nowadays, bush food and bush medicine have become growing industries, with ever increasing interest from restaurants, food companies and medical researchers.  Of course, we had to try out some bush food, so my dear husband took me out for a "date night" while my parents kindly stayed back at the hotel with the kiddies (they were all happy to consume ravioli carbonara at the hotel).  We went to the Bo Jangles Saloon, an intentionally seedy-looking cowboy-themed restaurant, where we found some interesting, and delicious, "bush food" dishes.  Malcolm ordered the bush meat mixed grill, which included a crocodile rissole, an emu sausage, a buffalo meat medallion, camel shashlik and a kangaroo fillet served with a chilli and bush plum sauce.  I chose the slightly less adventurous, but still delicious, NT camel and stout pie seen below.

Northern Territory camel and stout pie

I'm afraid this has turned out to be a rather long and overly detailed blog post!  I wasn't intending on it being this long, it just came out this way, hee hee.  My next holiday post will be a much shorter one looking at the playgrounds of Alice Springs (yes, you read correctly, I said playgrounds).  Stay tuned!

6 comments:

  1. Fascinating! Thank you so much for you long and overly detailed post. It was really interesting.

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  2. I love this post, I can't believe I haven't visited your blog before, I follow your tweets, I know your etsy store, I see you on Dust forum.... I'm always looking for more blogs especially on blogger.... well this is just my lucky day then!
    I was raised with herbalism and 'food as medicine' hence the post I just did on my blog.

    we must be like minds I'd say!

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  3. Mmmm! I love food and this all looks great. Apart from I don't think I could stomach the bugs....

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  4. Fascinating! I'm not sure I'd be as adventurous as you two!!

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  5. oh this food post is cool!!! i cant imagine how a crocodile rissole would taste like!!

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  6. I think I would definitely try that cucumber - but I am not so sure about the grubs. How were the cucumbers?

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