If the name doesn’t suggest the contents of this book to you, then the cover will.
Subtitled ‘a fresh look at aboriginal bush food’, this unique book will open your eyes to the vast ‘pantry’ available to indigenous Australians. Of course some of the ingredients are not readily available anywhere else except where they grow, and others (dugong, turtles and their eggs, bush turkey or crocodile) may only be hunted in the wild and killed by the local aboriginal people.
That is because, of all races, indigenous aboriginals have perhaps the greatest reverence and understanding of their land and its animals and plants. Nothing is wasted, nothing harvested or caught unless it is necessary.
But you’re curious about the contents, aren’t you – as I was. What recipes would Steve Sunk, senior lecturer in cookery at Charles Darwin University, and David Hancock choose to share with the wider Australian population? Both resident for many years in the Top End of Australia, at last they have decided to share what they have learned in using bush tucker ingredients in their work, and the wisdom they have gained from talking with and learning from the local people.
How do wattle seed pancakes with sugarbag caramel sound? Or bush muffins, smoked crocodile salad with rye berry vinaigrette, freshwater mussel curry, or bush pudding, lush with native fruits and berries?
Others may be a little hard for some of us to imagine eating. Goanna and vegetable stew, for instance, or dugong steaks, or turtle liver risotto. Or witchetty grubs with pasta! However it is still fascinating to read the recipes and learn the culture behind them.
This is a beautifully produced book. Each recipe is accompanied by David Hancock's full colour photographs, and there are clear explanations about unfamiliar ingredients. With many recipes you can see pictures of the ‘ladies’ at work in the commercial kitchen used for their cookery classes.
But this is so much more than just a recipe book. Beautifully illustrated chapters explain and show the fragile ecosystem of the desert where many people come from, the rhythm and tempo of a life lived in synch with the land and the weather, the different diets to be had from the coastal and riverine environments, and of course where to find some of these ingredients in other parts of Australia.
The result is a book that is unique, respectful, and delicious. A book that should be in every Australian household, school library and restaurant kitchen.
Walkabout Chefs, by Steve Sunk and David Hancock, published by Skyscans Australia, 2006, hardcover, available. ISBN 0 9751 800 10
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