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Damper & Bush Tucker

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The most common ways to prepare food as the bush men or Indiginous people of Australia do, is by roasting on the coals, cooking in the ashes, steaming in a ground oven, or by boiling. There are other methods which are unique to specific foods such as stingrays, sharks, and turtles.

Roasting on hot coals is used to cook flesh such as kangaroos, rabbits, turtles, snakes, goannas, fish, and other meats.

Baking in the ashes is used for all types of seeds, nuts, root vegetables, and lets not forget the damper. Goanna can also be cooked by covering it in hot ashes and witchetty grubs are rolled in the hot ashes.

A ground oven used by Aboriginals is a large pit up to 60cm deep with the fire balancing over the hole and then topped with stones over the fire. The Aboriginals use this method to prepare fish, turtles, meat, and vegetables.

Boiling is most commonly used for kangaroo legs.


Damper is a bread like loaf that comes in many varieties with many different recipes from which it is cooked, Damper may be cooked in a camp/dutch oven, a conventional oven or even ashes in an open fire and can be just as and some would say even more successful cooked in the latter way.

2 Cups Self Raising Flour
1 Teaspoon Salt
1 Tablespoon Butter                               
1 Tablespoon Sugar
1 Cup Milk or
Cup Powered Milk and Cup Water                

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all the dry ingredients together with the butter, when well mixed add the liquid ingredients and knead for a few minutes. Shape in loaf or place in a greased and floured baking tin. Bake for 30 minutes, serve in thick slices whilst hot.

Quandong Pie

2 Cups Quandongs (dried preferable)
1 Litre Water
1 Cup Sugar
Cup Arrowroot or Cornflour
250 grams Shortcrust Pastry

Simmer the quandongs, Sugar and water until a sauce then add the arrowroot with a small amount of water until the mixture is that of a paste, allow the mixture to cool. Pre-heat the oven to 190 degrees. Line a pie tin with pastry, and fill with the now cool Quandong mixture. Place a pastry top on with small breather holes, brush the surface with a mix of beaten egg and milk, sprinkle lightly with sugar and bake for 45 minutes. Serve hot with ice cream.

Savoury Crocodile

Crocodile Steaks
cup Olive Oil
1 Egg
2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
Fresh Herbs
1 Cup Breadcrumbs
Pinch Salt and Pepper
Sesame Seeds

Cut Crocodile into bite size pieces. Prepare a marinade of the oil, lemon juice, herbs, salt and pepper and marinade the croc pieces for approximately 1 hours. Now dip the pieces in the beaten egg and then roll in the breadcrumbs and sesame seed mixture. Now chill the pieces for one hour and fry in hot oil until brown but not burnt.

Bunya Nut Casserole

4 Cups finely chopped and boiled Bunya Nuts
250 grams bacon rashers
2 medium onions
1 Can Peeled Tomatoes
250 grams Grated Cheese
Salt and Pepper to taste

Using a medium size casserole place a layer of the Bunya Nuts on the base then add a layer of sliced tomatoes, then a layer of the bacon which you have lightly fried, then a layer of tomatoes. Repeat this process until you have used your ingredients and sprinkle on the grated cheese and cover the casserole. Cook in a pre-heated oven at approximately 200 degrees for approximately 1 hour, the last 15 minutes with the lid off.

Quandong nut and Almond Butter

The kernels in the seeds removed from whole quandong fruits make a deliciously distinctive and cost effective bush food flavouring for stocks, sauces, creams and nut butters. Store the roasted kernels in an airtight container using the equivalent of three kernels per serve. The following quandong and almond nut butter is a versatile product for thickening sauces; in pts; as a spread for cocktail items; and as an accompaniment to vegetables; in pies or other pastries as a flavouring or topping.

20 Quandong seeds
100g raw almonds

First, leave the quandong seeds removed from frozen fruits to dry out overnight. Using a macadamia nut cracker, shell each nut which should shatter easily leaving a clean, somewhat furry, cream coloured kernel. If kernels come away from their shells keeping their dark brown husk, simply roll the kernel between your palm and a cutting board and the husk will crumble away. Next, crush the kernels with the flat of a knife and finely chop as for garlic. Dry roast in a heavy pan tossing constantly until uniformly dark but not burnt. Cool by transferring to a cold container. Coarsely chop the almonds and dry roast the pieces until the fines just begin to tan. Transfer to a food processor, add the prepared quandong kernels and process until the meal runs oil and turns into a nut butter. Store in an air-tight container.

Quick Lillipilli Vinegar

This vinegar has a bright pink colour which darkens slightly with age.  The small-leaved lillipilli fruits add a delicate touch of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg flavour to the vinegar.

4 kg magenta lillipilli
200g small-leaved lillipilli fruit
6 litres good quality white wine vinegar

Bring all the ingredients to the boil, preferably in a stainless steel pot. Simmer for 4 hours.  This should reduce the mixture by half. Stand overnight in cool place.  Drain the Vinegar.  Bring gently to the boil, strain through muslin cloth and bottle in sterilised jars.  Store in cool place upright to allow sediment to settle.

Wattle Mousse

Delicious recipe made to suit any season.  Best served with whipped cream, crushed macadamia nuts, and chocolate shavings.

250 ml milk
1/4 cup castor sugar
3 eggs, separated
2 tsp wattle seed mix
1 1/2 tbsp gelatine
750 ml thickened cream

Prepare mousse moulds by lightly brushing with vegetable oil.  Soak the gelatine in enough water to make a paste.  Set aside.   Add the wattle and half the sugar to the milk and bring it to the boil, stirring.   Make a mixture of the egg yolks and the remaining sugar and pour in the hot milk while stirring.  Add the gelatine paste and stir to dissolve.  Cool at room temperature. Half whip the cream.  Whip the egg whites until firm.  To the cool wattle milk mixture, fold in the beaten egg whites and then the cream.  Pour into the mould and refrigerate for a few hours.  To serve, tip out onto a plate and garnish with custard or fresh fruits.

Illawarra Plum and Chilli Sauce

This delicious sauce has three flavours which separate on the palate as sweetness, then chilli heat and lastly the delicate pine and plum flavour of the plums.  Lamb or fish dishes are well complimented bv this sauce.

1 kg Illawarra plums
1750 ml water
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup vinegar
1 tsp fresh chillies
2 tsp minced garlic
2 tsp grated ginger
2 tsp clarified butter
orange liqueur
3 heaped tbsp cornflour
extra 1.2 cup water

In a stainless steel saucepan add the washed plums to the water.  Do not use aluminium cookware.  Simmer for approximately 2 hours. Drain and push through a sieve, measure the volume.  Cool and store overnight. Make a syrup from the sugar and vinegar.  Add 1 1/2 cups of the syrup to the strained plum liqueur and reduce the volume by 1/4 over low heat.   If the sauce at this stage is overly bitter or dry, add more of the syrup. Very gently fry the chopped chillies, minced garlic and grated ginger in clarified butter.   Add to the plum syrup and add a touch of orange liqueur.  Bring to the boil and thicken with a slurry of the cornflour in the remaining water.  Store refrigerated in a sterile container.

Witjuti Grub and Bunya-Bunya Nut Soup

This delicious soup will vary in flavour depending upon the particular grubs used.  It will most often be described as nutty.
15 large grubs (or 20 smaller ones)
15 boiled and peeled bunya-bunya nuts
4 sticks celery
1 leek
2 onions
2 litres chicken stock
bay leaves
whole black peppercorns

Bring chicken stock to the boil and add finely chopped celery, leek and onions.  Bring back to the boil.  Puree grubs in a blender (partially frozen grubs blend well).  Roughly chop bunya-bunya nuts and add nuts and grub puree to the simmering stock.  Add bay leaves and peppercorns and simmer for 1 - 1 1/4 hours. Season to taste.  Garnish with cream and freshly chopped parsley.

Moth Damper

This damper is a delicious alternative to plain white bread, and complements many foods, such as the Witjuti and Bunya-bunya nut soup.

A generous handful of moths
1 cup plain flour
1 cup self-raising flour
1 cup powdered milk
1/4 tsp. raising agent

Using a mortar and pestle (or near equivalent, e.g. bowl and the base of a tin cup) pound up the moths with the powdered milk.  Mix   in the remaining dry ingredients.  Add sufficient water to make a stiff dough and shape into a ball.  Flatten the ball to a height of 2.5 centimetres.   Lightly flour the surface and cook in ash, camp oven, bedourie or domestic oven until cooked through.  Serve hot when cooked or as toast.

Wattle Ice Cream

The similarity of the wattle to a flavour mix of hazelnut, coffee and chocolate comes through strongly in this chilled dessert.

250 ml cream
500 ml milk
3 / 4 cup (180 g) sugar
4 egg yolks
1 heaped tbsp Australia's Own wattle seed

Heat the milk and sugar in a saucepan, stirring.   Remove from heat.  Slowly pour onto beaten egg yolks while beating with a whisk.  Add the wattle seed and return the mixture to the stove over low heat and stir until it begins to thicken (5 - 10 min).  Allow to stand for 15 minutes, then add the cream and mix well.  Cool and churn in an ice cream machine.


Bush Tucker Glossary

by Jacqueline Hollingworth

Quandongs are a native fruit like a peach - but not very sweet. They have a delicate acidic taste - to my taste, a bit like rhubarb. Quandongs, halved and seeded look like bright red/crimson coloured apricots. They are best stewed in castor sugar, water and orange juice. Left overnight to obtain the best flavour and served with ice cream or pureed as a base for other desserts like pies or tarts

Wattle Seeds. There are between 850 and 1000 species of the wattle bush/shrub/small tree in Australia. The thorns can be used as a treatment for snake-bite (don't know the details as I would prefer to be in intensive care in a hospital ) and the seeds can be roasted or steamed or pulped (processed). They have the consistency of poppy seeds, are crunchy and taste of well - Australia. Incidentally wattle seeds are high in protein, complex carbohydrates and fibre.

Witchetty/Witjuti Grubs are just that: tasty grubs are like borers and found in live wood in stems, trunks and roots of certain wattles. They are good sources of calcium and iron. An acquired taste, I suppose, like oysters, but I cannot eat them raw. Depending upon the wattle, they have different flavours. I have had them barbecued many times, without their heads. It's a cultural thing like eating prawns with heads still on I think. But I do prefer them headless and I love them. Hard to get and available in tins as soup.

Kakadu Plums are just that: sweet plums, a round fruit in a plum like colour. But not as sweet as our western palate is used to. Nothing weird about them but very hard to find down south, here in Victoria. I love it as a jam but it can be used in the same way as quandongs.

Bunya Bunya Nuts are like our macadamia nuts - just delicious! I know that we export our macadamias, but bunya-bunya nuts not as yet. I would like to see these used as satay sauces. I have made some stunning satay sauces from macadamias - and can only get bunya bunya nuts when I go back to Western Australia. I have not experimented with bunya bunya nut satay sauce yet.

Goanna is a native lizard and part of the Monitor family and now an endangered species. They vary insize. At present it is not farmed on a commercial basis. Should be, as goanna is high in protein. Like snake and crayfish, for example, it is a garbage feeder. Thus a very nice food!

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